Thursday, 6 August 2009

Sir Nigel Gresley & The Mallard

Way back in December 2006 I blogged about a certain certain set of Machin booklets that depicted railway steam engines on the covers. Both Machins and steam engines are and always will be a passion of mine , they have been since I was a a kid.

Reading through some of the other philatelic blogs I now know that I am not on my own, it seems that quite a few collectors enjoy stamps with the railway theme. One blog in particular is that of Michael Dodd who wrote about railway engines a few weeks back.

Today, I will expand on Michael's work and describe to you in more detail one of the engines (The Mallard) which was depicted briefly in the set of booklets above.


According to some experts, "The Mallard" was, and still is, the fastest steam locomotive in the world. It was designed by Sir Nigel Gresley, an engineering genius who had already produced a world-beater in The Flying Scotsman.

BTW The A4 engine named Sir Nigel Gresley, is a sister engine of the Mallard, this is also depicted on a British Stamp. You can find it on the 17p value shown on Michael's site. This is from from the Railways set, issued in 1985. These were issued to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Great Western Railway Company.

Whats in a name?

Sir Nigel considered Herring Gull, Wild Swan, Gannet and Seagull as names for this loco before finally settling on Mallard. There were 35 A4 locomotives built in total.

Anyway, back to the story, which was during the period between the two world wars. This period of history was all about pushing the boundaries of technology and breaking records. International rivalry ruled the waves – and the skies - and the railways!

From what I have found out, To Nigel Gresley it became a matter of national pride to take back the speed record from the Germans . He built and carefully prepared the streamlined Mallard – The Blue Streak – and finally, on 3 July 1938, Mallard reached a top speed of 202 kmph (126mph), claiming an unassailable place in the railway hall of fame. Today for a steam locomotive its record is unlikely ever to be challenged.

The East Coast Mainline where the A4s ran was maintained at conditions allowing 90mph travel for large sections in the early-mid 20th century. As a result the modern inter city 225 trains average a speed of 112mph between London and York. This section of line between London to York includes Stoke Summit where the Mallard set the speed record.

A large proportion of the Class A4 steam engines have been preserved by the Class A4 society and according to them "They are now in better condition than they ever were in the 1930s."

"As a result a few have suggested trying to set a new steam speed record. Generally speaking most preserved engines are limited to 30mph (45km/h) but the preserved A4s are still allowed to run at up to 80mph (130km/h), for the sight of steam at speed is what makes them worth preserving."


This engine is preserved at The National Railway Museum in York, which displays a collection of over 100 locomotives and nearly 200 other items of rolling stock, virtually all of which either ran on the railways of Great Britain or were built there.

The NRM was established on its present site, the former York North locomotive depot, in 1975, when it took over the former British Railways collection located in Clapham and the York Railway Museum located elsewhere in the city; since then, the collection has continued to grow.


I hope you have enjoyed this change of pace from the norm. If you would like to read more on this subject let me know and keeping on a stamp related theme I will try to oblige.

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3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Gresley thought of the name 'Mallard' when feeding ducks at Salisbury Hall.

Anonymous said...

Mallard was withdrawn from service in 1963.

When first built Mallard cost £8,500.

nnnnnn said...

Roy, excellent piece and thanks for reference :-)

Hope all well with you.. I read every week so keep writing. Am not doing so much writing myself as am out of town Monday through Friday with work.. and just no time... but am trying :-)

Best wishes Michael