Meet Mallard, the world’s fastest steam locomotive

Meet Mallard, the world’s fastest train

On July 3, 1938, Mallard emitted smoke as it reached a top speed of 126 mph – just over 200 km / h. As a result, Mallard became the world’s fastest-moving train, a record we hold to this day. Join A.S.Ganesh as he rides this train …

The 1930’s was a prosperous time for railways as it saw major developments and some trains marked the construction. The fact that less efficient and more efficient diesel electricity was entering the railway system at this time meant that the end was near for steam-powered engines. Yet, it was in this climate that Mallard, the world’s fastest railway, was created.

Acceleration was not only seen as the last sign of modern times, but also a sign of patriotism. In Great Britain, a region that flourished during the Steam Industrial Revolution, two companies – London, Midland & Scottish (LMS) and the London & North Eastern Railway (LNER) – were in the race for speed. service to Scotland.

Gresley’s magic

Add to this the German challenger, and there was plenty of reason to get to the top of the steam traction. Britain came out on top because of LNER’s Mallard, a surprise designed by Sir Nigel Gresley.

Gresley had a gigantic engineering career with a number of successes, including designing the Flying Scotsman, the first train to break the 100 mph bar in the U.K. smoke.

Toward the end of 1936, LNER ordered a large number of A4 engines. Named for the bird, the Mallard was designed with three cylinders that allow it to run smoothly at high speeds. Mallard also has the latest changes, including lighter air corridors, Westinghouse’s new brake valves, and boiler pressure boilers. Mallard was also the first to brag about engineering improvements in the form of a double chimney and Kylchap explosive pipeline arrangement, which helps the train breathe better by distributing exhaust fumes freely.

Bugatti effect

There have also been some changes in cosmetics. Gresley was a close friend of Ettore Bugatti, an Italian-born French car designer who is well-known for his luxury cars and racing cars. Based on the French racing blue used in one of the Bugatti race cars, the Mallard was painted Garter Blue. Carrying number 4468, Mallard left the railway workshop in Doncaster in March 1938.

For the first few months, Mallard appeared as just another member of the LNER high-speed train. By this time, the speed record had been boosted to 124.5 mph by the German train in 1936, while the English record of 114 mph was set in 1937 by the LMS train.

July 3, 1938 was the day Gresley observed that Mallard broke the English record held by the LMS. A reduced-length train consisting of six of the eight cars in the set and a dynamometer car to record important parameters, including speed, was included. With the exception of experienced pilot Joe Duddington and firefighter Thomas Bray who were hand-picked by Gresley, none of the team and expert team were allowed to enter for the exact reason for the run.

After a spectacular trek to the north, the train engineers began to question the purpose of the trip and were allowed to enter privately. A recording effort was planned when Mallard would be off to Stoke Bank on the main line between Grantham and Peterborough.

Mallard flies by

Mallard easily saw the LMS record as he ran down Stoke Bank at 120 mph five miles as a dynamometer car was recorded. Since the train had to slow down to turn around Essendine, there was still one small window where crews could accelerate.

They did just that as Mallard managed to keep the 125 mph strong and briefly touched 126 mph – just a distance of 144 yards according to recorded data. This meant that the 124.5 mph speed limit achieved by the German train in May 1936 had also been destroyed.

Essendine’s sharp curve, however, has upset Mallard as the big end in front of the three-cylinder engine fails. While crew was taking pictures when the train stopped at Peterborough, the train was removed from the train for repairs.

Mallard at King’s Cross station in 1948. 
Credit: Ben Brooksbank/ Wikimedia CommonsMallard at King’s Cross station in 1948.
Credit: Ben Brooksbank / Wikimedia Commons
| Photo Credit: Ben Brooksbank Wikimedia CommonsAfter its historic run, Mallard returned to its fast-track operations, covering more than 1.4 million miles before being finally withdrawn in 1963. Chosen for preservation due to its speed record, Mallard was first exhibited at the British Transportation Museum in Clapham.

In 1975, Mallard was delivered timely on the first day of the opening of the National Railway Museum in York. Here, it stands out and attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors to the museum each year. Mallard, in a sense, represents the peak of steam locomotives, decades before they were completed.

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