AWE-INSPIRNG: This locomotive wowed millions. This weekend she’s out and looking her best again. Grace Hammond reports.
When the decision was made in 1938 to take an example of the best of British engineering to the 1939 New York World’s Fair, a locomotive was selected based not only for its power and speed, but its striking design – Duchess of Hamilton.
In 2009, it was decided to give the old girl a bit of a facelift and make this Art Deco symbol of opulence and style easy on the eye once again.
But she need a good looking partner. Today this Princess Coronation Class loco receives a converted LMS railway carriage in matching crimson and gold livery at a special event celebrating the largest of the Big Four’ railway companies the London Midland and Scottish Railway (LMSR).
The company operated the West Coast main line from Euston to Glasgow with its top performing service, the Royal Scot. The London North Eastern Railway (LNER) ran trains on the East Coast main line between Kings Cross and Edinburgh with its famous flagship express service, The Flying Scotsman.
From 1896, railway companies had agreed not to compete on speed for the Scottish run. But in the early thirties they had to invest in speed in order to stay ahead and an epic duel commenced in 1932 between Sir Nigel Gresley, chief mechanical engineer for LNER and his LMSR counterpart, Sir William Stanier.
When Stanier was appointed his brief was simple – a heavy express locomotive that could work the whole journey without being changed at Crewe or Carlisle, thus halving the size of locomotive fleet required for Anglo-Scottish traffic.
His first attempt at creating a super-machine was the Princess Royal class and when No.6201 Princess Elizabeth was selected to run the race in 1936, she set a new record for the longest and fastest steam hauled non-stop run.
It was a superb response to LNER’s new breed of super sleek, super speedy locomotives – the A4 Pacifics. But LMSR was under intense pressure to move its engines up a gear and in 1936 decided to run a new flagship train between London and Glasgow, the Coronation Scot.
Art Deco and streamlining was all the rage but Stanier wasn’t convinced of its usefulness. He was soon overruled by the marketing team who realised the importance of image to commercial success. The chief scientist and chief draughtsman of the LMSR were left to design the streamlined casing which became an icon of the era. The first Princess Coronation Class locomotive, Coronation, was completed at Crewe on 1 June 1937 – an Art Deco vision of curving silver stripes against a blue background.
On 29 June 1937, waved off by staff involved in her construction, Coronation made its inaugural run, reaching 114 mph. LMSR was at the head – and in fine style. This paved the way for the later maroon and gold Duchess of Hamilton.
The Coronation Scot service reached unparalleled levels of luxury, not only were the locomotives visually stunning with their rounded bodies and metallic Art Deco stripes, the carriages also were an Art Deco fan’s dream.
Different timbers were used in each carriage, varying from English oak to Australian maple and walnut. Furnishings and trimmings were blue, green and brown, each train being completed in one colour.
In 1939, No. 6229 Duchess of Hamilton became the most famous Princess Coronation of all time when she was shipped to America to take part in the New York World‘s Fair, renamed and numbered as Coronation.
The 1939-40 Fair at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park was Streamline Moderne’s finest hour.
To wow the world, the LMSR came up with a new maroon and gold colour scheme as a change from the blue and silver livery.
The locomotive and coach are showcased at the LMS Steam Weekend today and tomorrow at the National Railway Museum.