Some of you may have
seen recent articles in the press describing the first runs of a brand
new steam locomotive, the A1 Pacific named ‘Tornado’. It is the
culmination of 18 years work by the A1 Steam Locomotive Trust, which was
formed in 1990 with the objective of creating a working replica of the
A1 type, originally designed in the last days of the London & North
Eastern Railway in the late 1940s. 49 were built, but in the
headlong rush to replace steam power, it was less than 20 years later in
1966 that the last survivor of the class was scrapped, leaving a gap in
the ranks of surviving Eastern Region Pacifics – a gap that has at last
I joined the Trust as a
Covenantor not long after it was set up. The reasons were twofold
: first, a significant part
of my early interest in railways and steam power was formed by watching
the ER Pacifics going about their business, and the A1s played a central
role. I had always regretted that the list of preserved
locomotives did not include one. Secondly, from the very
beginning, the Trust had a clear focus on what was to be achieved, and
made fund raising a priority. I therefore felt that it had a good
chance of success, and I committed a monthly sum towards the new A1.
I have selected some of
my photos to illustrate the latter stages of the project. The
first shot was taken in 2005 at the Darlington works site, where the
locomotive was assembled. At this point, the boiler has not been
fitted, but the recognisable ‘face’ of the locomotive is in place on the
smokebox front. It can be seen that Tornado has the number 60163.
Had a 50th A1 been built by British Railways, this is the
number it would have carried.
The next four photos are at a more recent
gathering of Trust members, again at Darlington, in October 2007.
The boiler is now in place, minus cladding, as some of the
members look on.
The next shot is a close up of the
left hand outside cylinder and some of the motionwork, not quite complete.
There is something unique in the pristine and perfect condition of
the parts, that not even the best restored locomotive can
This is similar but looking forward
And finally; this is a close up of part of the reversing mechanism.
Now on to the loco in action: Tornado’s trials
on the Great Central Railway (one of the UK’s many preserved lines)
were very successful and it performed almost faultlessly, both there
and on its later main line trials. In today’s regulated world, the
performance level of the engine, particularly in respect of key
areas such as braking, has to meet clearly defined standards if it
is to haul a train of fare paying passengers. The next two photos
show the engine in action on the GCR after completion of the trials,
and on the first day that it ran with passengers. It is still in
its ‘workshop grey’ finish, and is seen departing from Quorn and
then at the classic position for action photos, Kinchley Lane, a
little north of Rothley
Even in its grey guise, it is unmistakably an
A1, a sight that was believed to have been irrevocably lost in 1966.
The final shot is one taken in circumstances of very
poor light at York Railway Museum, where Tornado’s first ‘real’
livery was unveiled last December in front of a large group of covenantors. It is in apple green, an early and short lived scheme
that was adopted for the class by the newly created British Railways
in 1948. Later, it is planned that Tornado will carry authentic
blue and Brunswick green liveries from the early and later 1950’s.
On 31st January, ‘Tornado’ hauled
its first train on the main line network, from York to Newcastle and
return. Here it stands waiting in the yard adjacent to York Railway
Museum, resplendent in the recently applied apple green livery.
A little later, Tornado backs on to the train in York station. For
some time, the platforms have been thronged with onlookers as well
as the passengers, eager to see the locomotive at last making its
main line debut.
Arrival at Newcastle after an excellent run, to find more crowded
The following Saturday, 1st February, and another main
line duty, this time from Darlington to King’s Cross. I
photographed Tornado just after it passed Brookmans Park, in the
snowy conditions of the early part of the month.
Tornado was named
by Prince Charles on 19th February.
Barrow Hill shot
To bring the story up to date to the end of May
2009, Tornado has successfully completed several more main line runs
and visited the North York Moors Railway and the Barrow Hill Railway
Centre. At the latter, in early April, Tornado was part of a
spectacular line up of Pacific steam power, and is shown, now
complete with nameplates, running past A2 Class ‘Blue Peter’ and A4
Class ‘Sir Nigel Gresley’.
Brookmans Park Shot
On May 23rd, Tornado headed ‘The
Cathedrals Express’ from King’s Cross to York, and is shown early on
this bright morning heading through Brookmans Park. Although the
train had stopped to pick up passengers at Potters Bar, it was
surprisingly routed on the fast track, and the picture does not
convey the sound of the locomotive as it accelerated hard through