Steam locomotives were once the pinnacle of transportation technology, and they remain fascinating to this day. There is something about these majestic machines that captivates us, and their speed is certainly one of their most impressive features. In this article, we will take a journey through history and count down the ten fastest steam locomotives ever built…
Number 10: The LNER Class A3 “Flying Scotsman” No. 4472
Arguably the most famous steam locomotive in the world, Flying Scotsman reached 100 miles per hour in November of 1934. It covered over two million miles before it was retired in 1963, but luckily it was restored later on and we can still see her running today.
Number 9: The GWR 3700 Class No. 3440 “City of Truro”
Built in 1903, the City of Truro was seen doing 102 miles per hour, 30 years before Flying Scotsman hit the milestone. Sadly, it was retired in 1931, but you can still see her in the National Railway Museum in York, England.
Number 8: The Milwaukee Road Class F6 No. 6402
Designed for high-speed service between Milwaukee and Chicago, the Milwaukee Road F6s were built between January and March 1930. During a test run, number 6402 hit a whopping 104 miles per hour. Sadly, all of the F6s were scrapped later on.
Number 7: The LNER Class A3 No. 2750 “Papyrus”
Hauling 243 tons of freight, Papyrus managed to hit 105 miles per hour. But sadly, the locomotive was scrapped later on.
Number 6: The LNER Class A4 No. 2509 “Silver Link”
Rebuilt as the first class A4, Silver Link broke 112 miles per hour on its very first run, leaving all previous speed records in the dust. Sadly, the locomotive was scrapped in 1965.
Number 5: The Milwaukee Road Class A No. 2 “Hiawatha”
The class As were the first steam locomotives to regularly operate at speeds over 100 miles per hour. Only four of them were built, and they were all scrapped after 1951. But during a 12-mile journey, number 2 was recorded doing 113 miles per hour.
Number 4: The DR 18.201
Built in the early 1970s, which was very late for the steam age, the Durban Pacific was highly technologically advanced for a steam locomotive. This locomotive reached 113 miles per hour during a trial run in 1972.
Number 3: The Pennsylvania Railroad E7 No. 7002
This forward-to-Atlantic managed to reach 115 miles per hour in 1905, blowing away all current steam records at the time. But sadly, the engine didn’t survive and was scrapped in 1935.
Number 2: The Borsig DRG Series 05 Double-O
Only three steam locomotives make up this class, and the second Double-O managed to reach an insane 125 miles per hour while carrying 217 tons of freight. In our opinion, this unusual-looking locomotive could have easily been the fastest locomotive in history, had it not been carrying all that weight.
Number 1: The LME A4 class Mallard
The Mallard is a name that is synonymous with speed and power in the world of steam locomotives. Built in the 1930s by the London and North Eastern Railway (LNER), the Mallard is widely considered to be the fastest steam locomotive ever built, with a top speed of 126 miles per hour.
While there has been some controversy surrounding this claim, with some suggesting that other locomotives may have reached higher speeds, there is no denying the incredible accomplishment of the Mallard. During a test run in 1938, the Mallard reached its record-breaking speed while going downhill, a feat that has yet to be surpassed by any other steam locomotive.
But the Mallard’s legacy extends far beyond just its record-breaking speed. Over the course of its 30-year service life, the Mallard travelled an astonishing 2.4 million miles, hauling countless passengers and goods across the UK. It was retired in 1963 and later restored, and today it can be seen on display at the National Railway Museum in North England.
Have you been to any train museums and seen any of these magnificent steam engines? Which one would you like to ride on? Do let us know in the comments below.