On 3 July 1938 The London and North Eastern Railway A4 Class 4-6-2 Pacific steam locomotive Number 4468 “Mallard” set the official world speed record for steam locomotives at 125.88 mph (202.58 km/h). The record was achieved on the slight downward grade of Stoke Bank south of Grantham on the East Coast Main Line, and the highest speed was recorded at milepost 90¼, between Little Bytham and Essendine. It broke the German (DRG Class 05) 002’s 1936 record of 124.5 mph (200.4 km/h) Mallard still officially holds the record and as plaques affixed to each side of the locomotive commemorate the feat. LNER 4468 Mallard was built at Doncaster, England in 1938. It was designed by Sir Nigel Gresley as an express locomotive to power high-speed streamlined trains. Its wind-tunnel-tested, aerodynamic body and high power allowed it to reach speeds of over 100 miles per hour (160 km/h), though in everyday service it was relatively uncommon for any steam hauled service to reach even 90mph, much less 100.
In 1948, the newly formed British Railways, decided to test locomotives from all of the former ‘Big Four’ companies to find the best attributes of speed, power and efficiency with coal and water. There were two ways of testing and comparing locomotives: either at the Rugby Locomotive testing plant, which was not ready until late 1948 or by testing in the field itself. The results of these trials would be used to help design the British Railways Standard design of locomotives. The express passenger locomotive designs which would be compared were: London Midland Region (former LMS) Princess Coronation class, Eastern Region (former LNER) Class A4, Southern Region (former Southern) Merchant Navy class and Western Region (former GWR) 6000 Class or King class. Three Gresley A4 locomotives were chosen to represent the Eastern Region: E22 Mallard, 60033 Seagull and 60034 Lord Faringdon. All of the locomotives had the Kylchap double blastpipe chimney arrangement and were fresh from Doncaster works. Mallard had emerged from Doncaster with a fresh coat of post-war garter blue livery, stainless steel numbers 22 with a small ‘E’ painted above them (for Eastern region), new boiler (her fourth) and third tender of her career.
E22 Mallard was used on 8 June 1948 on the Waterloo-Exeter route. Driver Marrable took the famous A4 with a load of 481 tons tare, 505 tons full, the same that had been used on the previous trip by 35018 British India Line. Mallard got through Clapham Junction in 6 minutes 57 seconds, Woking in 28 minutes 47 seconds. At Hook there were adverse signals, causing Mallard to slow to a crawl. Even so, Salisbury was reached in 108 minutes and 28 seconds. Despite the signals earlier, the train was only 5-and-a-half minutes late. The net time was 95.5 minutes. Mallard failed after this trial and 60033 Seagull took over. 10 June saw Seagull achieve the run in 96 minutes 22 seconds, but had departed 3 minutes late, meaning Seagull had arrived with the same load 3.5 minutes early. For Mallard, the 1948 Locomotive Exchange Trials were over, but Mallard was to return to the Waterloo-Exeter line for a Locomotive Club of Great Britain (LCGB) railtour in 24 February 1963 after wch it was retired, having covered almost one and a half million miles (2.4 million km).
LNER 4468 “Mallard” was restored to working order in the 1980s, and ran some specials between York and Scarborough in July 1986 and a couple of runs between York and Harrogate/Leeds around Easter 1987. Mallard is now part of the National Collection at the United Kingdom’s National Railway Museum in York. On the weekend of 5 July 2008, Mallard was taken outside for the first time in years and displayed alongside her A4 sisters, thus reuniting all four A4s extant in the UK for the first time since preservation. She departed the museum for Locomotion, the NRM’s outbase at Shildon on the 23 June 2010, where she was a static exhibit, until she was hauled back to York on 19 July 2011 and put back on display in its original location in the Great Hall.
In 2013, To celebrate the 75th Anniversary of Mallard achieving the world record speed for a steam locomotive of 126mph in 1938, LNER 4468 Mallard was reunited with the only other surviving A4 locomotives for theGreat Gathering inside the Great Hall at the National Railway Museum, It was joined by the temporarily repatriated A4′s Dwight D Eisenhower and Dominion of Canada as well as A4′s No 60019 (LNER 4464) Bittern, 60007 (LNER 4498) Sir Nigel Gresley and 60009 Union of South Africa in the Great Hall at the National Railway Museum in York on 3 July 2013. Dwight D Eisenhower and Dominion of Canada eventually went home in Spring 2014 and Bittern, Sir Nigel Gresley and union of South Africa have since been busy doing various Rail Tours and Steam Galas.