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Rail engineer statue unveiled... but lack of duck ruffles a few feathers

Sculptor Hazel Reeves stands next to her statue of railway engineer Sir Nigel Gresley Credit: Press Association

A statue of a famous locomotive designer has been unveiled - without a controversial duck.

Sir Nigel Gresley designed the Doncaster-built Flying Scotsman and the Mallard locomotive steam engines.

The bronze sculpture of the rail engineer was originally due to feature a duck next to the eminent engineer, but the bird was missing when the statue was unveiled at London King's Cross station on the 75th anniversary of Sir Nigel's death because his family, and others, were not keen on its inclusion.

More than 3,200 people signed a petition which called for the duck to be reinstated, claiming it would spark interest in the engineer's achievements.

But the Gresley Society Trust, which commissioned the statue, confirmed last year that it would not be included.

A group of people holding plastic ducks at the unveiling of railway engineer Sir Nigel Gresley on the 75th anniversary of his death at King's Cross railway station, London. Credit: Press Association

Around 200 people gathered on the concourse at King's Cross to catch a first glimpse of the finished sculpture, which was unveiled by members of the Gresley family and Network Rail chairman Sir Peter Hendy.

John Cameron, president of the Gresley Society, told the crowd:

"There has been what I might call a lively debate about the statue design and the proposal to include a mallard duck to emphasise Sir Nigel's link with the locomotive of that name.

However the Gresley Society trustees decided not to include such a feature.

I do realise there may be some who still have different views on the matter.<

But today is all about honouring the memory of Sir Nigel Gresley and his various achievements."

– John Cameron, president of the Gresley Society
The world famous steam train the 'Flying Scotsman' designed by locomotive engineer, Sir Nigel Gresley. Credit: Press Association

Born in 1876, Sir Nigel became chief mechanical engineer of the London and North Eastern Railway. His Flying Scotsman was the first steam locomotive to exceed 100mph in service, while the Mallard achieved a then world-record speed of 126mph in 1938.

Sir Nigel was knighted for his career achievements in 1936.

He died at home unexpectedly on April 5 1941 at the age of 64.

A statue of railway engineer Sir Nigel Gresley is unveiled on the 75th anniversary of his death at King's Cross railway station, London. Credit: Press Association

The statue shows him holding a copy of The Locomotive magazine, which carries a description of Mallard.

In a speech to mark its unveiling, Sir Peter said:

"This marvellous sculpture commemorates a man who looked relentlessly forward in his day to more powerful locomotives, faster locomotives and the world steam speed record with Mallard.

We're proud to have Sir Nigel on our station as a commemoration to a great railway mechanical engineer who pushed the technical boundaries of the steam locomotive further than anyone else."

– Sir Peter Hendy, Network Rail chairman

The sculptor, Hazel Reeves, said her work shows Sir Nigel "in a moment of quizzical reflection", adding, "he's looking out towards the future."