3440 City of Truro (3440 and 3717)

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3440 was the 2,000th locomotive to be built at Swindon when it was completed in May 1903, but its main claim to fame was that it was the first locomotive to have been “officially” recorded as reaching a speed of over 100mph. On 9th May 1904 City of Truro achieved a speed of 102.3mph on the descent of Wellington Bank, and completed the journey mechanically sound and with cool bearings. The speed was achieved whilst hauling the five-vehicle Ocean Mail special from Plymouth to Paddington. This train did not normally carry passengers but the GWR invited Charles Rous-Marten to travel on this particular journey.

Extract from – C Rous-Marten: Bulletin of the International Railway Congress – October 1905

“On one occasion when special experimental tests were being made with an engine having 6 ft. 8 in. coupled wheels hauling a load of approximately 150 tons behind the tender down a gradient of 1 in 90, I personally recorded a rate of no less than 102.3 miles an hour for a single quarter-mile, which was covered in 8.8 seconds, exactly 100 miles an hour for half a mile which occupied 18 seconds, 96.7 miles an hour for a whole mile run in 37.2 seconds; five successive quarter-miles were run respectively in 10 seconds, 9.8 seconds, 9.4 seconds, 9.2 seconds and 8.8 seconds. This I have reason to believe to be the highest railway speed ever authentically recorded. I need hardly add that the observations were made with the utmost possible care, and with the advantage of previous knowledge that the experiment was to be made, consequently without the disadvantage of unpreparedness that usually attaches itself to speed observations made in a merely casual way in an ordinary passenger train. The performance was certainly an epoch-making one. In a previous trial with another engine of the same class, a maximum of 95.6 miles an hour was reached”.

Mindful of the need to preserve their reputation for safety, the Great Western Railway allowed only the overall timings for the run to be put into print. It was only in an edition of The Railway Magazine published in December 1907 that the alleged speed of over 100 mph became public. This was nearly four years after the event and in the same month that Rous-Marten died from a sudden heart attack. It was another fourteen years before the GWR used claim as a means of extoling the benefit of a fast a safe railway.

For the record to have been proven conclusively, the presence of two separate timekeepers was needed although, the milepost timings provided by Rous-Marten are consistent with a speed of 100mph or just over. It is interesting to note that to achieve 100mph the driving wheels would have been doing 411 revolutions per minute.

The well respected railway author, O S Nock is one of a number of people who analysed the data provided by C Rous-Marten and found a number of issues with the timings of the City of Truro run. Nock notes how easy it is to incorrectly record a time and because of the blackout on the timings imposed by the GWR no discussion on them took place at the time. Nock is sceptical that the sudden application of brakes on City of Truro at the last minute whilst at full speed due to platelayes being on the line may have been due to the crew realising the speed that they were travelling at and slowing the train down. In conclusion Nock wrote “Although we shall never know precisely what happened, my own conviction is that with the one exception of the Wellington passing time, Rous-Marten’s published figures were accurate. I feel that a maximum of at least 100mph may be accepted on City of Truro’s behalf”.

Bryan Benn, writing in Steam Railway magazine in 2017, took the view that even if the 62mph speed that C Rous-Marten had recorded at the summit of Whiteball was correct, it was not physically possible for City of Truro to have attained a speed of 1118mph in less than three and a half miles. Bryan Benn went onto to say that to have attained a speed of even 100mph on the basis of the claim made would have needed a final indicated horsepower of 3,000 whereas the locomotive was probably only capable of 1,000. He concluded that the likely maximum speed was in the range 90-92mph.

The 100mph speed barrier was officially broken until 30th November 1934 by 4472 Flying Scotsman.

The locomotive had a partial rebuild in 1911 when it was fitted with a superheater and its smokebox was extended. In 1915 it was fitted with piston valves which replaced the original slide valves.

In 1912 the locomotive was renumbered 3717 and it was eventually withdrawn from service in 1931 (the others of the class being withdrawn between 1927 and 1931). GWR’s Chief Mechanical Engineer Charles Collett asked that the engine be preserved at the London and North Eastern Railway’s Railway Museum at York when it was withdrawn in 1931, after the directors of the GWR had refused to preserve the engine at the company’s expense. It was donated to the LNER, being sent from Swindon on 20 March 1931. It remained on static display there until 1957.

Early in 1957 3717 was removed from York Museum and overhauled at Swindon. It was repainted in the old 1903 GWR livery style and was renumbered 3440. As such it spent the period until 1961 working enthusiast’s specials. When not working special trains 3440 could be seen working ordinary service trains from Didcot shed, over the Didcot, Newbury and Southampton line.

In 1961 3440 was once again withdrawn and it was retired to the GWR Museum at Swindon in 1962 where, renumbered back to 3717 and in plain green livery with black frames, it stayed until 1984. In July 1984 it was transported by road to the Severn Valley Railway where it was restored to working order again. Following its restoration it took part in the GWR’s 150th anniversary celebrations the following year.

After that City of Truro returned to the National Railway Museum from where it was occasionally used on main line outings until it was taken out of service in 1992.

The latest restoration to full working order was undertaken at the Flour Mill workshop in Bream in 2004, at a cost of £130,000, to mark the 100th anniversary of the record-breaking run, and the locomotive subsequently hauled several trains on UK main lines, although due to the lack of certain safety features it no longer operates on the main line.

In 2010 as part of the celebrations to mark the 175th anniversary of the founding of the GWR City of Truro was repainted and took up its 3717 guise once again. This is the first time it has carried an authentic livery for its current state whilst operating in preservation.

3717 was withdrawn from traffic at the Bodmin & Wenford Railway in early September 2011 with serious tube leaks, and was moved to Shildon Locomotion Museum and placed on static display, and was back in service in 2012, but in early 2013 the NRM declared the locomotive was to be withdrawn ahead of its boiler ticket, but stated that they would  repair the leaking tubes after they have restored 4472 Flying Scotsman.

In 1989 spent time in the Netherlands as part of the 150 years of Dutch Railways celebrations.City of Truro was sent to Utrecht to represent the National Railway Museum after the A4 pacific 60022 Mallard, which had been the first choice, failed a boiler test.

In early 2013 the National Railway Museum announced that City of Truro was being withdrawn from service and was being prepared for static display. At that time the locomotive was struggling to complete its current 10-year ticket and subsequently failed on the Bodmin & Wentford Railway in September 2011. It was decided then that new tubes would be fitted but when the locomotive was examined at the National Railway Museum in York in January 2012 it was decided to bead over the existing tubes rather than retube City of Truro. The locomotive returned to steam at York in 2012 and it was planned that it would spend the remaining 14 months of its ticket on the East Lancashire Railway. This plan was dropped as it was assessed that only limited use of the locomotive could be made on the East Lancashire Railway during this period. City of Truro remained at York where it failed with a leaking tube and it was concluded at this point that the locomotive should be withdrawn and the following statement was issued on 6th March 2013 by the Senior Curator of Vehicles, Anthony Coulls.

“At present the locomotive is in good mechanical and cosmetic condition and can be withdrawn and conserved for display with minimal investment. A further two years of operation would certainly result in the need for repainting and additional mechanical work, particularly as the tyres are thin and that additionally its tender tank is in poor condition”.

Subsequent statements issued by the National Railway Museum Press Office would appear to rule out any possibility of City of Truro steaming again. The statement included reference to the fact that City of Truro is a very elderly iconic locomotive which must be preserved at the heart of the National Collection and that it should be conserved for public display.

Home BaseCurrent StatusOwner
Steam, Museum of the GWR, SwindonStatic displayNational Railway Museum NRM Object Number{1978-7025}

3440 city of Truro piloting 41000 at Doncaster on an Ian Allan Railtour – April 1960
3440 City of Truro at swindon Town on the Gloucestershire Railway Society’s special train to Southampton Ocean Terminal – May 1960
3440 City of Truro heads out of Scarborough with an excursion to York – December 1984
3440 City of Truro at Gloucester Horton Road shed – 1985
3440 City of Truro and 6000 King George V at Hereford before hauling the return leg of the Welsh Marches back to Shrewsbury – May 1986
3440 City of Truro at York - January 1987.jpg
3440 City of Truro at York – January 1987
3440 City of Truro at Utrecht for the 150th anniversary celebrations of the Netherlands Railway – June 1989
3440 City of Truro at the National Railway Museum at York with my children on the footplate – 1992
3440 City of Truro leaving Winchcombe on the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway – 1996
3440 City of Truro in the National Railway Museum at York – August 2001
3440 City of Truro at Keighley on the KWVR - October 2005.jpg
3440 City of Truro at Keighley on the KWVR – October 2005
3440 City of Truro at Keighley on the KWVR – October 2005
3440 City of Truro at Bewdley on the Severn valley Railway – September 2008
3440 City of Truro leaving Llangollen on the Llangollen Railway – April 2009
3440 City of Truro at Didcot Railway Centre – May 2010
3440 City of Truro at Quorn & Woodhouse on the Great Central Railway – January 2011
3440 City of Truro at Quorn & Woodhouse on the Great Central Railway – January 2011
3440 City of Truro at Loughborough on the Great Central Railway – January 2011
3440 City of Truro in the National Railway Museum at York – July 2013
3440 City of Truro in the Steam Museum at Swindon – July 2016
3440 City of Truro in the Museum of the Great Western at Swindon – October 2021

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