Mallard must be among the most famous Locos in the world and is certainly my favourite with her sleek aerodynamic design. She hit the headlines in 1938 when she became the fastest steam loco in the world. Her record of 126mph has never been beaten.
Now in honourable ‘retirement’ at the National Railway Museum in York, it is time to celebrate her achievement and to give her a grand ‘birthday’. All the remaining A4s in the world have been gathered for a not to be missed gathering at York to celebrate. This must rank as a once in a lifetime event as Dwight D Eisenhower and Dominion of Canada have been brought from their home museums in the the United States and Canada for the event.
I was taken by an excited Grandson. We decided to arrive just turned 10 to give the queue time to clear a bit. In fact there was a long queue by 9am. We joined the throng heading to the museum and by 10.30 the queue was doubled up several times round the forecourt and out onto Leeman Road. Fortunately it was moving fairly quickly. Arriving late isn't the answer either, as the queue was as long when we left at 2.30 and entry was being controlled.
Once through the doors we made our way straight to the A4s. To say there was a crowd round them is an understatement. It is just as well they are big engines and we could see them above the mass of heads. Small children had to be lifted up.The best views of them are from the turntable which was empty and had a widened walkway specially for the event. Light for photos is possibly best in the morning, although crowds are worse them.
Queues to go on the footplate were long and very slow moving. We managed to persuade grandson he’s been on Mallard many times before so it was time to let others have a turn…
Mallard, Bittern and Sir Nigel Gresley were resplendent in their blue livery. Union of South Africa (once called Osprey), Dwight D Eisenhower and Dominion of Canada with her bell, sported dark green paintwork. All six locos were in superb condition with gleaming paintwork and the sight of the six of them standing proud together was worth the crowds.
My only complaint was the lack of detailed information about the locos. There were a few display boards around but they were very superficial. The NRM website is even more so. The event has to rank 5* but the information content only 1*. This is a shame, and as I' have said in a previous review
the National Railway Museum is in danger of becoming a dumbed down tourist attraction rather than a serious railway museum. I appreciate that a successful museum needs to attract in the punter and York does this. However it is in danger of selling the public short.
There was little at Mallard 75 to encourage and develop the budding railway enthusiast in the way of activities or information. Surely this wouldn’t be too difficult?
There was a stall selling a glossy book about the A4s ad the usual selection of rather uninspiring Mallard gifts. The NRM shop is uninspiring at the best of times.
Facilities also let them down. An issue which needs to be addressed is access to the Great Hall. This involves dropping down a short flight of stair and up again. The single lift for each flight of stairs can’t cope with the crowds, even on a non-event day. Today it had parents with pushchairs, grannies or grandpas in wheelchairs as well as a lot of people with sticks, some quite frail. One door on one lift gave up the ghost and refused to close properly. We were advised to contact museum staff to be shown an alternative route. Problem was finding someone to contact…. Bumping prams or wheelchairs down those steps isn’t much fun.
Toilets were also heavily used and in need of cleaning more often during the day.
The event is free and open 3-17th July and the six locos will be back in York for the Grand Gathering 26th October – 8th November.
Finally they will all be at Shildon between 15-23rd February.
Make a date in your diary!