Steam Railway feature sample

Here’s a sample of one of the many fantastic features you can read in this month’s Steam Railway magazine.

The Wizard of ‘oz’

Thirty years ago, legendary ‘A3’ Flying Scotsman broke the world distance record for a steam-hauled non-stop run. Using original documents and first-hand accounts from those who made it happen, Thomas Bright tells the definitive story…

 
Few photos were taken of the non-stop run itself, owing to largely inaccessible lineside locations and poor light for much of the journey. An eastbound freight waits at a foggy Eubalong West as No. 4472 steams through on its way to Broken Hill on August 8 1989. KEN DATE/RAILWAY DIGEST

Few photos were taken of the non-stop run itself, owing to largely inaccessible lineside locations and poor light for much of the journey. An eastbound freight waits at a foggy Eubalong West as No. 4472 steams through on its way to Broken Hill on August 8 1989. KEN DATE/RAILWAY DIGEST

Two and a half seconds. That is how close ‘A3’ No. 4472 Flying Scotsman came to disaster. 

On Tuesday August 8 1989, the Gresley ‘Pacific’ was steaming across the expanse of the Australian wilderness near Kinalung when, suddenly, the driver of an articulated lorry – apparently unaware that the 154-ton locomotive was bearing down upon it at 55mph – decided to cross the 4‑6‑2’s path over an unmanned level crossing. The consequences of a collision, particularly in this sparsely inhabited part of New South Wales, miles from the nearest hospital or fire station, would have been catastrophic.

Much to the relief of the crew and everybody else on board the train however, the truck cleared the crossing with barely three seconds to spare. It had been a close call.

Notwithstanding the probable loss of life and substantial damage to the historic locomotive, had Flying Scotsman collided with the errant lorry it would have also denied the ‘A3’ the chance of once again writing its name into the record books. 

For on that day, No. 4472 achieved something which has never been officially bettered: travelling 422 miles 7.59 chains from Parkes to Broken Hill non-stop, breaking the world record for steam traction.

It is only fitting that the world record for such a journey should be held by Flying Scotsman, as it had inaugurated the world’s first truly long-distance non-stop service on May 1 1928, when it hauled the Down ‘Flying Scotsman’ – the LNER’s premier express after which No. 4472 had been named – 392.7 miles from King’s Cross to Edinburgh.

Exactly 40 years later, long after ‘Deltics’ had superseded the ‘A3s’ on the ‘Flying Scotsman’, No. 4472 repeated its historic feat at the behest of its then-owner, Alan Pegler. But, as detailed in SR482, emulating the non-stop run between King’s Cross and Edinburgh in May 1968 was no mean feat. 

Bettering that accomplishment, in an environment for which the ‘A3’ had not been designed, would be a tall order.

Setting the stage

When Flying Scotsman set out for Australia on the deck of the New Zealand Pacific on September 14 1988, neither its owner, Sir William McAlpine Bt, nor its chief engineer, Roland Kennington, knew that it would return home having claimed the world record for the longest non-stop run by a steam locomotive. 

Record-breaking likely never crossed the mind of either man when they agreed to send No. 4472 ‘Down Under’ to participate in ‘Aus Steam ’88’ – a series of rail-based events celebrating the 200th anniversary of the arrival of Captain Arthur Phillip and the First Fleet in Botany Bay, and the subsequent foundation of the colony of New South Wales. 

After all, ‘Scotsman’ was never meant to go to Australia in the first place. The bicentennial organisers originally wanted ‘A4’ No. 4468 Mallard, but as it was celebrating the 50th anniversary of its own world record that year, the National Railway Museum was unwilling to release it, and suggested No. 4472 instead.

Even after the ‘A3’s’ arrival in Sydney, none of the team who had escorted it on its trip to the other side of the world could have predicted that, before they returned home, they would carve their names into the history books – primarily because ‘Scotsman’ was originally intended to stay in Australia for just six weeks.

“My understanding was that Mallard was to be static only, and it was only after [‘Aus Steam ’88’ chairman] Walter Stuchbury visited Southall and realised that they were to get a working locomotive that the visit was extended,” says ex-King’s Cross fireman David Rollins, who accompanied No. 4472 ‘Down Under’.

The first time thoughts turned to the record came in summer 1989, after it had been booked to haul the epic 29-day ‘Alice Springs Tour’ from Melbourne to the heart of the Australian continent. 

David recalls: “Prior to the June 9 run to Dubbo, which departed Sydney the evening of my 50th birthday, Roland and I had discussed doing a non-stop run and beating the existing UK record of 408.6 miles. 

“We decided that there were four options: either way on both of the Alice Springs runs out and back, and the-then proposed, but not confirmed, Perth trip, but we agreed that Parkes to Broken Hill would be the best in terms of coal and water consumption. 

“I felt confident we could do it if we bagged some extra coal and carried it in the corridor of the tender. 

“However, would the State Rail Authority allow it?”…

Read more on pages 72-78 of Steam Railway SR497 – on sale now!