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13 November 2014

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You are in: North Yorkshire > People > Your stories > Where now for Tornado

Mark Allatt

Mark Allatt. © David Tillotson

Where now for Tornado

When the story of the building of Tornado is told in full it will be one full of passion and determination. Over the past 18 years many people have played their part in bringing this dream to life.

In terms of preservation, the A1 represents a missing link in the evolution of passenger locomotives on the East Coast Main Line. They were designed by Arthur H. Peppercorn, the last Chief Mechanical Engineer of the LNER, and 49 were built at Doncaster and Darlington in the late 1940s.

A1 Pacific

A1 Pacific. © Peter Townend

It has been said the A1s were the finest express passenger locomotives ever built in Britain. They worked over the whole of the East Coast Main Line on schedules of a mile a minute; one hundred miles an hour was not unknown. They were superbly handsome and looked particularly elegant at the head of the Pullmans of the 1950s.

Superb as they were, the class was destined to have a very short life due to the introduction of diesels. They were withdrawn from service between 1962 and 1966 and all were scrapped.

The A1s were missed, both by the many people who admired them and those privileged to have worked on them. There was a real feeling of loss. Extinction is forever and this acted as a clarion call, and so, in 1990 The A1 Steam Locomotive Trust was born.


Tornado's wheels spin. © David Elliott

The Trust's vision rapidly invoked backing from British industry and in 1995 signed an agreement with Darlington Borough Council to occupy the former Stockton and Darlington Railway carriage works. This became the new Darlington Locomotive Works.

Building the A1 was done from the original drawings, but these were sometimes found to be incorrect! The original details had been modified on the shop floor and the drawings not amended accordingly. Tornado is not an exact copy of its forebears.


Tornado's Loughborough crew. © Graham Langer

The boiler is a fully welded vessel with a steel firebox as opposed to the original, which was riveted and had a copper firebox. The engine has also been designed for modern operating conditions complete with air brakes, although a vacuum facility exists for working on heritage lines. Train Protection Warning System (TPWS) will also be installed and in accordance with Network Rail requirements, a radio will be fitted. Increased electrical power is also incorporated.

Following the completion of extensive tests and trials in October 2008, Tornado completed three main line trials based at the National Railway Museum in York. The final 75 mph test run, from York to Newcastle and back was supported by National Express East Coast and witnessed by thousands from the lineside.

York Station

Tornado at York Station. © Steve Taylor

Tornado is now in the paint-shop where her distinctive (and surprisingly good looking) ‘photographic grey’ will be replaced by the LNER express passenger livery of apple green. But, with ‘British Railways’ on the tender, just as was the case with the first Peppercorn class A1 60 years ago. Only then will Tornado enter traffic on the nation's main line network. 

We are all absolutely delighted with Tornado’s outstanding performance to-date. It is down to more than 2,000 donors, our sponsors, and the hard work of our volunteers and contractors that we have got this far. In order to get Tornado onto the main line, the Trust still needs to raise a further £66,000 on top of its existing pledges.

And so completes the miracle; Tornado will almost certainly become as legendary as Flying Scotsman and Mallard, two of the original A1's east coast stable-mates. Without doubt, the engine will bring fascination and pleasure to millions.

Mark Allatt

last updated: 04/03/2009 at 14:14
created: 12/12/2008

You are in: North Yorkshire > People > Your stories > Where now for Tornado

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