Weekly Photo Challenge: Time – World Speed Records

The Mallard National Railway Museum York

I suppose I have to concede that the most famous and best loved steam locomotive is the Flying Scotsman, but my personal favourite is  the garter blue LNER Mallard, a class A4 4-6-2 Pacific steam locomotive, designed by Sir Nigel Gresley and built at Doncaster, England in 1938.

I visited the National Rail Museum in York just to see it and was not disappointed when I got up close in the exhibition hall, taking pride of place it gleams to almost impossible perfection along the entire length of  its fashion-model, streamlined body – it must take several hours every evening to get the fingerprints of the admiring visitors removed!

The Mallard is the current record holder of the world speed record for a steam locomotive which it achieved in 1938 by reaching a speed of 126 mph (203 kmh) in Lincolnshire between Grantham and Peterborough.  It is difficult to imagine what this must have felt like as the one hundred and seventy tonne engine and tender dragged its coaches at top speed over railway lines that were designed for much lower speeds, the noise and the shaking must have been unimaginable.  To see what it might have been like I paid £4 to take a ride in a simulator which tried to recreate the record breaking attempt.

In the 1930s some people were obsessed with speed and breaking records.  In the same year that Mallard broke the steam powered record a man called Rudolf Caracciola drove a Mercedes-Benz W125 Rekordwagen at a speed of 268 mph (433 kmh) on a German Autobahn which is a record that still stands as the fastest ever officially timed speed on a public road.

In February 1938 Squadron Leader J.W. Gillan flew an RAF Hawker Hurricane fighter plane from Edinburgh to London in forty-eight minutes and achieved a record land plane speed of 409 mph (660 kmh).  I expect that he was in a bit of a rush to get back to the officer’s mess before closing time!

Also in 1938 Sir Malcolm Campbell broke the water speed record in Bluebird K3 when he achieved a speed of 141 mph (227 kmh) on Lake Maggoire in Switzerland.  In the following year he broke the record again in K4 on Lake Coniston in the Lake District in England.

The Mallard National Railway Museum York


26 responses to “Weekly Photo Challenge: Time – World Speed Records

  1. I like trains okay, but even I admit this is a beauty. 😀


  2. Great looking train, Andrew.
    I think I know someone who who will be very interested in this!


  3. What a majestic beast! They certainly broke the mould after building it. Incredible obsession with speed during that period, must have been awe inspiring to the public of the time.


  4. There is a wonderful train museum in Sacramento, Ca. But it lacks any beauties like the Mallard. As for speed records, I am happy when I can walk four miles in an hour. –Curt


  5. I always thought the Scotsman was the elder, but I see Mallard is 4468…. so it must have been the first?


  6. I have only ridden a train twice in my life. Once in Tennessee and once in Alaska.


  7. I think there was a whole class of streamlined locomotives like Mallard in the 1930s. And didn’t the Americans build something similar in the early 1940s?


  8. Love that museum in York, Andrew. The Mallard is certainly a classic. For what it is worth, they used a systematic numbering system in New South Wales, the first two digits representing the class of the loco. So 3601 was the first C36 class, and so on.


  9. A beautiful train! As a child we did a many day train ride across a big part of Canada. A most amazing memory.


  10. For my generation in the ’70s we as youth/uni students liked to show off with speed – so too special trips to Italy & Germany to use their motorways as Croatia’s were nonexistent in that sense, were quite poor. Loved Italy’s stretch Trieste/Venice did it few times for fun 🙂


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