What it is about

A paean to the most beautiful machine in the world.

London and North Eastern Railway class A4 locomotive number 4468, Mallard, is the proud holder of the world speed record for steam locomotives, 126mph, set on 3 July 1938.

How it was written

A day of two halves.

The first half starts with a gentle dawn chorus, rudely interrupted by a noisy mallard (duck, not train). Morphing into a railway station awakening. Then full on heavy metal, culminating in the A4 thundering past.

The second half is a reverse of the first. The band plays a retrograde harmony. The evening train station morphs into the mallard taking off to roost. The dawn chorus gives way to the evening chorus and the engine driver dreams of speed.

Special effects

4468 FX (0:07)
4468 FX waveform
4468 FX waveform

The figure shows the waveform of the final effect in the piece. It was created by applying a low frequency saw wave oscillator to pink noise and adding a long fade-in envelope. The result is a percussive tremolo effect that simulates an oncoming train travelling at high speed.

Thanks to British Library Sounds for the bird and station samples, and to The Great Western Archive for the train sounds.

Reverse engineering

4468 reverse(0:15)
4468 reverse
4468 reverse

There is a changeover in the middle of the piece. The bass plays a retrograde version of the first half melody and the guitar reverses the chords. During the changeover the music is layered beneath the sample sound of the A4 using a technique known as auto-duck (nowt to do with mallards), just a way of reducing the volume of one sound whilst another is playing.


4468 composite (0:08)
4468 composite
4468 composite

This phrase in the latter part of the piece is a reverse harmony. It can be interpreted as your usual four bars of 4/4 but was actually written as a fun composite (6+4+2+4)/4 rhythm.

Tech spec

Title: 4468

Key: A

Tempo: 126bpm

Length: 3' 00"

Track 1: distortion guitar

Track 2: fretless bass

Track 3: drumset

Genre: Pop, Rock