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.

Steam Railway (UK) - - News - SR

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

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