Tornado Article from trackchat


 From 1948/9 up until dieselisation, the principal expresses of the East Coast Main Line between Kings Cross and Edinburgh Waverley were hauled by four main locomotive types:-

 A1’s designed by Arthur H. Peppercorn (29/1/1889 to 3/3/51) the last chief mechanical engineer of the London & North Eastern Railway (LNER) built in 1948 and all withdrawn by 1966.

 A2’s firstly designed by Edward Thompson then later improved by A. H Peppercorn. 30 engines built from 1944.

 A3’s, introduced in 1927, designed by Nigel Gresley ( later Sir Nigel Gresley) who was the Chief Mechanical Engineer of the LNER from 1923-1941. The most famous A3 is Flying Scotsman, the first locomotive to officially reach 100 mph.

 A4’s, introduced in 1935, and designed by Nigel Gresley. 34 were built including 60022 Mallard the fastest steam locomotive in the world.

 When diesels took over from steam in the 1960’s various steam locomotives were bought by private individuals or earmarked for preservation as part of the National Collection.  The only LNER pacific type not to have a representative saved was the A1, breaking a chain of preserved East Coast express locomotives from 1890’s to the end of steam.

 Enter the A1 Steam Locomotive Trust.  A group of people dedicated to building, from scratch and to the original design, a brand new A1 pacific locomotive.  The A1 Steam Locomotive Trust first met on March 24th 1990 to discuss the feasibility of building a replica Peppercorn A1 locomotive, this was followed by the first public meeting in York on April 28th 1990. Five people launched the project, aiming to fund it by public subscription.

 Very gradually the team, backed by their subscriptions, got together the many and varied parts required to construct a large steam locomotive one of the main requirements being somewhere to build it.  On the 10th March 1995 the Trust signed an agreement with Darlington Borough Council to set up its base in what was to become the new Darlington Locomotive Works.  Thus Tornado was built in the world’s first true railway town carrying on a tradition begun in the 1800’s.

 The original 1948 drawings were used to construct Tornado, they are held in the National Railway Museum, York and in order to use them some 1,240 Indian ink on linen drawings were electronically cleaned and scanned.

 Some detail changes were made to Tornado to better suit today’s railways and manufacturing methods.  For instance the maximum height for steam engines operating on the main line today is 13 feet so Tornado’s whistle was mounted just at the side of the boiler instead of on the top.  Tornado is required to carry certain electrical equipment to comply with today’s modern railway practices that her predecessors never carried, namely a Train Protection and Warning System (TPWS) to automatically apply the brakes should signals be passed at danger and On-Train Monitoring and Recording Equipment (OTMR) like an aircraft’s black box to record the control settings in event of an incident.  Just imagine the problems of fitting high-tec electronics to a steam engine!

Today’s trains use air pressure to operate their braking systems so the coaches Tornado pulls around the country on the main line will be air-braked, consequently she is fitted with an air-compressor.  When steam locomotives were the prime movers on our railways all trains were vacuum braked so steam locomotives carried ‘ejectors’ to remove air from the brake lines, create a vacuum and so hold off the brakes.

Despite these and other changes, however, Tornado still looks, sounds and operates like all her sister A1’s and is definitely not only a replica but the next in line.  Once testing and running-in on the Great Central Railway in Leicestershire (once a constituent railway of the LNER) is complete she will be painted in her final coat of LNER green and then begin hauling excursion trains around the country, a proud product of a dedicated team of professionals, built in Darlington.

 More details and up to the minute news on Tornado can be found at

                                                                                                                                           Colin Harris