Man christened Mallard meets his locomotive namesake at Shildon

Man christened Mallard meets the locomotive he was named after at the Great Goodbye event in Shildon

Three of the A4 locomotives at Shildon. From left, Sir Nigel Gresley, Dwight D Eisenhower, Union of South Africa
Three of the A4 locomotives at Shildon. From left, Sir Nigel Gresley, Dwight D Eisenhower, Union of South Africa

WHILE most boys born in the 1950s wanted to be a steam locomotive driver, one youngster settled for the next best thing.

In February 1951, Mallard David Elcoat was named after the famous locomotive which had set a world steam speed record on the East Coast Main Line.

His father was not only a railway enthusiast, but also a locomotive driver with the London Midland and Scottish company.

Now Mr Elcoat has driven from his home in Crawley in West Sussex to County Durham to see his celebrated namesake at Locomotion, the National Railway Museum in Shildon.

Until February 23, Shildon is hosting the Great Goodbye – the final event marking the 75th anniversary of Mallard’s record-breaking run.

It is likely to be the last time that all six surviving A4 streamlined locomotives will be together, as two will be returning to their bases in the US and Canada.

And the numbers of visitors turning up at the museum have staggered staff.

A normal half-term week attendance would be around 6,000.

But, by the end of the third day of the event on Monday, 35,000 people had poured through the doors to see the six locomotive sisters.

“It has been absolutely phenomenal. Words fail me,” said museum manager George Muirhead.

Among them was Mr Elcoat, who brought his birth certificate, which the museum has copied for its records.

“He was treated as a guest of honour and sat in the cab of Mallard. He was very excited and a bit emotional,” said museum marketing officer Sarah Towers.

Mr Elcoat said: “I am extremely proud of my unusual name.

“However, in my late teens I was getting quite a bit of banter about it and that’s when I decided to adopt the use of David.

“My mother wasn’t very happy about this and my wife also frequently reminds me that I should be proud of my birth name.

“I am a coach driver and over recent years I have started to tell people about the story of my name when I take them around.

“I am so pleased that I have been able to be part of the event and come to see the A4s.

“Not surprisingly, I am a bit of a rail enthusiast myself and it is an amazing opportunity.”

Mr Muirhead said: “We are delighted that Mr Elcoat has been able to join us. The project has brought so many interesting stories about how these engines have influenced people in many different ways.

“People have been coming from all over the country and abroad and it has been wonderful for the museum and the region.

“One man looked exhausted and said he had just got off a plane from South Africa.

“We have had men who were trainspotters as boys and who have come with their books after decades to cross off the names of A4s they did not see at the time. “

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