HUNDREDS of rail enthusiasts made incredible journeys to get a once in a lifetime encounter with an historic lineup of locomotives.

Some travelled thousands of miles to Locomotion: The National Railway Museum at Shildon, County Durham, to see the six surviving A4s together, while others had a personal reason for the trip.

The 600 tickets for out of hours sessions at the museum were snapped up by fans eager to view and photograph steam icons Mallard, Bittern, Sir Nigel Gresley, Dominion of Canada, Union of South Africa and Dwight D Eisenhower.

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They were brought together at The National Railway Museum, in York, for the 75th anniversary of Mallard becoming the world’s fastest steam engine when it reached 125.88mph on July 3, 1938.

A nine day farewell exhibition at Shildon has attracted more than 78,000 visitors since opening last Saturday.

Retired pilot Robert Krone travelled from Atlanta, Georgia, in America.

He said: “I’ve loved locomotives since childhood and I started taking colour photos in 1955.

“The trip has been very much worth the effort, it is a unique opportunity.

“They are all such beautiful colours and extraordinarily well designed, some locos were streamlined and looked terrible but these are very attractive.

"It has been just terrific.”

Others travelled from South Africa, across Europe and the length and breadth of Britain to see all six sisters before they head home next week.

Tony Butcher, of Northampton, said: “They are magnificent, the men who invented and made them all those years ago and the work they have done is incredible.”

Roger Austin, from flood hit Newton Abbot, in Devon, went by coach, train and taxi to reach the museum.

He said: “I went to York but there were too many people, the morning session was great to get pictures.

“It was dry, decent light, a great setting and there was a good humour.”

Museum manager, George Muirhead, has heard many moving stories about why visitors made the effort to see the locomotives.

He said: “Two guys had been train spotters in their youth and came to underline two on their list, they’d seen the others operating as teenagers but waited a long time for the last ones.

“A couple started their married life behind an A4, going on honeymoon behind one, and my own mother, Mabel, who is 92, remembers her father taking her to the nearest railway line to see them go past when no one could believe steam trains would look like this or go so fast.

“They were so distinctive that people remember them decades later and have an affinity with them.”

The Great Goodbye runs until Sunday, February 23, from 9.30am to 5pm each day, admission free.

Union of South Africa will haul Mallard away on Monday, February 24, followed by Sir Nigel Gresley on Tuesday and Bittern on Wednesday under their own power. Visitors can access Locomotion from 8am, for the 9am departures. The last two will stay at Shildon until the end of April.

*To buy The Northern Echo's historic image of the six locomotives at Shildon, visit