Men who served on Mallard prepare to be reunited with famous locomotive

MEN who drove and fired one of the world's most iconic locomotives will be reunited with the world steam record holder Mallard tomorrow at the start of 70th anniversary celebrations.

Driver Joseph Duddington and fireman Tommy Bray reached 126mph on the downwards slope of Stoke Bank near Grantham on the footplate of the steam giant on July 3, 1938. They broke a two-year-old German record by 2mph.

Actor Chris Ford from Platform 4 theatre, the National Railway Museum's in-house acting troupe, will be recreating the moment and he will be joined by footplate men with experience of Mallard and other Gresley A4 Pacifics.

EWS driver David Court, from Doncaster, has first-hand knowledge of driving an A4 locomotive at speed and has a real idea of what drove Duddington to push Mallard to the limit. He will be joined by Mallard experts from across the North.

Ronnie Walker, 78, from Leeds, who was fireman on board all of the A4s designed by Sir Nigel Gresley, including Mallard, will join the group to explain what it is like to fire the magnificent machines.

Ken Willetts, who also fired Mallard – like his father before him, will attend, along with Chris Nettleton, secretary of the Gresley Society, who knows the detail of the events of that historic Sunday 70 years ago when the steam record was set.

The Director of the National Railway Museum in York, Andrew Scott, who has had a lifelong interest in the A4s,has arranged for Mallard to be reunited with three more of the streamlined locomotives which hauled expresses on the East Coast Main Line.

On Saturday and Sunday Mallard, Bittern, Sir Nigel Gresley and Union of South Africa will be brought together in a line-up of all four of the A4s remaining in the UK in an event being billed as The Great Reunion.

Mr Nettleton said: "It is testament to Sir Herbert Nigel Gresley's brilliance that 70 years on Mallard's record is still unbroken. Gresley is one of the greatest engineers the world has ever known and it is only fitting that the NRM are taking this opportunity to demonstrate the sheer genius of his work with the upcoming Great Reunion."

Mr Scott added: "Aside from Gresley's pioneering designs, it was the crews on board Mallard 70 years ago that made the breaking of the record possible."

Sir Nigel Gresley, who died in 1941 aged 64, became Chief Mechanical Engineer of the London and North Eastern Railway. He designed some of the most famous steam locomotives in Britain.