City of Truro - 100mph Steam Locomotive Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

City of Truro - 100mph Steam Locomotive

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Although not hugely big or monstrously powerful, number 3440 City of Truro1 achieved nationwide fame back in 1904 when it was said to have broken the 100mph speed barrier for steam railways, just one year after its introduction.2

The Run

One of the GWR 'City' 4-4-0 class, a design by George Jackson Churchward of Swindon fame, City of Truro is said to have reached a speed of 102.3mph as it steamed past Whiteball Bank in Somerset on its way to London on 9 May, 1904. The feat was recorded by Charles Rous-Marten without a secondary timekeeper to confirm his result, so sadly City of Truro's record has never been properly authenticated.


Due to this record-breaking run, number 3440 was preserved as early as 1931 and has been either running or on static display at locations such as the National Railway Museum in York and the Swindon Railway Museum ever since.

The historical significance of City of Truro led to its preservation after it was withdrawn from service in 1931. It was purchased by the London and North Eastern Railway (LNER) and was put on static display in York. In 1957, the locomotive was returned to service by British Railways and stationed at Didcot. It was used for hauling special excursion trains, usually on the Newbury and Southampton branch line, and was renumbered back to its original number 3440.

It was finally retired from traffic in 1961 and was displayed as a static exhibit at the National Railway Museum in York, as a part of the National Collection. The locomotive was restored again in 1984 to take part in the 150th anniversary celebrations of the Great Western Railway. City Of Truro was recently restored to full working order once again, at a cost of £130,000 and taking three years, to mark the 100th anniversary of its record-breaking run.

The Anniversary

Following the massive restoration, the 101-year-old locomotive was back in steam for the 100th anniversary of its record-breaking run, as part of the Railfest event at the National Railway Museum in May - June 2004. A hundred years after the legendary run of 1904, the locomotive returned to Whiteball to retrace its famous journey and on 8 May it ran the same mainline route from Bristol Temple Meads to Kingswear, Devon. Around 15,000 people turned up to line the track and watch the historic engine and they were certainly not disappointed. Number 3440 performed a faultless run in front of the adoring crowds and even the sun made an appearance, making it a perfect anniversary for such an achievement.

After the celebrations, City of Truro headed back to the National Railway Museum, where it joined the Flying Scotsman as a star attraction at the 2004 Railfest. From then on it has continued to make appearances nationwide.

13440 was the number given to it by the Great Western Railway.2Its fame was also boosted after a guest appearance in the Thomas the Tank Engine series.

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