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The Friends of the
National Railway Museum

South of England Group
Vice Presidents: Richard Hardy; Sir William McAlpine Bt, FRSE, FCIT, FRSA




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2 April 2011
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The Wandering Tornado

Roger Dye and Roger Aves

11 October 2010

Our meeting was a fascinating account of the building and operation of Britain’s newest – and arguably most popular – main line locomotive the A1 Pacific Tornado.

Two Rogers, – Dye and Aves – standing in for Mark Allatt and representing the A1 Locomotive Trust, presented us with an imaginative take on the celebrated “Top Gear” run (apparently Mr Clarkson really did fire the loco for about an hour!). Some clever people had recut the video and dubbed parts of the soundtrack of the 1954 film “Elizabethan Express” onto it – and very effective it was.

As is well known Tornado was built because all 49 Peppercorn A1s were scrapped and over a quiet beer some people said “let’s build one” – in 1991. So it became “an A1 for the price of a pint” (at the time, your scribe thought the beer was doing the talking!!). We all know the outcome – the triumphant steaming in 2008 leading to the first main line passenger trains last year. And huge amounts of public interest thanks to clever use of the media and Royal involvement.

The final bill is around £3million plus an immense amount of volunteer effort. The money has been raised from supporters via donations and a limited “bearer bond” loan. There is no commercial finance.

The loco was built at North Road Works, Darlington using around 1100 original drawings from the NRM, all scanned and then “touched up” where bits were missing or illegible. Various aspects of the original were amended to suit modern operating conditions, including electric lighting, revisions to the tender (no scoop!), brakes (air and vacuum) and cab layout to include OTMR, AWS etc. The loco also has two whistles: apparently Network Rail didn’t think the LNER pot whistle was loud enough so she has a chime as well (mounted just inside the offside smoke deflector). (What about 4472?).

After completion the loco was run-in on the GCR where the twin track is cleared for 60mph running. Then to York for “secret” mainline tests in Autumn 2008. So secret that platforms were packed with people at around midnight! Following the formal unveiling on 8 December 2008 by Mrs Dorothy Mather (Arthur Peppercorn’s widow) she was named by Prince Charles on 19 February 2009. As we know, she has run many tours since then including the “Winton Train” commemorating the actions of Sir Nicholas Winton in rescuing Jewish children from Prague in 1939.

And are you wondering why she is wandering? Well apparently Tornado has no home base. North Road is not rail-connected so she goes where she is needed. A new support coach has been acquired to provide back up, but is needing a great deal of work to make it fit for use. The Trust has very sensibly decided that she will not normally go anywhere that is not rail connected – large locos and low-loaders do not mix!

As we know, 60163 has had her problems recently – very reminiscent of those we had with Lord Nelson – and which have been put down to fairly rapid thermal cycling in the boiler. Having spent two years in her “nationalised LNER” livery she is about to be repainted into Brunswick green, to remind those of us not quite old enough to remember apple green of the days when A1s took the Yorkshire Pullman to Leeds and Harrogate.

A press release accompanied the talk and is reproduced here:


The A1 Steam Locomotive Trust

New Steam for the Main Line

Tornado, the first new main line steam locomotive to be built in Britain for almost 50 years, is the topic of a presentation from The A1 Steam Locomotive Trust.

Entitled ‘The Tornado Story: from Dream to Steam’, the illustrated talk covers the epic story of how a conversation in a pub turned into a generation long struggle to build a steam locomotive from scratch, by asking members of the public to donate ‘the price of a pint’ !

Tornado starred in an episode of ‘Top Gear’, first shown in 2009 and watched by over seven million people, racing a 1949 vintage Jaguar XK120 car and Vincent Black Shadow motorcycle from London to Edinburgh, with presenter Jeremy Clarkson on the footplate. The new £3m Peppercorn class A1 pacific steam locomotive was built over almost 20 years by The A1 Steam Locomotive Trust, a registered charity, at its Darlington Locomotive Works. Frequently headlined in the press and on TV, No. 60163 Tornado was the subject of a BBC documentary ‘Absolutely Chuffed, The Men Who Built a Steam Engine’ broadcast Christmas Eve 2008 on BBC2 and now available from the Trust on DVD. The locomotive was officially named Tornado by TRH the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall in February 2009 and has since entered service on the Network Rail main line.

[presenter], [role] of The A1 Steam Locomotive Trust, commented: “Tornado has had a hectic first year of main line operations stretching right across the country. The talk will take the audience back to the National Railway Museum where the story of her construction started with the discovery of the surviving drawings of the Peppercorn class A1’s right up to the present day. The locomotive is performing flawlessly and the Trust is working hard to pay off the remaining £600,000 of the loans taken out to complete the locomotive.

Please visit our website at www.a1steam.com to find out how you can help to keep this remarkable locomotive on the main line where she belongs.”

Photographs and archive news of Tornado are available on request

Notes to editors:

The A1 Steam Locomotive Trust, a registered charity, built Peppercorn class A1 Pacific 60163 Tornado at its Darlington Locomotive Works to haul charter trains operating on Network Rail. Fitted with additional water capacity and the latest railway safety electronics, Tornado is fully equipped for today’s main line railway. The class A1’s were designed by Arthur H Peppercorn for the London & North Eastern Railway and 49 were built in 1948/49 by British Railways. However, following the dieselisation of the railways, all were scrapped by 1966. The project to build a new Peppercorn class A1 was launched in 1990 and after 18 years of planning, construction and fundraising, the £3 million locomotive was completed in August 2008. Following tests and trials, first on the Great Central Railway, Loughborough and thereafter on the Network Rail main line based out of the National Railway Museum, York, Tornado hauled her first main line passenger train on 31st January 2009. Tornado was named by TRH the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall at York station on 19th February 2009.

Funds to build Tornado have been raised through deeds of covenant, donations, commercial sponsorships, (principal sponsor, William Cook Cast Products Ltd) commercial loans, and a Bond issue. The Trust is still seeking to raise funds to repay the outstanding £600,000 borrowed to complete her construction.

For details of how to help or where to travel behind Tornado visit www.a1steam.com  or email enquiries@a1steam.com

For talks and lectures please contact presentations@a1steam.com


For more information please contact:

Mark Allatt, Chairman, The A1 Steam Locomotive Trust, on 07710 878979 or mark.allatt@a1steam.com