The Mighty Mallard

6 04 2012

Last May I did a post on Steam Trains. Now I thought I would do another one this time about my Favourite Train, Mallard.


Mallard is a very famous steam train. It was designed by train designer and engineer Sir Nigel Gresley (who later had an A4 named after him). It set the speed record for the fastest Steam Train in the world. It is also a very BIG train. Mallard is a member of the LNER A4 Class, a group of streamlined steam trains built in Britain in 1935. 35 of them were built and were one of the most recognisable trains around. They were used until 1960 (1966 In Scotland) when diesel locomotives were brought in. Possibly one of the world’s first High Speed rail trains. The A4’s were fitted with double chimneys (first introduced with Mallard in 1938). Their streamlined design not only helped with aerodynamics and increased speed but also prevented smoke getting in the driver’s visibility.

It is interesting to note that while Mallard holds the speed record for Steam Trains it is a Giant Train being 21 metres long and weighing 165 tons if you include the tender. The Speed record was achieved on July 3rd 1938 (4 months after it was built) and achieved a speed of 126 mph which compare it to the Virgin Pendolino’s operating speed (125 mph) means it is faster to go by steam train than modern electric. The train went from Little Bytham to Essendine Railway Station. Mallard beat the previous record which was held by the German DRG Class 05 002 from 1936 (124.5mph).  However the engine overheated and required maintenance and repair work before it went out on the line again. Mallard was eventually withdrawn from service in 1963. Mallard is now part of the National Railway Museum in York. In 2008 Mallard was brought outside for the first time in years and was displayed alongside the four surviving A4’s in Britain. It was moved to the Locomotion Museum in Shildon in 2010 but then brought back to York in 2011.

Now while Mallard is an amazing engine to see what would be fantastic is to see it move under it’s own power again. I do sometimes think that when the Flying Scotsman is finished it may be an idea to restore the Mighty Mallard back to working condition, I would like that. I also think that maybe a future project for the A1 trust would be to make a new A4 (ok, it is a different class but the A4s are fantastic). While Mallard is now a legend in the world of steam trains it’s speed and design can be seen in many high speed trains today, it’s design was perfect for aerodynamic and speed and from this many of the fastest trains running today honour Mallard in their design and speed. While Mallard is now a Museum peace it’s legacy continues.


Return of the Steam Train

19 05 2011

On Monday I was travelling from my home town of Lancaster to the Town of Middlesbrough where I attend Teesside University. I went by Train and when I was leaving York Train Station I saw something very interesting. The National Railway Museum is just next to the Train Station and outside the Museum I saw a couple of Steam Trains. One of them was a LNER Class A4 (which I accidentally thought was Mallard) with Steam coming out. There was also another train outside; The New A1 Tornado (LNER Peppercorn Class A1 60163 Tornado). What is particularly special about the A1 Tornado is that it is the First Train built by British Railways since 1960. If you are a fan of Top Gear you may recognise it as the train that raced a Jaguar XK120 and a Vincent Black Shadow in a race from London to Edinburgh. It was an amazing sight to see this Train and it had Steam coming out as well and even though I was still a bit of a distance from it, it was still Very Big.

Seeing both trains did bring to mind some interesting Ideas the main one being why not have the Steam Trains return to regular service in Britain. Most trains that run in britain today are Electric Trains or Diesel Locomotives. Steam Trains being the size they are would not really work for Commuter and Stopper Trains but why not main line trains. Some Steam trains can reach speeds of 100+ mph. Mallard holds the record for the fastest Steam Train in the world with a speed of 125.88 mph.

Now most Steam Trains these days have been retired except for a small few that are operational and are used as Attractions. If Steam Trains were to return to active main line service they would have to be brand new. That means building them again. If they were brand new they would be in better condition and that is important in terms of getting passengers to their destinations. Getting the right trains to do the job is important and in today’s world of High Speed Transport the Fastest Trains would have to be used. The trains would also have to be strong to carry large numbers of passengers because Main Line service trains need to carry plenty of people. For this Job I think the A4 Class and the Peppercorn Class are best suited for the Job (and also those are the only 2 I can currently think about). The Peppercorn Class are very Big Trains meaning that they are strong enough to pull large weights but they are also very fast for Large steam trains. The A4 Class are also Big Trains but they are also very fast Trains.

Trains to do the job is not the only issue, One issue is that of Infrastructure. With Diesel and Electric locomotives one advantages is that they don’t need to turn around because there is an engine room at both ends of the train. Steam Trains have an Engine at the front but not at the back. In order to use these trains to their full use their would need to be Turntablesat both ends of the line to turn around the engines and some track points to allow the engine to get to the front of carriages and move into position.  Also train stations with roofs over them will need to be well ventilated so that the Steam generated won’t cause health and safety problems. Building the trains is another issue because Steam Trains have not been massed produced for 51 years. There needs to be an industry and need for them to be produced in large numbers again.

I do think that a return of the Steam Train will bring more excitement to the railways so that the train journey is not just about travelling from point A to point B but will be something Fun to do as well. Yes there are issues with bringing back the Steam Train to Main Line service. It could take years before there are enough trains to meet passenger demand and the Infrastructure will need work done to it but I think that the Steam Train will bring more Excitement to the railways and add more Fun travelling by rail. I do like Diesel Locomotives and Electric Train like the Pendolino but if I was to have a choice between the Pendolino and Mallard; I would choose Mallard.


Off-Topic: Next week is my 100th Post.

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