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Baston author and Heritage Railway editor releases new book on record-breaking loco Mallard and how it silenced Nazi Germany



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The story of how a record-breaking steam engine struck a pre-war blow for Britain against the Nazis, right here in south Lincolnshire, is told in a new book.

Prolific author Robin Jones, from Baston, puts this new spin on a familiar tale in Mallard - Steaming Into Immortality.

The famous blue loco became the fastest steam engine in history when it reached a speed of 126.1mph on July 3, 1938.

Mallard and its successful crew including, from left, driver Joe Duddington, fireman Tommy Bray, and inspector Sam Jenkins, at Peterborough after capturing the record. Photo: National Railway Museum
Mallard and its successful crew including, from left, driver Joe Duddington, fireman Tommy Bray, and inspector Sam Jenkins, at Peterborough after capturing the record. Photo: National Railway Museum

But Robin believes the feat - which was never matched or bettered by steam locomotives - transcended railway folklore.

“What I like about the story of that record run was that it was a symbol of what was to come in future years," he said.

“Nazi Germany had set a record for the world’s fastest steam loco in 1936, and then you had the LNER (London and North Eastern Railway) in Lincolnshire and this group of people.

Mallard captured as it reaches 126mph at Stoke Bank. Photo: National Railway Museum
Mallard captured as it reaches 126mph at Stoke Bank. Photo: National Railway Museum

“They made a cover story they were brake testing and it was only when they got to Grantham that the real reason was revealed - they were going to take the record back."

The Nazis had been desperate to show the world its superiority, particularly in the field of technology, with leading figures Heinrich Himmler and Reinhard Heydrich passengers on that train.

So when Mallard snatched the record back on the East Coast Main Line at Stoke Bank, near Little Bytham, Robin believes it put a little dent in the Nazi ego.

Author Robin Jones
Author Robin Jones

“The Nazis had been beating the drum about everything and suddenly there was silence," he added.

“A group of unassuming people went out on Sunday morning and overtook the record that Nazi Germany had been shouting about, and all the jack boots and goose-stepping had been defeated at a stroke.

“Mallard is more than just a steam engine - it is a symbol of future national pride.

Mallard about to set off from Barkston Junction South, north of Grantham, on its record attempt. Photo: National Railway Museum
Mallard about to set off from Barkston Junction South, north of Grantham, on its record attempt. Photo: National Railway Museum

“It was a wonderful story for Lincolnshire and should be shouted from the rooftops.

“The record was set here, not London or on the prairies of the United States."

The book documents the history of Mallard and the A4 Pacific class to which it belonged, designed by Nigel Gresley who was also responsible for the iconic Flying Scotsman.

Mallard stops at Grantham for the first time in more than 50 years for the Story of Speed festival in 2013. Photo: Robin Jones
Mallard stops at Grantham for the first time in more than 50 years for the Story of Speed festival in 2013. Photo: Robin Jones

Robin has edited Heritage Railway magazine since its inception 23 years ago. but formerly an investigative reporter for the Birmingham Evening Mail, describes himself as a journalist first and foremost.

He has written a string of books on transport, but also on a broad range of topics from travel and geography to lighthouses and his home town of Solihull.

Yet his interest in steam runs deep.

“I was a railway enthusiast from a very young age," he explained.

"My brother used to take me train spotting from the age of four or five.

"I just like the community within railway preservation and they tend to get things done.”

Mallard - Steaming Into Immortality is published by Gresley Books and available at www.mortonbooks.co.uk



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