Old Doncaster locoman enjoys steamy love affair life

Sid Strachan, 90, of Balby, is going to National Railway Museum for a big reunion of steam drivers and firemen. Picture: Marie Caley D5654MC
Sid Strachan, 90, of Balby, is going to National Railway Museum for a big reunion of steam drivers and firemen. Picture: Marie Caley D5654MC

A veteran of the steam railway era will be dusting off his driver’s cap for a reunion with a romance from his past.

Sprightly pensioner Sid Strachan is heading up the main line to York tomorrow to once again touch the curvaceous object of his desire from when he was a young man.

The 90-year-old, from Balby, started his love affair with the record-breaking steam loco Mallard back in the 1940s and he still fondly remembers the time they spent together.

Sid, who will be accompanied to the National Railway Museum’s special event by his wife and daughter, was 18 when he started work at the Doncaster Carr Loco yard after transferring from the Plant Works.

“I asked if I could be a fireman at 18 and by the time I was 26 I was a driver, just working in the depot.

“You had to be experienced before you could drive on the main line so I spent time as a fireman. It was very tiring doing the runs to King’s Cross.

“You didn’t get the chance to put your shovel down. I would be shifting six to eight tons of coal on each trip, but I got used to it.

“We used to have a rest in London and then do another trip home. It was always my main aim to be a driver.

“I used to wish I’d had the chance to have another go at Mallard’s world record because I think we could have beaten it. As it was I think the fastest I reached in one of the A4s was 90mph.”

Former railway workers from all over the UK will gathering at the museum tomorrow to pay homage to the world’s fastest locomotive and meet up with old footplate colleagues.

In the lead up to its Mallard 75 celebrations, the NRM launched a search to find drivers and other crew that manned the footplate of the world’s fastest steam locomotive and its sisters in their final decades on the tracks.

More than 90 former crew members who worked on board Mallard and its A4 locomotive sisters came forward to tell their ‘tales of the tracks’ and the majority are expected on the first day of the Autumn Great Gathering at the York museum.

Associate Curator Bob Gwynne said: “This must be one of the biggest get-togethers of steam loco crew in recent times.”

Historic engines together again – maybe for last time

On July 3 this year history was made in York as the world’s fastest steam locomotive Mallard was united with its five surviving sister engines in the National Railway Museum’s Great Hall for the first time.

The spectacular international reunion was to mark the calendar anniversary of Mallard’s record-breaking run. Two were brought from north America.

The following fortnight nearly 140,000 visitors from all over the world, including Canada, US and Australia, flocked to the York-based museum to celebrate 75 years since Mallard’s achievement and see the amazing sight of the six survivors together for the first time, a spectacle which fulfilled the dreams of rail fans everywhere.