“WITH the relentless fury of some jungle beast, the train roared on,” reported The Northern Echo on September 28, 1935. “No one could suppress a thrilled exclamation when the news spread that we had touched 112mph for it came as a complete surprise, even to LNER officials.”

This was Britain’s first streamlined train, the Silver Jubilee pulled by Silver Link, which went into service from Newcastle to London – only stop Darlington – 84 years ago this weekend.

It was the fastest long distance train in the world*, averaging 71.65mph on the 232 non-stop miles from Darlington to King’s Cross.

The Silver Jubilee was named in commemoration of King George V’s 25 years on the throne, but its record-breaking trial run was on September 27, 1935, which deliberately coincided with the 110th anniversary of the opening of the Stockton & Darlington Railway, the world’s first modern railway.

Its first scheduled journey was three days later, when it was crammed with chain-wearing dignitaries and it was greeted by huge cheering lineside crowds. Great play was made as it came to a halt in Bank Top Station alongside Locomotion No 1, which had opened that first railway.

“Silver Link drew up almost opposite its ancestor of 100 years ago, Locomotion No 1, which made a strange contrast perched on its pedestal with the silver streamlined monster alongside,” said the Echo.

Locomotion No 1, chortled the Echo had averaged eight miles an hour in 1825, perhaps peaking at 15mph – how things had advanced in 110 years.

“A cheering crowd, befitting the birthplace of the railways, bade the train ‘God Speed’ from Darlington, and the Silver Jubilee sped on its triumphant journey, past the welcoming crowds at York and Selby and so through Doncaster, where this engineering marvel was built.

“Stewards spilt drinks and passengers clutched their seats in excitement. I caught a glimpse of a man tending cattle in a green field and saw his mouth open in wonder as he stared at us as though our train had sprung from an unbelievable world.”

Silver Link was the first of Nigel Gresley’s Class A4 Pacifics. Nicknamed the “streak” by enthusiasts, It was superfast, supermodern and superluxury.

“It was difficult as I strolled through beautifully appointed coaches that vie with the comfort of hotel lounges to realise that we were hurtling through the air at so great a speed,” said the Echo’s reporter on the inaugural journey. “With its streamlined engine and its six shining coaches covered with aluminium rexine made by ICI, Silver Jubilee strikes an almost fantastic note in modernity as it tears through the countryside.”

On the four hour journey, first class passengers could enjoy a five shilling table d’hote dinner, starting with turtle soup, grapefruit and baked herring (not all in the same dish), moving on to cold lobster mayonnaise, grouse casserole and beef perigeux, and finishing with ice meringue tutti fruitti and Welsh Rarebit (coffee 4d a cup extra).

The launch of the Silver Jubilee was a global event. An American broadcaster spoke to his viewers from King’s Cross station beside Silver Link: “Seventy feet, nearly 200 tons of it, streamlined to the shape of a torpedo, the grey snout flattened out earthward, the great silver wheels almost invisible beneath the outer casing.”

Silver Link was the first of four silver-themed Class A4s which worked the East Coast route: Quicksilver, Silver King and Silver Fox came soon after, although the most famous of the class was Mallard, which on July 3, 1938, set a world speed record of 126 mph.

These great days of stylist steam speed came to an end with the outbreak of the war. In peacetime, the Silver engines never worked so fast again, and they were among the first to be scrapped in the early 1960s as the steam era began to run out of steam.

But what a way to celebrate the anniversary of the opening of the Stockton & Darlington Railway! This year’s 194th anniversary is not a great milestone, but both Head of Steam in Darlington and Locomotion in Shildon holding special family fun days tomorrow.

From the Shildon museum, the Friends of the S&DR will be holding guided walks along the original trackbed.

IN 1935, it was claimed that Silver Link was the fastest long distance train in the world – but even then they knew it was a contentious claim. The streamlined sensation was inspired by the Flying Hamburger, which had come into service in Germany in 1933. It had set a world speed record in June 1934 of 119.8mph – so Silver Link at 112.5mph was a bit slower – and it flew between Berlin and Hamburg at 77mph.

However, the distance between these two German cities is only 286km, or 178m. Newcastle to King’s Cross is 268 miles, and so the LNER self-defined “long distance train” as being one that travelled more than 200 miles. This ruled out the Germans and crowned Silver Link as the fastest in the world.

Silver Link did work hard. It left Newcastle at 10am, stopped at Darlington at 10.40am, departed two minutes later to arrive at King’s Cross at 2pm. It then returned home at 5.30pm, reaching Darlington at 8.48pm and Newcastle 9.30pm. It thus travelled 536.6 miles in a day at an overall average of 67.08mph – truly long distance.