Tag Archives: National Railway Museum

A scene from the Mallard 3D Experience. Credit: Metropolis entertainment

Sharing Mallard’s moment in time

How do you turn a well-known historical event into a 3D motion ride? Bob Gwynne, Associate Curator at the National Railway Museum explains more. 

On 3 July 1938, the A4 class locomotive Mallard raced down Stoke Bank at 126mph to set a new world speed record. Mallard is the world’s fastest steam locomotive, an icon of the National Railway Museum and a symbol of 1930′s Britain when speed records made headlines. It’s record-breaking run is surely an exciting subject for a 3D motion film and interesting for those who know nothing about the story to those who wished they’d been there.

Mallard's record-breaking crew. Credit © National Railway Museum / Science & Society Picture Library

Mallard’s record-breaking crew. Credit © National Railway Museum / Science & Society Picture Library

Plenty is known about the Mallard run. The National Railway Museum holds lots of pictures of Mallard as well as pictures of the crew, Driver Joe Duddington in his trademark flat cap, Fireman Tommy Bray grinning with his bulging arm muscles and Inspector Sam Jenkins with his piercing look. We therefore had plenty of information to make a motion ride experience full and enjoyable, and after all if 15th Century Venice can be modelled for a computer game why not the east coast main line in the 1930’s?

A scene from the Mallard 3D Experience. Credit: Metropolis entertainment

A scene from the Mallard 3D Experience. Credit: Metropolis entertainment

Whilst the landscape, tunnels and bridges have not changed (much), the stations on the route of the record run have mostly disappeared, as have the signals. The track layout has also been altered. Finding a picture of Little Bytham station of the right period swiftly turned into finding any picture of Little Bytham that was good enough to model what the driver saw when Mallard broke the world speed record.

Exactly what did the bridges and tunnels look like? A need for good photographs of the route was crucial and initial searches of the National Railway Museum’s massive database of images provided very little. Fortunately the Search Engine research centre at the National Railway Museum is the best resource for studying railway history, and if there wasn’t an image in the database, there were good reference images in books and articles about the route.

One other issue was Mallard itself. Nigel Gresley, the locomotive’s architect, designed Mallard and his A4 Pacifics so that they ran smoothly at high-speed – they were no roller coaster ride. In fact A4’s were so smooth running that they were retro fitted under the fireman’s seat with a form of speedometer that provided a paper trace of each journey. This spy in the cab was so that Driver’s could be warned about parts of the route where they had been speeding when they got back to the shed. This would make for a boring and not very bumpy motion ride, so to compensate the film developers went for a fly-through the locomotive at speed and filmed scenes from outside the locomotive to add interest for the audience.

So from careful research, Mallard’s record run was re-created in an animated 3D film. The landscape, stations, locomotive and crew all get their moment of fame.

Experience Mallard 3D at the Science Museum in London or at the National Railway Museum in York.

Inspiring the Next Generation

Dame Mary Archer (Chairman, Science Museum Group), Ian Blatchford (Director, Science Museum Group), Terry Morgan (Chairman, Crossrail) and Paul Kirkman (Director, National Railway Museum) © Science Museum

Dame Mary Archer (Chairman, Science Museum Group), Ian Blatchford (Director, Science Museum Group), Terry Morgan CBE (Chairman, Crossrail) and Paul Kirkman (Director, National Railway Museum) © Science Museum

“This agenda around skills is vital. We have to create a generation with the right skills to satisfy the economic need for great engineers and the Science Museum Group is playing a really important role in getting young people excited about science and engineering.”

That’s Terry Morgan CBE, Chairman of Crossrail, speaking at the Science Museum Group Annual General Meeting in York last week.

Held in the conference centre at the National Railway Museum, the meeting gave Science Museum Group staff an opportunity to share the ambitious strategic plans being shaped at the Group’s sites around the country and, in Terry Morgan’s presentation, to hear how Europe’s largest construction project is being kept on time and on budget.

Alongside Mr Morgan, the other highlight of the day was the formal introduction to the Group of our new Chairman, Dame Mary Archer.

Dame Mary Archer (Chairman, Science Museum Group) © Science Museum

Dame Mary Archer (Chairman, Science Museum Group) © Science Museum

In conversation with Roger Highfield, the Group’s Director of External Affairs, Dame Mary gave a fascinating account of her route into science and governance within large and ambitious organisations.

This ranged from her long experience as a chemist in academia, notably in Oxbridge and the Royal Institution, London, to being on the Board of Cambridge University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust for two decades, and Chairman for the last 10 years.

The Group’s Director, Ian Blatchford, also held a question and answer session in which he addressed the opportunities and challenges facing our museums, which have seen a cut in Government support of more than 30 per cent in real terms since 2010.

He left the audience of more than 140 people from across the Group in no doubt that our approach to the challenging financial climate would continue to be characterised by audacity and not retrenchment.

Fitting then that the meeting’s final keynote speaker, Terry Morgan, is guiding a project that currently employs over 10,000 people and aims to transform rail transport in London.

Terry Morgan CBE (Chairman, Crossrail) © Science Museum

Terry Morgan CBE (Chairman, Crossrail) © Science Museum

Mr Morgan offered an inspiring insight into the logistical challenges of keeping a £14.8bn project on track, the engineering challenges of the project’s eight huge boring machines, while outlining some of the more extraordinary opportunities for archaeology and the creation of Europe’s largest artificial coastal reserve.

He also stressed the challenges of finding sufficient skilled engineers to deliver the project and underlined his personal commitment to both sustainability and the workforce legacy that will be delivered by Crossrail’s apprentice scheme.

Ian Blatchford commented: “There’s much that we, as the world’s leading group of science museums, can learn from Crossrail’s approach as we continue to transform our sites through ambitious permanent galleries, inspiring temporary exhibitions and impactful live programming. We’re also playing a critical role in inspiring the next generation of engineers who will work on the major projects that follow Crossrail.”

Around 600,000 young people in educational groups visit our museums in London, Manchester, York, Bradford and Shildon each year.

Mallard 75: Celebrating Britain’s steam record

Sam Potts, Communications Officer at the National Railway Museum writes about a rather special gathering in York for Mallard75.

On 3 July 1938 Mallard made history when it became the fastest steam locomotive in the world. The locomotive reached 126mph on the East Coast main line, a record which still stands today, 75 years later.

Mallard’s triumphant record breaking team. From left – fireman Tommy Bray and driver Joe Duddington who had worked on Mallard since it was built and knew what it could do.

Mallard’s record breaking team. From left – fireman Tommy Bray and driver Joe Duddington. Credit: NRM

Mallard is a streamlined A4 Pacific, designed by Sir Nigel Gresley to be the flagship locomotive for the London & North Eastern Railway’s Silver Jubilee services. In total 35 A4s were built at Doncaster Works, with only 6 surviving the end of steam in 1968.

To mark the 70th anniversary of the record, the National Railway Museum brought together the four UK-based A4s in York.

Four remaining UK-based A4s in York for Mallard's 70th Anniversary.

Four remaining UK-based A4s in York for Mallard’s 70th Anniversary. Credit: NRM

For the 75th anniversary of the record, we decided to do something even more special – reunite all six survivors, including the two A4s which had been given to America and Canada in the 1960s.

Dwight D Eisenhower was presented to the National Railroad Museum Wisconsin in 1964.

Dwight D Eisenhower was presented to the National Railroad Museum Wisconsin in 1964. Credit: Daily Herald Archive/ NMEM / SSPL

In summer last year work began to bring the North American locomotives from their respective homes, back to the UK. Both locomotives were moved, appropriately enough, by rail to Halifax, Nova Scotia ready to be shipped to Liverpool.

Dwight D Eisenhower during its journey from Greenbay, Wisconsin to Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Dwight D Eisenhower during its journey to Halifax, Nova Scotia. Credit: NRM

In October 2012, after a 2,527 mile journey by sea, both locomotives arrived back on English soil for the first time in over 40 years.

Dominion of Canada returns to English soil after 40 years abroad. Credit: Ant Clausen

Dominion of Canada returns to English soil after 40 years abroad. Credit: Ant Clausen

Both of the North American locomotives have been cosmetically restored to their former glory by the National Railway Museum, and have been on display in both York and Shildon.

Finishing touches are made to Dwight D Eisenhower, during its cosmetic restoration. Credit: NRM

Finishing touches are made to Dwight D Eisenhower, during its cosmetic restoration. Credit: NRM

Today is the first day of a fortnight-long celebration of Mallard’s record, and the first time that all six of the A4s will be seen together, which really is a once in a lifetime event.

Mallard is moved into place with five sister A4s to celebrate the world record. Credit: NRM

Mallard is moved into place with five sister A4s to celebrate the world record. Credit: NRM

To find out more about how you can join us to celebrate Mallard’s remarkable world record, visit nrm.org.uk/mallard75.