Railway Museum welcomes daughter of goods guard who helped Mallard speed record

By Culture24 Reporter | 08 November 2013

Capped, suited and smiling, the post-run photo of the crew who broke the speed record aboard the Mallard locomotive in 1938 is an immortal one. Now the daughter of one of the railwaymen in the picture will see the train her father helped to an achievement still unsurpassed.

A black and white photo of a group of 1930s railwaymen standing in front of a locomotive
Goods Guard Henry (Harry) Croucher (fourth right) following his part in Mallard's record-breaking run© Science and Society Picture Library
Henry (Harry) Croucher, a Goods Guard for the former London and North Eastern Railway, can be seen standing fourth on the right of that portrait of satisfaction from July 3 1938. Curators are expecting some “colourful tales” when his daughter, Julie Slater, visits the museum today – including the story of her brother, Bert, who worked for the LNER before his death in a sea battle while serving during World War II.

Slater grew up in railway cottages near King’s Cross. Her dad was drafted in to work on Mallard for the secret record attempt, but she got in touch with Bob Gwynne, the curator at the National Railway Museum, after the York venue announced its expansive programme marking the 75th anniversary of Croucher and his colleagues hitting top velocity.

“Unfortunately he had already passed away before our 50th anniversary celebrations, so it has taken the added publicity surrounding the 75th anniversary to encourage Julie and her family to step forward and talk about their strong connection to our celebrity locomotive,” says Gwynne, who calls Slater’s arrival “a new strand” in the story of Mallard.

“There is absolutely no doubt that the man in the family photos Julie provided is the same man as in the picture taken of the record-breaking crew at Peterborough.

“Harry would have been quite pleased at being asked to work on that Sunday’s ‘brake trial’ as it would have meant double time. But of all the crew in the picture he looks like he found it quite a hair-raising experience.

“It is family stories like this that bring our spectacular collection of railway vehicles to life. We are interested in talking further with Julie about her memories of her father.”

Hundreds of thousands of people have visited the museum as part of the Mallard 75 season. The current Autumn Great Gathering continues until Monday (November 11), with the programme culminating in a Great Goodbye next February.

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I've found Henry in the 1911 census, the 1939 Register, the NUR Trade Union Records and the Staff Lists for Kings Cross Goods in 1939. If you would like copies, please contact me at genealogy@gnrsociety.com
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