World’s fastest steam locomotive turns 82 years old today

Mallard at the NRM
Credit: RailAdvent

Official World Speed Record holder for Steam Locomotives 4468 “Mallard” celebrates 82 years since being turned out brand new from Doncaster Works.

To celebrate this historic achievement, we will look back on the events which wrote “Mallard” into to record books.

4468 “Mallard” is the 28th member of the LNER A4 Class design by Sir Nigel Gresley (Chief Mechanical Engineer), developed from his A3 Class which “Flying Scotsman” is apart of. Completed at ‘The Plant’ on the 3rd of March 1938, 4468 featured one significant improvement over previous class members, this being a double chimney and double Kylchap blastpipe.

This feature meant at high speeds, above 100mph, the draughting (the flow of air and exhaust steam and smoke through the locomotive’s boiler) would be improved, allowing for higher speeds to be achieved. Already the A4s had hit speeds up to 114mph, with this improvement hopefully allowing yet higher speeds.

Following four months of ‘running in’ to wear the brand new components in, the 3rd of July 1938 was the day organised for “Mallard” to attempt to break the current world speed record for steam of 125mph.

On the return run to King’s Cross “Mallard”, after track repairs near Grantham brought the train down to 20mph, achieved 126mph on the descent of Stoke Bank between Grantham and Peterborough.

Azuma and Mallard at York
Credit: RailAdvent

Unfortunately 4468 ‘failed’ and had to be removed from the train at Peterborough to undergo repairs, but the record was beaten and is now held by the LNER A4 Pacific – and hasn’t been beaten since.

Joining the rest of the A4s in normal train services after repairs, “Mallard” spent the majority of its 25-year working career for the LNER and British Railways hauling trains on the East Coast Mainline.

Preserved in the National Collection on withdrawal in 1963, “Mallard” has been displayed at the National Railway Museum at York ever seen, with a limited number of mainline runs approved in the late 1980s.

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  1. Mallard wasn’t at York from 1963, she was at The Transport Museum at Clapham. I saw her on many occasions as a young boy. On Sunday’s you were allowed on the loco footpaths.

  2. Are you sure ? I seem to remember her being in the loco shed at York, behind the house where I lived as a child in the 60’s.

  3. Get her back out for main line use imagine the revenue it would make and so soo much better than being stuck in there

  4. Another iconic piece of British manufacturing.
    Still unbeatable 126mph as steam goes. Got allsorts of memorabilia.
    Back in the 70s, I remember it being restored at Carnforth. I had the pleasure of supplying the insulation for the task in hand, and was later given a picture of the Mallard after restoration, which I still have it on my wall.


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