Posted by: Andrew Skelton | 05/09/2012

Full Steam Ahead

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When I was eight years old (which was obviously not too long ago… honest… what do you mean “yeah right” Dear Reader?) I wrote to The Jim’ll Fix It TV show asking Jim to Fix it for me to be able to see all of the preserved LNER A4 locomotives. For most of you, those last 4 words will mean very little, but you will actually know what I’m talking about when I name the most famous of this class of steam engine… no, it’s not Thomas (or Mr The Tank Engine to you) or even “the little engine that could” but 4468 Mallard, the fastest steam locomotive in the world. Know what I’m talking about now? Well, my letter to Mr Saville was a bit of a long shot, and I suspect I had an ulterior motive, as whilst four of the engines were distributed around the UK, the final two preserve steam locos were across the pond, one in North America and one in Canada (the ulterior motive being, even at that tender age, to travel). As with anything in life (especially when photographing wildlife) patience is a virtue and it seems my erm… cough, decade long.. what.. okay two decade.. really? okay my LONG wait has been rewarded as both Dwight D Eisenhower and Dominion of Canada are being repatriated for the 75th anniversary of Mallard setting the world speed record for a steam loco in 2013.

The aim is to have all six of these locomotives on display first at Shildon, the more northerly section of the National Railway Museum, before moving on to it’s sister location, York. I suspect both locations will be absolutely inundated when all six locomotives are finally together, and despite the long journey I plan to make the pilgrimage myself – it’s an opportunity too good to miss, to see such graceful pieces of classic engineering together. Even if you’re not a train enthusiast, and I know most of you won’t (especially with the stigma there is in the UK about train spotters.. though that doesn’t bother me in the slightest), you can’t help but see the appeal of these streamlined works or art.. true classic design.

It’s a bit of a cliche but they don’t build them like they used to; sure, the trains are faster, smoother, and cleaner but they seem soulless in comparison – I’m sure each generation says that, even the diesel locos of my day must have seemed quite boring in comparison.. but loco these days, they’re not a patch on those of our day. And you tell kids today and they don’t believe you.


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