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THE flying duck that got Nazis in a flap The FLYINGTHE flying that that.

HE is the Midland railway engineer who beat the Nazis to create the fastest steam train in the world.

The 75th anniversary of Sir Nigel Gresley's champion choo choo, the Mallard, was celebrated at the National Railway Museum in County Durham. It hosted a ''Great Gathering of the Mallard'' and five of her sister engines.

But the February event, attended by 50,000 enthusiasts, was the last time the engines will be seen together.

Gresley, who was brought up in Derbyshire and died, aged 64, in 1941, created the Mallard to gain the edge over his Nazi rivals, after travelling as a guest on record breaking steam attempts by the Germans, who often included high ranking SS or Nazi Party leaders, including rail enthusiast Herman Goering.

Engine drivers had become as famous as today's football stars with their images and details of record speeds appearing on biscuit tins, playing cards, jigsaws and large colourful posters.

Locomotive names such as Cock of the North, 1000, Papyrus, Silver Link and later Mallard all became familiar sights hauling equally famous name expresses across the country.

Gresley used design ideas influenced by pal Ettore Bugatti, the former Italian racing driver whose bizarre experiments often involved strapping huge chunks of wood to cars to see whether they helped or hindered wind deflection, to create his new A3 and A4 class locomotives.

They featured stunning curved, wedge-shaped frontages which were all given the names of birds, such as Guillemot, Wild Swan and Herring Gull because Gresley believed they were all strong on the wing.

He then designed the Mallard and selected an experienced footplate crew of driver Joe Duddington and fireman Tommy Bray to put her through her paces.

With the threat of another world war approaching, Gresley decided his attempt at a world record was now or never.

Arrangements were made to clear the tracks one Sunday in July 1938 to attempt the ultimate break test.

Mallard's ultra-streamlined body, cab and valances were resplendent in a garter blue livery.

Her smoke box was jet black with delicate red lines running along in a narrow parabolic curve, and her powerful driving wheels painted in a rich Coronation red.

Behind her was the teak panelled dynamometer car to measure the speed, coupled to three twin sets of luxury carriages from the Coronation Pullman express.

The plan was to head from London for Barkston, a few miles from Grantham where the train could be turned on the triangle.

On the return journey, the locomotive would be given her head up Stoke Bank where the record was to be attempted.

Normally the Coronation express would be packed but this time much of the train was eerily empty.

The bulk of the experts were packed into the dynamometer car to ensure accurate testing.

At precisely 4.15pm the signal lifted and Mallard gave two toots on her whistle before beginning her journey into the unknown.

In Stoke Tunnel the whole train was lit by a spectacular torrent of hot cinders, whilst up front Duddington and Bray were pushing her ever closer to previous records.

First they recorded 107mph, then 109 mph and, before they knew it, 116mph - beating the British steam record.

The Nazis' prestigious record of 124.5mph was now in sight.

Duddington urged her on and they shot through Little Bytham station showering the platform with hot coals.

The train began to shake violently with crockery crashing to the floor before the monitoring machines suddenly went crazy again, finally recording 126.1mph for a few moments before the odours of a precautionary stink bomb told of an unfortunate overheating problem.

Mallard, though, limped back into Peterborough.

Job done!

She had earned the worthy title of the 'Blue Streak' and she had broken the world speed record - which still stands today.

For Gresley, deteriorating health curtailed his appearance on the train and restricted his celebrations but as a Knight of the Realm honoured for his railway achievements, this was undoubtedly his finest hour, and his footplate crew enjoyed their listing in the record books and subsequent fame as national heroes.


The train crew at Peterborough after breaking the record (from left) fireman |Tommy Bray, driver Joe Duddington, inspector Sam Jenkins and HM Hoather.

The Mallard, known as The Blue Streak, at Barkston Junction before departure on the record breaking run
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Jun 1, 2014
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