The most famous of all the class A4 Pacifics. Gresley himself was on the footplate, July 3rd, 1938 as final preparations were made for the assault on the speed record. Driven by Joseph Duddington, (“Once over the top I gave Mallard her head and she just jumped to life like a live thing. If I had pushed her a bit more, I think we could have done 130mph.”) a man with a reputation for being a risk taker, and fired by Thomas Bray, she crested Stoke Bank (just south of Grantham) at about 70 mph heading for the world steam traction speed record, which she set at 126 mph. Although now retired, 4468 still holds this record.
The first batch of A4s was built in 1935 specifically to haul the new Silver Jubilee express between London Kings Cross and Newcastle Central. This batch comprised four locomotives with each name containing the word “silver”; 2509 Silver Link, 2510 Quicksilver, 2511 Silver King and 2512 Silver Fox. They were an instant crowd puller and a huge success for LNER with the journey time cut quite dramatically to less than four hours.
These, then, were the “streaks” of my childhood but regrettably out of a total of thirty five that were built only six have survived with three on static display, two currently approved for mainline running and one awaiting approval for mainline use.
This year, 2008, heralds the seventieth anniversary of 4468’s record breaking run and it is interesting to note that some of our modern express trains are taking longer than the A4s to travel the ECML between London Kings Cross and Newcastle Central.
(Photography by kind permission of NRM, York, England)