A1’s first run, 1 month to go!


A pivot for Tornado’s valve gear is fitted. Photo Ernest W Adams, The Designer’s Notebook (click to see picture in original context)

Perhaps nothing illustrates the economic and cultural differences between Great Britain and Poland better than the £3 million plus project to build a brand new steam locomotive based on a LNER Peppercorn A1 pacific. In Poland, a steam locomotive requiring major boiler repairs will as likely as not be scavenged for spare parts and then discretely scrapped. In Great Britain, Tornado, the first mainline steam locomotive to be built there since 1960, will move for the first time under its own steam on the weekend 2-3 August.

The project to build Tornado was launched in 1990. Supporters could donate just the monthly equivalent of the price of a pint of beer per week. In those days beer cost £1.25 a pint in North East England! Now, 18 years later, Tornado is almost ready. After a special steaming for its supporters the locomotive will be taken by road to the Great Central Railway for fine tuning and then main line certification for running at up to 145 km/h (90 mph).

Tornado incorporates several changes from the original design, the biggest of which is an welded all steel boiler built in the Meiningen Locomotive Works, and incorporating some improvements that would likely have been made had steam locomotive operation and development continued in Great Britain. Tornado features all the necessary modern train control equipment to achieve certification for main line use.

The A1 Steam Locomotive Trust have an excellent and very informative website. Yet none of the great pictures there really sum up the whole project. Then we found what we wanted in an article by Ernest W Adams, a fellow bloger who normally writes about computer games. His picture is superb. It shows the sheer size of the locomotive compared to the fitter. In the background is the Meiningen boiler waiting to be fitted to the frames, a component that some sceptics said couldn’t be built in the 21st century. In a month’s time the A1 Steam Locomotive Trust will prove the sceptics wrong and the British fleet of working express steam locomotives will have one new member!

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