Little Bytham earned its place in history as the spot on the East Coast Main Line where the Mallard locomotive roared through at 126mph – setting a world steam speed record which has never been beaten.
The date was Sunday, July 3, 1938, and details of that day, what led up to it and the subsequent life of LNER A4 Pacific No 4468 Mallard are featured in a new book by Baston writer Robin Jones.
Robin was with the royal party for The Great Gathering at the National Railway Museum in York on July 22, an historic occasion to mark the 75th anniversary of the speed record by gathering together the Mallard and its five surviving sister locomotives, all beautifully restored. Prince Charles was guest of honour on the day that his grandson, Prince George, was born in London.
Designer Sir Nigel Gresley’s London & North Eastern Railway express passenger locomotive Mallard was named after the ducks in his garden pond.
It briefly touched 126mph as it passed by Little Bytham on a test run down Stoke Bank between Grantham and Peterborough.
This snatched the world record back from Germany which had taken it with a 124.5mph steam run two years before. Mallard’s driver Joe Duddington, fireman Tom Bray and inspector Sam Jenkins became national heroes.
Little Bytham’s station was closed in 1959, although a sign was later put up to mark the spot where the speed record was broken.
Mallard has just set a new record without turning a wheel. Along with its sisters – including Dwight D Eisenhower and Dominion of Canada, borrowed from museums in the USA and Canada – it attracted almost 140,000 visitors in a fortnight to the York exhibition.
Mallard 75 tells the complete story of the famous engine and also includes the exploits of Flying Scotsman. The book is 132 pages long and features some stunning photographs, many in colour.
Robin, who is editor of Heritage Railway magazine, said: “This world steam record still stands as a major achievement, not only for Britain and the country’s railwaymen, but for Lincolnshire too. It is one of the proudest moments in the county’s history. A little-known fact is that the earlier German record had been set on a VIP trip for Nazi top brass. On board were Heinrich Himmler and Reynhard Heydrich who subsequently devised an agenda for Germany’s railways other than setting speed records, using them to transport millions of innocent people to extermination camps.”
Robin, 56, lives in Whattoff Way, Baston. His previous books have been on such diverse subjects as lighthouses and The Holocaust, and his next is about Cornwall.
Mallard 75 is available from W H Smith for £6.99, or from publisher Mortons on 01507 529529, or www.mortonsbooks.co.uk
The Mallard will be in Grantham on September 6/7 for a Festival of Speed.