Steam Corner 18

A Production for Ryan Productions by B.L.Cann

Our thanks go to Mr. I. Fyvie, The Watercress Line, Mr. T. Knowles, Mr.S. Smalley, The North Norfolk Rly., Severn Valley Rly., Mr.Chris Adams and countless others for their assistance in this production.

Kings of Speed

A sometimes unhealthy competition had grown between the railway companies in a very short time. This took firstly the guise of "we do it cheaper"; although this worked for a short while, it wasn't long before even more customers were attracted to railway transport. Hence the competition got even more fierce, and more capital investment was required to provide the trains to deal with the greater custom.

At such an early stage of railway development, the national system comprised of a great many small companies, who found that the larger concerns were making a situation that they couldn't afford to compete with. The usual turn of events was to sell off the company assets to the nearest major concern. The companies of L.M.S and L.N.E.R. both gained considerably in size through this occurrence, and turned out to become each other's major rival, due to their both providing a service between London and Scotland.

This became the war zone, so to speak. One that started on 21st. August, 1895; at a shade over 60.3 mph. over East coast metals, with a Stirling single providing the initial power. The following day saw the West coast answer with a calculated 60.5 mph. with both companies having to change engines en-route. The ultimate aim was speed, allied with comfort; the trains getting that much heavier, new locomotive designs were the requirement of the day. Gresley of L.N.E.R. fame had already produced 2-6-0 H2 class locos for mixed traffic duties (general purpose), followed by a series of A1 class pacifics with a 100 mph.+ capability, and the L.N.E.R. were suitably impressed with the performance of these modern locos - so much so that they granted him license to produce a streamlined loco design in 1933/4. The resulting shape was 95% design, and 5% accident, despite the attentions of Prof. W.E. Dalby!

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1923 saw the Great Empire Exhibition at Wembley host Flying Scotsman. To the utter consternation of the L.N.E.R. heirarchy, the G.W.R. displayed their "King" class, advertising it as "The most powerful locomotive in Britain". In the locomotive exchange trials that followed, the G.W.R. really put L.N.E.R. noses out of joint - their locos out-performed the Gresley machines! An intensive study was made of the King's boiler construction whilst under the guise of maintenance, which led to various improvements in Gresley's designs.

London terminus Kings Cross. October1, 1935 saw the first A4 "Silver Link" depart on the new Silver Jubilee service to Newcastle, having topped 112.5 mph. This was the first of what would become an intercity service.

Meanwhile, the L.M.S. had their own ideas and designs. Stanier had produced a streamlined pacific, and here was the challenge. The race was on, and though the L.M.S. machine lacked the graceful lines of the A4's, speed and reliability they certainly did have, achieving 114 mph. Whilst the L.M.S. men celebrated, the L.N.E.R. stables weren't so happy.

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Things were set to change, though. A shiny blue A4, bearing a range of improvements, was selected for a "brake testing" session, in charge of 6 coaches and a dynamometer car. Westinghouse officials (brake manufacturers) were to be present, as was Sir Nigel Gresley himself. The brake tests were indeed carried out on the down trip, but on the return Stoke Bank was where 125 mph. with a momentary 126 mph indication was achieved. Not without cost, however! Failure of the centre big end rapidly halted the progress of Joe Buddington and his fireman Tom Bray. The engine (Mallard) was failed at New England, and eventually towed back to it's home shed.


It is still an arguable point about the validity of this record, as the A4 was running only 7 on - compared to 11 on with normal service trains, and a lot more passengers. Would 4468 "Mallard" have cracked 125 mph with a normal load on? Would the centre main bearing have overheated with a better quality of lubricant? Personally, I very much doubt it, but the record holds, and there is no comparison now! It transpires that even Sir Nigel had his doubts about the accuracy of the dynamometer car's equipment at the time - there's no small wonder that the validity of this claim should still be held in doubt!



RIYAN Productions