‘Time flies by when you’re the driver of a train’ – it sure does when you’re driving your train at 126mph. On July 3rd 1938 driver Joe Duddington and fireman Tommy Bray booked on, at Doncaster shed, for what turned out to be one of the high points of locomotive performance on the LNER. Driver Duddington had been selected for the job because he had a reputation for ‘fearless running’ – he was going to need it.
Disguised as ‘braking tests’ the LNER were setting out to create a new record speed for steam haulage, the LMS and reached 114mph and the Germans, big rivals at the time, had claimed 124.5mph – the LNER were to top that. When they stepped onto the footplate Duudington and Bray knew what was expected of them – they were attempting to beat the LMS, primarily, and the German record too, if it were possible – and never mind the brakes.
I’ve worked on the footplate of a Pacific at over 100mph, in May 65, 105mph, on 35005 Canadian Pacific, so I have some idea of what it was like, back then, on July 3rd 1938. However, I have no idea what it must have been like on Mallard’s footplate when Duddington could smell the garlic but, kept the regulator open until he’d set the record – ‘fearless’ indeed. In a recording from the time, Duddington talks of ‘givin’ her her head’, as though he was speaking of a race horse, and recounting passing the 100, then ‘108, 109 110,’ – it was all so matter of fact, just another day at the office.
The performance of the crew is an important factor in delivering a locomotive’s maximum output and knowledge of the road, the engine and the way it needs to be driven to gain the best from it, are essential ingredients in that performance. By all means remember Mallard but, remember too that it was all made possible by Driver Joe Duddington and Fireman Tommy Bray – it’s their record too.
The photo, scanned from one of my slides shows No.60007 Sir Nigel Gresley, the post-war record holder at 112mph, approaching Helmshore Rd. bridge on the East Lancashire Railway, some years ago.
If you have enjoyed my blogs – I have written a book about my 60 years involvement with railways, from trainspotter, via steam age footplateman, to railway author and photographer, this is a link to it: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Gricing-Real-story-Railway-Children/dp/1514885751