60163 Tornado is on the go!
It started as pub talk amongst a group of railway enthusiasts, but now an ambitious plan to construct a Peppercorn A1 class steam locomotive in Darlington is complete.
It's the stuff locomotive enthusiasts dream of. Nestled in the Hopetown Carriage Works in the heart of the town that gave birth to the railway, a group of life-long train fans have built a steam engine entirely from scratch.
The project to build a new Peppercorn class A1 was launched in 1990. Now after 18 years of planning, construction and fundraising 60163 Tornado has taken her maiden journey along the short track at the Head of Steam in Darlington.
All that now remains between Tornado and main line operations is the successful completion of her test and trials program on the Great Central Railway at Loughborough.
For this final stage Tornado has been loaded onto two low loaders ready for her journey to the south.
Tornado is loaded onto a low loader
Once at the Great Central Railway the 170 tonne engine will face tests at speeds of up to 60 miles per hour. She'll then be assessed on her ability to pull empty carriages before pulling her first passenger train in September.
The scheme has been funded by industrial sponsors and a public donation program, in which people have been able to purchase various parts of the locomotive and buy a piece of steam engine history in the process.
Ian Howitt, a member of the engineering team, explains how the group formed.
"It started, as most of these things do, with a group of men sat around in a pub having had far too much to drink and saying how sad it was that none of these locomotives were preserved, and as the drink flowed and the evening wore on the idea of building one crystallised."
"We began with the frames, but there is a great tendency to start with the cab or the smoke box because they are items that people recognise readily, but you just sit down and get the pattern makers to make the patterns and just make one bit at a time and hope they all fit together at the end."
"The thing that has dictated the rate of progress has been getting the money in. Once you've got £10,000 you could afford to make the frame plates, and then once you've got another £40,000 you can make a cylinder pattern and so on."
£400,000 was needed for the boiler alone and while that money was being raised all other work was halted.
The Tornado engineering team
Malcolm Crawley is one of the vice presidents for the A1 Steam Locomotive Trust:
"I think a few of us wondered whether or not we were ever going to see a locomotive that resembled the real thing - and joy upon joy one day the boiler came."
Once the boiler had been fitted Tornado started to look like a real locomotive and further pieces could be bought and added.
"We've seen the loco finished off - we've seen it run up and down a few times and here we are today watching it being loaded up to go to Quorn on the Great Central Railway, and it'll be checked and sorted out and it'll undergo its trials."
The trust still needs to find £66,000 to pay for the further tests and trials before she can run as a passenger train on Network Rail.
You can hear more from Ian and other interviewees, as well as taking a tour around the Tornado, by clicking on the links above and to the right.
last updated: 25/11/2008 at 14:48