A legend is born…
Race to the north: £3-million new-build Peppercorn A1 Pacific No 60163 Tornado powers through Cromwell north of Newark-on-Trent with the 25 April ‘Cathedrals Express’ from King’s Cross to Edinburgh with Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson on the footplate. BRIAN SHARPE
You will never have read a railway book like this before. Indeed, it is far more than another book about trains – it is an account of a national achievement of heroic proportions; a dazzling achievement and one of which every last person in 21st-century Britain can be truly proud.
It is the story of how a small group of people who wanted to recreate one of the lost glories of the steam era came together in 1990 with no more than a shared dream – and 19 years later, turned it into reality. Without the benefit of an established railway workshop, or the workforce and facilities that were readily available to British Railways, they built a brand new main line express passenger locomotive from scratch.
Asking supporters to donate the price of a pint of beer a week to build the locomotive, A1 Peppercorn Pacific No 60163 Tornado has been built at a cost of £3-million, and tens of thousands of pounds of gruelling man-hours.
The first steam engine built for use on Britain’s passenger network since Evening Star emerged from Swindon Works in a blaze of publicity in 1960, Tornado – named in honour of the RAF fighter pilots who served in the Gulf War – entered service on the main line on 31 January 2009. At that time, Britain was reeling from the start of a deepening global recession, leaving ordinary people very little to cheer about. Except that is, an engineering feat of Herculean magnitude, one which gripped the imagination of the world’s media and the public alike, from the Royal Family downwards.
Everywhere Tornado goes, crowds have packed station platforms and flocked to the lineside to grab a glimpse of it, resplendent in its apple green livery, jostling to capture images of it on mobile telephones.
At every bridge, cutting or vantage point on every trip there are photographers who have driven many miles to capture this magnificent feat of engineering in action. Heritage railways which have hired Tornado for galas and special events have reported record attendances, despite the credit crunch. Its performances on the national network have been stunning; bearing in mind the modifications that have had to be made to meet the requirements of the modern rail network, there are those who say that it is the most sophisticated steam locomotive to ever run on Britain’s railways.
Apart from all that, the building of Tornado has filled a major gap in our nation’s fleet of heritage steam locomotives. For back in 1966, nobody was able to save the last of the class of 49 London & North Eastern Railway-designed A1 Pacifics, which first appeared in 1948. Railways have always proved an object of fascination; and even before the end of steam was announced, there were enthusiasts who were prepared to give their time free of charge to do their best to ensure that certain lines would not die, and classic locomotives would be saved from the scrapman.
This book tells how the railway preservation movement took off with the saving of the Talyllyn Railway in 1950, and set a ball rolling which nearly six decades later reached dizzy new heights with the launch of the project to build Tornado, the 50th A1.
The full account of how the Tornado team came together to form The A1 Steam Locomotive Trust, the mammoth fundraising task and the building of the locomotive are outlined in detail. The landmark day when the first fire was lit in the locomotive, its first movements in front of the world’s press, its passengercarrying debut on the Great Central Railway, its unveiling in its final livery at its base of the National Railway Museum at York – where it will be on public display between its trips in the north of England – and its main line debut are fully covered.
Then there is the official naming ceremony carried out by TRH The Princes of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall, Tornado’s triumphant first entry and exit into and out of King’s Cross, and the ‘secret’ filming assignment for BBC’s Top Gear motoring programme, which saw it racing a classic 1940s car and motorcycle from London to Edinburgh.
This is the definitive account of how an impossible dream was made possible. One which evokes the very best of the British bulldog spirit – a classic tale of how the little man can succeed against overwhelming odds.
A story which, in these times of failed bankers and politicians living luxury lifestyles through dubious expense claims, emerges like a shining beacon and a unique source of national pride to show the whole world what this country is still really all about.A tale that truly places the ‘Great’ back in Britain. Thanks, that is, to the suporters of The A1 Steam Locomotive Trust, who have emerged in these despairing times as true national heroes, head and shoulders above the rest.
THE FINAL ASSEMBLY
The tender tank at North View Engineering Ltd of Darlington. DAVID ELLIOTT/A1SLT
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