The A1 Steam Locomotive Trust

The A1 Steam Locomotive Trust The A1 Steam Locomotive Trust

The age of steam is very much alive and well in Darlington!

Earlier this year we went along to meet an extraordinary group of engineers who, with their varied and impressive skill sets, have worked endlessly to fund and build a brand-new Peppercorn class A1 ‘Pacific’ steam locomotive.

A fully-working brand new steam locomotive built from scratch – by volunteers! Where do you begin? How do you get funding? Where do you build it?

In our latest video from our ‘Customer Voices’ series, we set out to discover more and witness the passion and love that has been poured into this amazing project. Defying all their critics, who said it couldn’t be done, the team spent 18 years of hard graft to overcome all the obstacles.

See how they’ve incorporated modern technology to make it fit for the 21st century and how they finally opened the doors at the Darlington Locomotive Works to reveal the all-powerful No.60163 ’Tornado’!

So, how did it all start?

The Peppercorn class A1 Pacifics were designed by Arthur H Peppercorn, Chief Mechanical Engineer of the London & North Eastern Railway, with 49 being built in the late 1940s, before the last one was finally scrapped in 1966 to make way for modernisation.

With none left, even as a museum piece, it looked like the Peppercorn class A1s would slip into oblivion, forgotten as part of a bygone age. Not so, in 1990 a group of enthusiasts came together, all sharing the same goal – to construct a brand-new Peppercorn class A1 ‘Pacific’ steam locomotive - and so, The A1 Steam Locomotive Trust was born.

One of the key things to put in place to accomplish this mammoth task was, of course, funding. The Trust embarked on the concept of enticing supporters to become part of history by setting up deeds of covenant for the monthly equivalent of the ‘price of a pint’ a week, (around £1.25 in the north-east of England at the time). This proved successful, with most of the £3 million required coming from this activity, alongside support from British businesses.

The name ‘Tornado’ was selected in tribute to the RAF crews, who were involved in the Gulf War at the time and the locomotive was later officially named by TRH The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall at York Station in 2009.

The Trust needed to look at the original design and establish what elements had to be modified in order to meet modern day rail standards. They did this by examining in detail over 400 original documents held at the National Railway Museum in York.
Construction begins
Darlington Locomotive Works

Construction begins

With everything in place, the build officially commenced on July 1994 at the then British Steel facility in Leeds, with the main frames being cut from steel donated by British Steel. In 1995 the Trust found a new permanent home for construction with the signing of an agreement with Darlington Borough Council, owner of the former Stockton & Darlington Railway Carriage Works. They established their base in what was to become the new Darlington Locomotive Works – the original having closed in 1966. Railway engineering had come back to the home of the world’s first true railway town.

After 18 years of construction and fundraising, in August 2008, the huge effort and dedication from the group of volunteers paid off and the UK’s first mainline steam locomotive since 1960 – and the first paid for by public subscription - was introduced to the world’s press at Darlington Locomotive Works.

What an incredible job the team had done, with Tornado being fitted with all the latest railway safety electronics, as well as modern technology, including a sophisticated electrical system. It holds a water capacity of 6200 gallons and is able to carry 7.5 tons of coal to fuel the engine.

Helping innovation stay on track

RS Components is proud to be one of their suppliers, providing most of the electrical and electronic components for the build from; cables to connectors, switches to mini circuit breakers and more.

Rob Morland, electrical engineer, said, “I’ve been using RS Components for my whole career, dating back to the 1970’s so I knew where to source the parts needed.”

One of the main reasons that the trust chose to work with RS on this project was because the products they needed were backed by a certificate of conformity, which the Trust must have for traceability to assure genuine parts are used.

The driver's compartment
Driver's compartment

The legend continues

Since completion, this amazing locomotive can boast that it:

- Completed over 100,000 miles across both the Network Rail mainline and heritage railway lines across the UK.

- Appeared in the film Paddington 2, as well as starring in Top Gear’s ‘Race to the North’, plus 2 BBC documentaries; Absolutely Chuffed – the Men Who Built a Steam Engine’ and ‘Tornado the 100mph Steam Engine’.

- Operated at 100mph in secret night time tests in September 2017, between Doncaster and Newcastle. The first steam locomotive to achieve this in over 50 years.

The Peppercorn class A1 ‘Pacific’ No. 60163 ‘Tornado’ continues to wow both passengers and spectators alike and the story continues with the Trust already well underway to building their next steam locomotive, due to be finished in 2022 – so watch this space!

Find out more about the Trust and their work here:

Rob Morland, David Elliott and Alan Parkin from the A1 Steam Locomotive Trust in front of Tornado
Some of the team

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