LNER Class A4 4468 Mallard
The Fastest Steam Train in the World…
The LNER Class A4 4468 Mallard is by far my favourite steam locomotive of all time. I was lucky enough to see it at the National Rail Museum, it is one of those rare experiences where you feel like you in the presence of something great and believe me if you haven’t already set eyes on this steam beast then I thoroughly recommend you go and look at it.
Built in 1938 by a British designer called Sir Nigel Gresley this train holds the world record for being the fastest (over 125 MPH). This amazing feat was achieved in the summer of 38 on the East Coast Main Line.
The train like many others during this time was built in Doncaster. Fondly nicknamed “The Plant” it has seen many different types of construction at the factory including helping the war effort in the 1940s where the famous gliders for the D Day landings were made.
Gresley was a brilliant train engineer. Not only did he design the A4 class but perhaps the most famous train of all, The Flying Scotsman which is an A1 class. He designed beautiful trains that were also mechanically sound – they had to be as these trains were able to travel at 100 MPH with carriages full of passengers.
There is an excellent image gallery of The Mallard on this web page.
The Mallard was wind tunnel tested and the aero-dynamic front section did not just happen by chance. Elegant curves hiding a powerful and unprecedented double blast pipe, this train meant business and saw service right up until the early 1960s.
There have been numerous discussions over the years about resorting the Mallard to a working locomotive but at present sits at NRM in York. A restoration was undertaken in the 80s but it is a shame that this piece of locomotive history has not been seen in action since.
Dimension wise, The Mallard is over 70 feet in length and weighs in over 160 tonnes when the tender weight is added. There are three cylinders and a vacuum braking system is used to slow the train down. Vacuum brakes were used right up until the 1970s where compressed air brake systems slowly replaced them.
Today, The Mallard take pride of pace in the Great Hall at the NRM in York. With nearly 1 million visitors a month it is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the North of England. It is amazing to think that the museum was close to closure after the UK government announced a funding cut of about 10 per cent.
Luckily, a compromise was found and although the short term future is secure fund raising must be continued in order for this rich steam locomotive heritage to be kept in safe hands. If you are passionate about steam train heritage then you can donate here. I decided to become a patron but you can also make one off donations.