Number one on my list of things to do before I die ...

IN CONTROL: Geoff takes the reigns of the world's fastest steam locomotive, the Number 4468-Mallard. (S)
IN CONTROL: Geoff takes the reigns of the world's fastest steam locomotive, the Number 4468-Mallard. (S)

When, like me, the good Lord has bestowed the gift of the proud age of three score years and 10, a new and indeed self-edifying, strange phenomenon takes over.

It’s called “things to do before you die”

And on Monday, July 15th, I proudly ticked off number one on my list.

Here in this week’s column, captured by my grandson Nathan, is a superb picture showing a smiling “yours truly”, sitting at the controls of the fastest steam locomotive of all time.

It is the legendary 1938, 126mph record for-all-time holder: Class A4 Pacific, 4-6-2, number 4468 – Mallard.

This was a dream come true for me.

For this iconic streamlined, garter blue engine is the most famous steam locomotive in the world. Indeed, only six of the once 35 A4 class survive and on this wonderful day, Nathan and I saw this and photographed them all at the National Railway Museum in York.

Here, Nathan clicks the camera shutter on number 60007 (Sir Nigel Gresley). Next along is number 60008 (Dwight D. Eisenhower). Now we see number 60009 (Union of South Africa), followed by number 4464 (Bittern), then the star of the show number 4468 (Mallard) and finally number 4489 (Dominion of Canada), complete with its original 1937 brass bell.

It was, for a 70-year-old grandad with his 20-year-old grandson, a red-letter day we’ll never forget.

The highlight was sitting in the actual seat in Mallard and holding the original “dead-man’s handle” that the legendary record-breaking driver Joe Duddington did on his epic run 75 years ago.

The six A4s looked immaculate, four in garter blue and two in brunswick green.

And as Nathan said: “Grandad, all six together is just stunning”.

For me, it was well worth the year’s wait and it was a day of joy!

Next up, number two on my bucket list is to see in Sheffield my football hero of the 1950s on his 80th birthday, the mercurial and famed inside-forward Albert Quixall.