The LNER A4 Pacific locomotives will always have a special place in the heart of steam engine enthusiasts across the UK.
It is, after all, the birthplace of all of these famous trains with Mallard even entering the history books for being the fastest steam train known to man. 2014, however, signals an end for public displays of these engines and it is being celebrated with a number of events, collectively known as the Great Goodbye. It is the final chance people will have to see all the LNER A4 Pacific locos in the same place at one time.
Shildon, County Durham, was the first stop on this final farewell on February 15th and it saw enthusiasts turn out in their thousands. Northern Rail was on hand to provide extra services from the likes of Darlington and Bishop Auckland to ensure that visitors were able to get to the site. It was estimated that 72,000 people would attend but in fact 120,000 turned up to the north-east.
The crowds were treated to a final journey from the famous Mallard which was pulled to the National Railway Museum in York by fellow A4, Union of South Africa. The Sir Nigel Gresley and Bittern remained at Shildon until the end of the month while the Dwight D Eisenhower and Dominion of Canada will stay in County Durham until the end of April.
Speaking about the Great Goodbye, Sharon Thorburn, front of office manager at the Shildon museum, told the Northern Echo: "Quite a few visitors were at the museum to see Mallard and Union of South Africa leave. Everyone seems to have been really amazed by the display and now that they’re going it seems such a shame."
The Great Goodbye is part of the ongoing celebration of the 75th anniversary of Mallard smashing the world speed record for a steam locomotive. Over 2013 and 2014 there have been a series of events commemorating this iconic achievement, which will forever be remembered by steam enthusiasts for generations to come.