Thanks for the Memory

On my morning walk, I met an elderly man on the cliff path near Primrose Valley. He asked if I had found anything interesting to photograph. My response opened the way to a conversation that went off-track, so to speak. I don’t recall where the talking-points changed, but he told me his grandfather was part of the design team that created the steam train that holds the speed record of 126 miles per hour. Mallard. He explained that in early wind tunnel tests it was clear that smoke would get in the eyes of driver and fireman. The engine model was refined several times without correcting the problem. Then some happenstance caused a change to be made that, on the face of it, would have affected the aerodynamics negatively. In the wind tunnel, the opposite happened. “If you look closely at the top of the engine, you will see it isn’t flat. There is a shallow dip behind the funnel.”

I asked for the name of his grandfather – and was given his address too. “He lived at 104 Sprotbrough Road in Doncaster.” I said I would look for him online and, if I couldn’t find him on the FamilySearch World Tree, I’d put him there.

It didn’t take long to piece the family of Cecil JUBB together, but I couldn’t find him on FST. My search for a “starter relative” to link him to continues. I smiled when I saw his listing in the 1939 Register (Find My Past).


Cecil worked as a brass finisher, as his father had before him, so I’m not sure how great his contribution would have been to the design of the famous iron horse. The chief designer was Sir Nigel Gresley, and there is this detail on the LNER website

…the wedge-shaped streamlining on the A4 was inspired by a Bugatti rail-car which Gresley had observed in France. The design was refined with the help of Prof. Dalby and the wind tunnel facilities at the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) at Teddington. As well as streamlining, it was important that the design lifted smoke up away from the cab. At first, there was a lot of difficulty in achieving this. Even smoke deflectors were considered! During the wind tunnel tests, it was noticed that a thumb print had inadvertently been added to the plasticine model, just behind the chimney. Only on impulse, was the model re-tested with the thumb print. Amazingly, the smoke was lifted well clear of the cab!

The great British engineer has an impressive pedigree.

I thanked my informant for taking me back to my childhood. I was no more than seven-years-old when, on the train journey to visit my Aunt Frances in Peterborough, I saw Mallard in a station along the way. I knew exactly who she was and what she had achieved and was thrilled.

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