WHO DID THE ‘TON’ RUN FIRST?
Tornado may be the latest steam locomotive to join the 100mph club, but which was first - and from which country? BRYAN BENN examines the data from Britain and America.
This article is the result of considerable research into one of the most controversial areas of steam locomotive performance, in an attempt to settle one question: which country was the first to achieve an authenticated 100mph? My studies have covered Europe and North America in detail. From both those parts of the world came a significant number of claims for steam locomotives considered to have been the first to reach the magic three figures. Some claims are wildly inaccurate and not considered here. But one of those erroneous claims is covered, as the engine was subsequently preserved on the basis of its apparent exploits. One key point emerged from this analysis: little to no detailed timing data remains for some undoubtedly fast runs. This is a great pity, as the magic 100 could have been reached many years before the dates shown in my conclusions. Indeed, in some cases, such as the incredibly fast ‘Lindbergh Run’ in America, the only timings are those from the railroad company’s dispatchers. Thankfully, for some runs, certain details have been published, and most contenders that I have come across within the UK do have full documentation still available. This is down to one simple reason: the UK is the home of train timing, which began in the 1880s. I have kept away from the emotion that surrounds certain 100mph claims. That is an area where supporters of particular locomotives, cling to beliefs that ‘their locomotives’ must surely have been the first to 100mph because it has been published (erroneously) as such, and the locomotive has been preserved because of that exploit. I have come across at least four such preserved locomotives in my research, two of them in the UK.
City of Truro at ‘102.3mph’, by renowned railway artist Philip Hawkins FGRA. Fine art prints are available from www.quicksilverpublishing.co.uk