On July 3rd 1938, the locomotive Mallard set a new speed record for steam traction,a record which has never been beaten.
(This page was created to mark the sixtieth anniversary of the record run.)
(July 3rd 1938 – at Barkston Mallard waits for the ‘right away’)
Cecil J. Allen, in ‘The Gresley Pacifics of the L.N.E.R.’, gave this account of the run:
“But…the sporting instincts of Sir Nigel had been aroused by the 114 m.p.h. attained by the L.M.S.R. Pacific Coronation in the previous year…and he was determined, under the cloak of these [brake] tests, to give the rivals a speed challenge which they would have little chance of beating. In Mallard he found a perfect instrument for his purpose, and in Driver Duddington, of Doncaster, a fearless collaborator. The test train consisted of three of the “Coronation” twin sets, plus the dynamometer car, seven vehicles in all weighing 240 tons.”
The train was started a little north of Grantham, and passed the station at a modest 24 m.p.h., with the regulator wide open, and cut-off 40 per cent. In 2¼ miles at 1 in 200 up, the train accelerated to 59¾ m.p.h.; on 1½ miles further with cut-off eased to 30 per cent, the speed increased to 69 m.p.h.; and up the final 1½ miles through the tunnel to Stoke box, still at 1 in 200, 74½ m.p.h. had been reached as the summit box was passed. Due to the expert work with the shovel of Fireman Bray, the boiler continued to supply all the steam needed for an unchanged 40 per cent. as the engine swept southwards.
(The men who set the record: Fireman Bray; Driver Duddington; Inspector S. Jenkins.)
From milepost 100, speeds at the end of each successive mile were 87½, 96½, 104, 107, 111½, 116, 119 m.p.h. (milepost 93), and then, at the ensuing half-miles, 120¾, 122½, 123, 124¼ and finally 125 m.p.h. at milepost 90¼, while the dynamometer record for a very short distance revealed the tremendous maximum of 126 m.p.h., the figure usually quoted, and at which the 6 ft. 8 in. driving wheels were doing more than 500 revolutions a minute. All this was at 40 per cent. cut-off with full regulator, increased between mileposts 94¼ and 93 to 45 per cent. Five miles (posts 94 to 89) were reeled off at an average of 120.4 m.p.h., and speed actually exceeded 120 m.p.h. for three miles continuously (posts 92¾ to 89¾). So the record was secure; Mallard had travelled faster, not only than the L.M.S.R. Coronation, but also than all other steam locomotives in the world whose high speed performances, properly authenticated by a sequence of passing times, are on record.