Eric Wilmot, Director Marketing & Technology
Is 100 mph fast?
I suppose it’s a matter of perspective. If you were soaring on a jet at 100 mph you may consider it downright sluggish (if the plane is even designed to travel that slowly) yet the thought of a baseball whizzing across home plate at that same speed is blazingly fast. In fact, newly-implemented ideas such as the hyperloop continue to redefine our concept of “fast”.
The advent of passenger transportation by rail brought the exciting prospect of swift, safe travel but skepticism existed even then and doubters warned that unnatural speeds of 50 mph would cause serious injury or even death to riders, or perhaps even melting bodies. These naysayers were not speaking of a crash or an accident, but simply the movement of the train and its passengers at that rate.
Before long, these predictions were proven to be without merit and man entered an age where cross-country travel shrank from months to weeks. As always, we craved more and the fascination with speed sparked innovation. Innovation that Sir Nigel Gresley was eager to provide.
Sir Gresley knew his trains and served as Chief Mechanical Engineer for the London and North Eastern Railway in England.
The famous speed record holding steam locomotive No. 4468 Mallard at the National Railway Museum in York.
Credit: PTG Dudva
Not only was his brilliance shown in the engines he designed but the aesthetics he used are still lauded today.
He introduced new ideas and engineering concepts in several engines he created but one machine, the A4 engine called the 4468 Mallard built in 1938, would be the achievement that would place Gresley in the rail history books.
Using a three-cylinder design with only two sets of valve gears, not only was the Mallard a fresh new approach from an engineering perspective but the curved lines and unconventional look of the Mallard drew the attention of all onlookers.
The Mallard was not the only engine Sir Gresley created but it is the best known- as of 2018 the 4468 Mallard still holds the record for being the fastest steam locomotive in the world (126 mph). Gresley was knighted in 1936 for his contributions and a memorial plaque was unveiled in 2001 at Edinburgh Waverley railway station to honor his achievements.
The 4468 Mallard is now on display at the National Railway Museum in York, England.