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How Mallard inspired a rock band

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As we prepare for Mallard 75 celebrations,I’ve started to look at the many ways Mallard, the world’s fastest steam loco, has inspired people  from appearing on pub signs to having new scientific discoveries named after it.

Then, through a fan’s tweet, I came across English Prog Rock band Big Big Train. They were so inspired by this beautiful loco, on a visit to our museum no less!, that they wrote a song titled ‘East Coast Racer’. I contacted them to find out more and band-member Greg kindly offered to write a guest blog. So without further ado please find below ‘Big Big Train’ telling you how ‘Mallard inspired a rock band’.

BBT red carriage

Big Big Train have released eight albums including the critically acclaimed The Underfall Yard (2009) and the two part double album English Electric (2012/2013).

“I play bass and write songs for a progressive rock band called Big Big Train. We have recently released an album which features a track about Mallard. The song is called East Coast Racer and tells the story of Mallard and of the people who designed, made, fired and drove her.

We like to tell true-life stories with our songs and we look for interesting historical tales which we can set to music. A few years ago I paid my first visit to the National Railway Museum.  The sight of Mallard stopped me in my tracks and I knew that I wanted to write a song about her. Whilst Mallard was made for speed the designers created something of extraordinary beauty and, in the song, I wanted to capture the connection between the company of people who worked on the engine and the extraordinary machine they created.

It is a tale with a wonderful list of main characters; designer Sir Nigel Gresley, his assistant Oliver Bulleid, fireman Tommy Bray and driver Joe Duddington. Alongside those with starring roles was a community of engineers and railwaymen who all played a part.

The epic story of Mallard deserves an epic soundtrack and East Coast Racer is a long piece of music, written in true progressive-rock style. The song begins with the construction of Mallard where we have sought to create a sense of the sounds of the workshops, and ends with Mallard’s record breaking run where we used a string quartet and brass band to help convey the speed of the train running down Stoke Bank.”

Greg Spawton,

Big Big Train

East Coast Racer can be heard on the museum’s (or Big Big Train) Soundcloud page or you can buy it here


This is a guest post by Sam, who handles the social media channels for the museum.

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  1. East Coast Racer | Where Worlds Collide

    […] Spawton of Big Big Train on the National Railway Museum blog about the inspiration for the song East Coast Racer, from their latest album “English Electric Part […]

  2. Explaining Inspiration | I Am A Tree

    […] of the primary forces within the band Big Big Train has written a guest blog post for the British National Railway Museum, explaining the inspiration for the song East Coast Racer from their recent release, English […]

  3. Michael

    This is truly excellent music.

  4. Watching Seasons

    Fantastic song and a great story from history.

  5. How Mallard inspired a nation. | National Railway Museum blog

    […] recent guest blog How Mallard inspired a rock band is one great example and the song can be listened to […]

  6. string quartet events

    Great article. I will be going through some of these issues as well..

  7. Graham Calder

    Fantastic song and brilliantly captures the emotion of the achievement. In a word Triumphant!

  8. Ragnar Kristensen

    Fantastic! But do not forget the band named Mallard. Some excellent ex captain Beefheart musicians formed the band Mallard and released their legendary debut album “Mallard” in 1975. The LP-cover depicts the Mallard steamlocomotive. http://www.allmusic.com/artist/mallard-mn0000671317

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