Wednesday, September 12, 2012

A Naked Duck

Having recently been on holiday and then having to spend time catching up on work that had built up while I was away I haven't had time to do much modelling for quite a few weeks. Of course this blog isn't just about modelling so for this post I'm going to delve back into my childhood, via some of my Dad's photographs, so get ready to behold a naked duck.

After Flying Scotsman the UK's most famous steam engine is probably LNER 4468; more commonly known as Mallard. On the 3rd of July 1938 Mallard was recorded reaching a top speed of 126mph breaking the world record for a steam locomotive; amazingly that record still stands. Next year will see the 75th anniversary of that record breaking run and while Mallard will be given a cosmetic overhaul she will, unfortunately, remain stuffed and mounted as a static exhibit at the National Railway Museum in York. Things were, however, very different in 1988 when Mallard celebrated fifty years since her record breaking run.

Preparations for the 50th anniversary started in the early 1980's as she was slowly restored to working order. By the 28th of September 1985 she was once more raising steam as these photos show.

I love these photos as although they show what a sorry state Mallard was in at the time (the rust marks on the tender are shocking) they allow you to see that underneath the streamlined casing the A4 Pacifics are in fact very similar to other steam engines of a similar size. She has a tubular boiler, smokebox door and (in this case) a double Kylchap chimney. I don't actually remember this trip to the National Railway Museum but I know I was there as I actually appear in the left hand photo; I'm the small blond haired child being lifted up by my mother in the middle at the bottom of the photo.

By the 25th of March 1986 the overhaul was complete and Mallard returned to mainline duties pulling a special train from York to Doncaster via Scarborough and Hull. Looking through my Dad's slides I can see that we saw her at York two months later on the 25th of May pulling the Scarborough Spa Express and then again on the 25th of August when the photo to the left was taken. Here you can see Mallard, again pulling the Scarborough Spa Express, racing out of York towards Scarborough; you can just see the National Railway Museum through the bridge.

It's a shame that such an evocative sight won't greet those people who visit York next year for the 75th anniversary of the world record. Deciding to overhaul and return an iconic engine to steam is always a difficult decision to make. A full overhaul often involves replacing large parts of the locomotive that cannot be repaired (often the boiler) and there will come a time when little of the original locomotive remains. When Flying Scotsman finally returns to mainline steam duties very little of the original engine will remain, and I guess the National Railway Museum have taken the view that retaining Mallard as a static exhibit is preferable especially as there are a number of other A4 Pacifics currently in operation and certified for use on Britain’s mainline railway network.

Note that a lot of the information for this post came from Don Hale's brilliant book Mallard: How The 'Blue Streak' Broke The World Speed Record which I can heartily recommend for anyone who wants to know more about this wonderful and historic locomotive.


  1. She truly is a beautiful sight. Looking at some of the modern British, French and Italian trains they, too, are works of beauty. The difference to me is that they lack individuality.

    I'm now aiming to catch up with this blog after my holiday and before I leave for NZ.

  2. Wonderful blog......I have got back this far and now must get on. I'll be back later.