Tag Archives: 60007 Sir Nigel Gresley

On this day

‘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.

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007 shaken not stirred


This might be a classic example of how the wedge front deflects the exhaust and stops it rolling down over the cab and obscuring the driver’s view of the road ahead. A scan from one of my slides, dated March 1998, it shows No.60007 Sir Nigel Gresley, at Burrs, long before the country park was opened.

No.60007 Sir Nigel Gresley is carrying the West Riding Ltd. headboard, a service which began in November 1937, and, like the Silver Jubilee and Coronation services which pre-date it,  was a ‘streamlined’ train – though it did not incorporate the observation car, which was included on the other services. The West Riding Limited, on its inauguration, was the fastest train of the day between London – Leeds and Bradford and was aimed specifically at the ‘Business’ class commuter.

The A4s performed some remarkable feats on these trains, for example, only 10 failures out of 1,952 journeys with the Silver Jubilee service. In 1936 Driver George Henry Haygreen took, the almost brand new, No.2512 Silver Fox, down Stoke Bank at 113 mph, a record at the time, with a service train. No.60007 Sir Nigel Gresley is credited with the highest post-war speed for an A4 reaching 112mph, on 23rd May 1959, again down Stoke Bank, and with a train load of passengers – Alan Pegler was on the footplate.

Today No.60007 Sir Nigel Gresley is resident on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway.  In recent times No.60007 Sir Nigel Gresley has been used on main line rail tours, including the Edinburgh – Aberdeen line, which is where she finished her active BR career, her final MPD allocation was Aberdeen from where she was withdrawn, in February 1966.

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