Sisters of the record-breaking East Coast main line steam locomotive Mallard have headed back home across the Atlantic after giving a North East museum a visitor boost
The A4 Pacific locomotives Dominion of Canada and Dwight D Eisenhower departed after helping the National Railway Museum at Shildon in County Durham and its parent location at York break their records for visitor numbers.
The two sisters were shipped to the UK as part of the celebrations for the 75th anniversary of Mallard setting her world speed record.
The sisters left Port of Liverpool’s container terminal to begin a 2,527 mile journey aboard ACL vessel Atlantic Concert for their home bases in the United States and Canada.
The appearance of the duo has changed considerably since their arrival in the UK in October 2012, where they received a comprehensive cosmetic restoration by experts at the National Railway Museum.
In 2013 and 2014, all six survivors of this class of locomotive, thought by many to be Britain’s greatest steam engines, were united three times to mark Mallard’s unbroken world speed record, attracting an unprecedented number of visitors to the museums at York and Locomotion at Shildon.
Dwight and Dominion were on loan to the National Railway Museum from the National Railroad Museum in Wisconsin, USA and Exporail, the Canadian National Railway Museum in Montreal for two years.
Tobias Lumb, head of public programmes and project manager of Mallard 75 at the National Railway Museum said: “When these mighty machines were exported across the Atlantic in the Sixties, no one thought they would return but not only have they visited our shores for a two-year visit but they have been admired by thousands during a hugely successful celebratory programme.”
The National Railway Museum is itself celebrating achieving well over a total of a million visitors at its two sites in 2013/14, largely thanks to the success of the Mallard 75 season.
The final tally for overall visitors including groups and corporate event attendees was 296,000 at the Shildon site and 950,000 at York, smashing the previous year’s figures of 203,000 and 742,000.
The three headline events – the “Gatherings” of Mallard with all five surviving sisters - drew 365,000 visitors alone but the wave of publicity the events created also played a part in an overall increase in numbers.
The February A4 half-term event at Locomotion at Shildon saw the largest attendance at an event so far at the museum with nearly 120,000 visitors.
Simon Henig, leader of Durham County Council, said: “It has been a fantastic year for Locomotion and I am delighted that so many people have visited the museum over the last 12 months. We look forward to building on these achievements for the future.”
Paul Kirkman, director of the National Railway Museum, said: “It’s been an amazing year for the National Railway Museum, and our increase in visitors at both our Shildon and York sites is mainly due to the staggering success of the Mallard 75 series of events.”