That Was The Year That Was

On 3 July 1938 LNER A4 Pacific 4468 reached a speed of 126mph between Grantham and Peterborough and created a world speed record for steam traction which still stands today.

1988 was a great year for commemorative anniversaries and top of the pile for the Museum and the Friends was Mallard 88.

© Philip Benham


Mallard had been on display at the BTC Museum at Clapham from 1964 before coming to York for the opening of the NRM in 1975 .The Museum and Friends shared an aspiration to have 4468 operating again for the fiftieth anniversary of the record run. The Friends initiated a public appeal and undertook to finance her restoration to main line running standards by 1988. In the event, under the guidance of the NRM Engineer John Bellwood and the FNRM Hon CME John Peck, in the museum workshops the two Friends sponsored fitters Kim Mallyan and Peter Pickering and had Mallard ready for a Scarborough Spa Express special train on 9 July 1986 – her first main line run since 1963.


John Coiley, Head of the Museum and Lord Downe, Chairman of the Friends asked me to lead a joint working group to optimise the opportunities and implement an appropriate programme for the fiftieth year. I had access to some tremendous talent and enthusiasm from volunteers and museum staff. Peter Semmens led a publicity group, Terence Cuneo was commissioned to do a new Mallard painting, Richard Lucraft arranged the marketing of a limited edition print as well as a limited edition moulding of the record run plaque, Charles Lilley, Chairman of the North West Friends Group negotiated a Saturday Daily Telegraph special Mallard Supplement, Martin Best negotiated train paths for ten special trains to follow the BR VIP run on 3 July, and Brian Knowlman used his company Yorktours to manage the bookings. There were 3768 seats available and within five days of booking opening on 1 February all the seats had been sold. We had made it clear that priority would be given to Friends and this created a significant increase in new members!

© Philip Benham


The 3 July special train from King's Cross to Scarborough was hosted by Inter City Director Dr John Prideaux. The unique Class 89 electric locomotive (later to be named Avocet by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher) pulled the train to Doncaster where it was replaced by Mallard to create another record – the first steam locomotive to operate under the wires on the Selby diversion. On display alongside at Doncaster was the first of the Class 91 locomotives, that had yet to be fully commissioned, but would take over operation of East Coast Main Line services when electrification was complete. At York, passengers were invited to a celebratory lunch in the museum hosted by the Director of the Science Museum, Dr Neil Cousins who announced the plans for the new Great Hall. Then back on the train for the journey to Scarborough and a strawberry tea in the Spa hosted by the Mayor of Scarborough.

The memorable feature to me of that day was the huge numbers of people who turned out all along the route just to see this beautiful blue monster. The financial result to the Friends of the whole celebratory programme was a net surplus of £60,000 which was the basis for our commitment to underwrite the restoration to main line operation of Duchess of Hamilton.

An LNER celebration funding an LMS restoration!!


By Frank Paterson

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