Sunday, 30 June 2013

Mallard anniversary: Steam locomotive Bittern marks record run

Mallard anniversary: Steam locomotive Bittern marks record run

This coming Wednesday, the 3rd of July, sees the 75th anniversary of a landmark event in steam locomotion - the world record-breaking 126mph run of the streamlined A4 Pacific steam locomotive Mallard.  On that date in 1938 this beautiful engine left London Kings Cross for Grantham in Lincolnshire, without fanfare, ostensibly for a braking test run.  However during the return journey, on a section of track just south of Grantham, Mallard topped out at a remarkable 126 miles per hour (203kph).  No other steam-powered locomotive has exceeded that speed since and so to this very day Mallard still holds the World Speed Record for steam.  Alas, although it has since been restored and has pride of place at the National Railway Museum in York, it can no longer move under its own power.

However, to commemorate this long-standing achievement, one of Mallard's sister engines - Bittern - was yesterday permitted to exceed the usual 75mph limit for steam trains on a British main line while undertaking a special London-York jaunt, "The Ebor Streak".  Its highest speed was recorded at 92.8mph (149kph), allowing the passengers (and the rest of us, thanks to footage of the event) the chance to experience high speed steam travel - even if it was still 30mph slower than that day three-quarters of a century ago.  Gad, wouldn't I like to have been on that train all the same!

Mallard steam locomotive to return to Grantham

This special run is just one of a series of events planned to commemorate Mallard's record, with further derestricted journeys by Bittern on the 19th ("The Tyne-Tees Streak) and 27th ("The Capital Streak") of July.  The highlight of the celebrations (if 90 mile-an-hour steam trains aren't highlight enough for you!) will be the gathering at the NRM in York of the six surviving A4 Pacific engines (from the original 35) - Mallard, Bittern, Sir Nigel Gresley, Union of South Africa, Dominion of Canada and Dwight D. Eisenhower, the first time all of them will have been seen together!  (Four of them can be seen here in this film from 2008).  Dominion of Canada and Dwight D. Eisenhower have even been specially shipped over from the Canadian Railway Museum in Montreal and the National Railroad Museum in Wisconsin, respectively, to be restored and take part in it all!

Much work has been done to make the marking of this anniversary a rightly special one and the list of events looks truly spectacular.  I'll look forward to seeing more footage of the high speed runs and the six A4s over the next month or so and will maybe feature them on here again (if I can overcome the disappointment of not being there in person!).  All in all, some stunning celebrations for a truly stunning piece of British engineering.


  1. I love the Bittern - last time I saw it, it was painted up in Dominion of New Zealand livery. The A4 Pacifics are my favourite engines, they're just so elegant and streamlined.

  2. I love old trains. There was one at our station last year, a notice went up to tell everyone about it too, and guess who forgot to go and see it....oh my, but I was so CROSS with myself!

  3. Happy 75th Anniversary Mallard! They are definately beautiful pieces of engineering. :-)


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