Four Famous Steam Engines
Not as some would think, the first steam engine, the Rocket was the first steam engine which resembled the modern engines, and the first to contain some features which we would recognise in engines today. Built for a trial of steam engines in 1829 it won by default; all the other contenders broken down. It did manage a speed of 29 miles per hour, which was a considerable rate in an era when most transport was by horse. In 1862 Rocket was donated to the Science Museum, and remains there to this day.
It also confirmed Stephenson’s position in railways, setting the stage for the wars between his narrow gauge and Brunel’s Broad gauge that would affect British railways for nearly sixty years.
The Flying Scotsman
One of the most famous engines of all time, the Flying Scotsman was the first engine to break 100 mph, and also holds the record for endurance – the longest journey by a steam engine without stopping or refuelling.
Originally No. 4472, it was named after the passenger service which it pulled, an express route from London to Edinburgh. The engine had become a flagship for the LNER railway company after it appeared at major exhibitions in 1925 and 1926, so when they wanted to attempt the speed record, the Scotsman was the logical choice. In 1934, pulling a test train, it was successfully recorded as the first engine to break 100 mph.
Retired from service in 1963, the Flying Scotsman was restored and toured the country for some years, as well as trips abroad to the USA and Australia. In 1989, over sixty-three years old, it set another distance record in Australia for the longest non-stop run by a steam engine.
In 2004, partially dismantled, it was bought by the National Railway Museum in York, who are currently in the process of restoring her. Hopefully by 2010 the Flying Scotsman will be back on its wheels and setting records again.
When the Germans built the fastest steam engine in the world and recorded a travel speed of 124 mph, the British were determined to recapture the record. The Mallard was the ideal candidate. Built in 1938 she was only five months old, and one of a class of streamlined high-powered locomotives designed to pull high speed trains. She had a double chimney and blastpipe to further improve her performance. It was known that she could reach a speed of over 100 miles an hour – the question was how much faster.
The raceway chosen was Stoke Bank, long and straight with a slight slope downhill. The German record attempt had built up speed on a downhill slope before the race distance, but Stoke Bank did not have this. The race, well-documented, was fast enough that the engine sustained damage but the record had been set. The fastest steam engine in the world, the Mallard reached a speed of 125 mph.
After her successful run, aand the resulting publicity, the Mallard continued in service until 1963 when she was retired. Now she can be viewed in the Railway Museum in York. Her speed record remains unbroken.
The A1 Tornado
The only steam engine built for mainline Europe in the twenty-first century, the Tornado is a Peppercorn Class engine. The original Peppercorn engines were built in 1949, the last mainline steam engines, and were scrapped during the rush to diesel. By 1966 all had been destroyed.
The Tornado was built as the fiftieth member of the class, not a replica of a previous engine and as such has some improvements. Electronic devices bring her up to modern health and safety standards, while increased boiler size extends her range between water-stops to one hundred miles. She is already assessed for travel at seventy-five miles an hour, and like all members of her class can reach 100. It is hoped that she will be assessed as safe to travel at ninety miles per hour on mainline tracks, putting her travel speed up alongside contemporary engines.
The Tornado pulled her first passenger train in 2008, and will spend the next ten years working on the mainline tracks until she requires her next service. Tickets on Tornado services can be gained through Cathedral’s Express, where it works alongside such steam engines as Tangmere and Sir Nigel Gresely.
Another Famous engine
The North Star – the First great Western engine