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by Peter Duncan


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 been filled.


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 demonstrate. 

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 platforms.  


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 the station.