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Tornado: The story of a new age steam locomotive

Read the extraordinary story of how a group of people, with a shared ambition, came together to construct a brand new Peppercorn A1 Pacific. They formed The A1 Steam Locomotive Trust and after nineteen years of incredible effort that locomotive, No. 60163 Tornado, moved under its own power for the first time in 2008.

Building Tornado

Examples of most of the East Coast Main Line’s famous locomotive classes have been saved, but all 49 Peppercorn ‘A1s’ were scrapped in the 1960s. The A1 Steam Locomotive Trust was formed to fill this missing link.

By the late 1980s, almost everything that could be done to preserve steam locomotives had been done with new motion, driving wheels and even cylinders all being manufactured to bring wrecks back to life. Many recognised that the next step must be to build an entirely new locomotive. Starting from informal discussions in the late 1980s the group that was to become The A1 Steam Locomotive Trust first met on March 24th 1990 to “discuss the feasibility of building a replica Peppercorn A1 locomotive.” The first public meeting was held at the Railway Institute, York, on April 28th 1990.A1 management meeting

At this time the project comprised five people – David Champion (a financial planning consultant who produced the marketing and build plan), Phil Champion (brother of David and a teacher who became the first newsletter editor), Stuart Palmer (a Newcastle solicitor who became legal advisor), Ian Storey (owner of ‘Black Five’ No. 44767 who became Chief Mechanical Engineer) and Mike Wilson, the first Chairman. Whilst Ian was instrumental in assessing the initial feasibility of the engineering, it was David who put in place the project’s radical approach to fundraising based around Deeds of Covenant and mould-breaking management structure that made it all possible; thus the concept of ‘Building an A1 for the price of a pint a week’ was born.

From the start, three vital decisions were made. Funding would be a priority; trustees would be professionals in relevant fields so that their work for the Trust would be to the highest standard; and, because of reasons of certification and the nature of the work being undertaken, the overwhelming majority of the manufacture of the locomotive would be undertaken by the engineering industry.

A nationwide management team was put together who freely give considerable amounts of time and expertise and two of those, Mark Allatt and David Elliott are still very much involved today. The Trust has secured a reputation for being supported by a wide range of specialists, experts and enthusiasts from all walks of life. It is this team and the principles established constructing Tornado that are behind the building of No. 2007 Prince of Wales.

Design principles

A formal launch for the public and the press was held at the Railway Institute on 17th November, 1990, and was attended by more than eighty people. It was announced that the locomotive would carry the number 60163, the next in sequence after the last of the original A1s, No. 60162 Saint Johnstoun.

Locomotive Nos. 60153-7 were fitted with Timken roller bearings and an early decision was taken that No. 60163 would also be fitted with these, reducing maintenance costs and servicing time. Tornado carries 7.5 tons of coal and has a water capacity of 6,200 gallons, sacrificing coal space for water. The tender also utilises the water pick-up space and has additional volume added around the top filler. Originally it was planned to have the locomotive oil-fired but economics dictated a reversion to coal-firing while keeping the option of fitting a fuel bunker in the coal space.

The completed locomotive would also have an all-welded boiler with a steel firebox and a coal grate. Unlike all other mainline steam locomotives, the engine would be air-braked throughout with vacuum brakes the secondary system. In addition, Tornado has the most sophisticated electrical system of any UK main line engine, deriving power from a Stones turbo-generator, batteries and a tender mounted alternator. The head and tail lights are cab switchable and match current group standards on Network Rail, the locomotive also carries frame inspection lamps and injector overflow lighting as well as being fitted with pioneering cab signalling and communications equipment. Finally, the smallest but most obvious difference to the original A1s is that Tornado has been fitted with a chime whistle!

On 13th April 1993 the painstaking job of cataloguing, scanning, cleaning up and re-drawing began. The engineering team, led by David Elliott and including Gerard Hill, Bob Alderman and many others, spent several weeks at the National Railway Museum at York and in the end around 95% of the original drawings were discovered. These were mostly Indian ink tracings on linen and about 1,100 drawings were scanned in 1993 and a further 140 in 2001. These were then electronically de-skewed and cleaned with a few being completely redrawn due to poor quality originals. Many were subsequently modified or redrawn to add material specifications and tolerances. The Trust had also to make sense of such gems on the original drawings as “this bolt to be a good fit” and “this item to be made with special care” and ascertain exactly what “best Yorkshire iron” actually was! It was a sure bet that such a material is no longer available, and the Trust would probably not want to use it if it was!

Construction commences

At the start of 1994 The A1 Steam Locomotive Trust announced a major sponsorship agreement with Macreadys, the leading steel bar stockholder, part of the steels and engineering division of Glynwed International plc. Under the agreement, Macreadys would provide the Trust with a variety of steels from its wide stock range. The initial delivery would comprise bright round bars for use as pins, bushes and shafts on the 50th Class A1 Pacific locomotive. The Trust also announced a major sponsorship agreement with Sheffield-based William Cook plc, the world’s largest steel foundry group. Under the agreement, William Cook, whose plants specialise in the design and manufacture of steel castings for all industrial purposes, would make the pattern equipment, cast and machine the new steam locomotive’s six 6ft.8in. diameter driving wheels on very advantageous terms. To this day, WCCP remains the Trust’s principal sponsor and is actively involved in the construction of No. 2007 Prince of Wales.

A red-letter day was April 22nd when the frame plates were rolled at the Scunthorpe works of British Steel; the new locomotive’s main frames were then profiled at BSD Plate and Profile Products’ 38-acre site in Leeds, West Yorkshire. The CNC Plasma and Oxy fuel profile cutting system which cut the main frames from steel donated by British Steel was started by Mrs Dorothy Mather, the widow of the locomotive’s designer, Arthur H Peppercorn. The profiling of the main frames involved cutting 25mm and 30mm plate with a consistent, high quality finish.The initial locomotive frame

The frame plates were machined by T M Engineers Ltd of Kingswinford, West Midlands, and all holes drilled. The one-piece frame plates were had the bend in the trailing end formed and were delivered to the temporary frame erection site at the Birmingham Railway Museum before Christmas 1994. The frame erection stands, designed by the Trust and manufactured by Ian Storey Engineering of Morpeth are already on site and awaiting the delivery of the frame plates. The first four frame stretchers had already been delivered, and to these were added further castings from Lloyds of Burton, a subsidiary of William Cook plc. The patterns for the coupled wheel hornblocks and hornstays were being prepared for moulding by Lloyds and castings completed in 1995.

During 1996 work on the locomotive’s main frames continued to progress rapidly at Tyseley Locomotive Works (TLW), Birmingham; Lloyds of Burton-upon-Trent completed the casting of the drag box, bogie bottom centre and inside motion plate, with the former at Brookside Engineering, Tutbury for machining. A considerable number of frame stretchers and other components, including the spring hanger brackets, front and rear firebox support brackets, bogie top centre and bogie frame stays had been machined by Brookside Engineering and assembled to the frames. The initial platework of the cab floor had also been manufactured. In addition, British Steel Engineering of Renishaw produced the outside pair of cylinder castings and Lloyds cast the rear truck and front bogie wheels.

The three cylinders were unveiled at Tyseley on May 25th 1996 before being sent to Ufone Engineering for machining, with the middle cylinder being worked on first. All three were returned to the Trust by early 1997 for fitting to the frames. Following completion of the main frames at Tyseley including the fitting of the inside cylinder and six hornblocks, Tornado (which could now be considered to exist since the frames were a complete unit) travelled to the National Railway Museum. It arrived at York on 12th March, courtesy of an EWS freight wagon, having become the first A1 to traverse the East Coast Main Line for over 30 years! Following exhibition at York, the locomotive’s frames were returned to Tyseley for continuation of the work that the team there had been contracted to fulfil. Once back in Birmingham the outside cylinders were bolted on and the cab structure attached.

A new home

A move to Darlington – Following the breakdown of the arrangement with Doncaster Council an historic agreement was brokered with Darlington Borough Council, the owners of the 1853 former Stockton and Darlington Railway Carriage Works at Hopetown. The A1 Steam Locomotive Trust would be able to set up its permanent base in what is to become the new Darlington Steam Locomotive Works early in 1996. The Council was able to provide the Trust with exclusive use of the soon to be converted Works on a long-term agreement and help with seeking grant funding. The announcement was followed by a brief ceremony in front of Locomotion No 1, the world’s first public railway locomotive, now preserved in Darlington Railway Museum. At this ceremony, Councillor John Williams, Major of Darlington and Leader of Darlington Borough Council, presented the key to the new locomotive works to Mrs Dorothy Mather, 1997-10466widow of Arthur H Peppercorn, the locomotive’s original designer.

With the awarding of £300,000 in grants for the building from the European Regional Development Fund, the National Heritage Memorial Fund and Darlington Council, 1997 saw the old Hopetown Carriage Works converted from a neglected, redundant liability into a new home for the construction of No. 60163. The solid structure would provide a secure, dry environment in which the final assembly could be undertaken with a full-length pit, stores and room for machine tools providing the necessary facilities to do so. This represented the start of an enduring relationship with the historic locomotive building town, a partnership that continues to bear fruit to this day. On Thursday 25th September 1997 the locomotive’s frames arrived in Hopetown Lane from Birmingham and were craned into the newly restored Carriage Works. On Saturday 27th September Covenantors attending the annual gathering were treated to the sight of the frames being unveiled with great pomp and ceremony in the new ‘Darlington Locomotive Works’.

Assembling a modern giant

During 1998 Ian Howitt fabricated the smokebox and smokebox door and Rolls-Royce joined the team. Tornado was named after the RAF fighter-bombers used in the 1990/91 Gulf War. Coincidentally, Rolls-Royce built the RB199 jet engines that power the Tornado jet. Rolls-Royce helped the Trust by machining parts of the new locomotive’s three sets of motion at its Hebburn works. It was estimated that when completed, Tornado’s motion would have cost around £190,000 at full commercial rates. The four 3ft 2in wheels, the rear 3ft 8in ponytruck and six 6ft 8in driving wheels were cast by William Cook plc on very advantageous terms to the Trust. This was the first time that a new set of wheels had been completed for a mainline steam locomotive since British Railways received its last new steam locomotive in 1960. Cooks also cast a dummy wheel centre which would be used to test the interference fit with a dummy stub axle to find the correct pressing force required to locate the wheels on the axles. All twelve locomotive tyres were delivered to Ian Riley & Co. at the East Lancashire Railway in Bury ready for fitting to the wheels. Locomotive wheels

1999 saw a start made on forging the motion components. The first major motion components were forged for the half completed locomotive. These massive steel forgings included the three connecting rods, which transfer the power from Tornado’s three cylinders to its six 6ft 8in driving wheels. These forgings were formed from one foot square, cast steel billets weighing a total of 5 tons and were forged into shape using a 1 ton air hammer whilst at between 860 and 1200 °C by John Hesketh & Son at Bury. The forgings were forwarded in batches to be machined by Ufone Precision Engineers at Rowley Regis to be delivered to the Trust’s Darlington Locomotive Works (DLW) to be fitted to No. 60163 by July 2000. The total cost of the three sets of motion (including valve gear) was estimated to be around £130,000.

The other major task undertaken that year was the final assembly of the locomotive’s wheelsets, involving the casting of the roller-bearing cannon boxes by William Cook Cast Products and their machining by Ufone engineering. Before the wheels could be fitted to Tornado, five of the locomotive’s six wheelsets had their roller bearings added. The 46 different spacer, abutment, sealing and adjustment rings for the 12 Timken taper roller bearings had to be manufactured and located on the driving and bogie axles before the wheels were pressed on. Due to the roller bearings having to be fitted to Tornado’s axles before the wheels, the Trust reverted to the traditional method of pressing on the wheels to avoid the hot wheel damaging the bearing.

Significant progress

By the year 2000, there was an increasingly urgent need to find a supplier who could build a boiler based on the original LNER diagram 118 design while meeting modern EU pressure vessel directives and satisfy Railway Safety Ltd., HMRI, Railtrack and our insurers. The Trust approached a dozen UK firms of which three responded but the turmoil the British pressure vessel industry was going through at the time caused them to drop out, either through lack of resources or because of the Trust’s requirement that the boiler be designed and built by the same company. In consequence attention turned to Europe; Interlok, a Polish company initially expressed an interest but gradually Dampflokwerk Meiningen emerged as the front runner. Based in the former East Germany, the ex- Deutsche Reichsbahn locomotive works was still capable of manufacturing such engineering masterpieces and, critically, was still part of German Federal Railways (Deutsche Bahn).

Elsewhere the motion was being machined and work continued at DLW to fit the manganese steel liners to the hornblocks to enable the wheelsets to be located in the frames. Serco Railtest conducted the mandatory ultrasonic inspection of the axles and crank pins to confirm their metallurgical integrity and to provide reference traces against which future scans could be compared. Machining of the roller bearing axle cannon boxes for the intermediate and trailing driving wheelsets was also completed at Ufone.2002-00232 By 2002, following the completion of the optical alignment survey of the frames by staff from the Severn Valley Railway, the middle and rear cannon boxes for the driving wheels of the roller bearing- fitted locomotive were now in position. The front cannon box was in position by the end of June. The fitting involved working to clearances of less than 0.002in due to the roller bearings, compared with 0.02in on a conventional plain bearing locomotive. The coupling rods had their knuckle pin bushes machined and fitted and the forgings for the remainder of the motion, the valve gear, were also ordered. This included the eccentric rods, expansion links, radius rods, combination levers, union links and valve spindles. By the October Convention in 2002 the locomotive’s frames had become a rolling chassis and 150 supporters of the project were treated to the sight of Tornado ‘moving’ for the first time!

A ‘Pacific’ at last

2004 saw the launch of the Trust’s £500,000 bond issue to finance the construction of the boiler and complete the locomotive. Following a very good initial response and uptake of bonds it was announced that the Trust had chosen Dampflokwerk Meiningen and through its subsidiary DB Fahrzeuginstandhaltung GmbH (DB Rolling Stock Maintenance Company), as the supplier for the boiler and associated equipment for the new locomotive. This decision came as the culmination of almost three years of exhaustive discussions with a number of possible suppliers in the UK and continental Europe as well as with the authorities on certification and quality matters. The final design would be classified Diagram 118a and would be coal-fired with a steel firebox and all-welded barrel. Meiningen would be able to design, build and fully certify the boiler to current EU safety standards and this homologation was an important factor in selecting the company for the boiler’s construction.

2004-01851The Trust could also announce that No. 60163 Tornado was now a Pacific following the fitting of all four coupling rods to its six 6ft8in driving wheels which now rotated freely together for the first time. Each of the four 7ft 6in rods weighs around two hundredweight and after forging, extensive machining and heat treatment, and cost around £22,000 to manufacture. Work also started on the fitting of the rest of the outside motion. The bushes for the connecting rods were machined at Ian Howitt Ltd, Wakefield and one side of the locomotive had now been fitted with a mock-up of parts of its valve gear. This was to enable accurate measurements to be taken to set the length of the eccentric rod as the traditional method of heating the rod to stretch/shrink it used when the original Peppercorn A1s were built in 1948/9 is no longer recommended as it can affect the rod’s metallurgical properties. In addition, the six cast-iron valve chest liners were cryogenically shrunk into the valve chests. The liners were machined slightly oversize, placed in a bath of liquid nitrogen and inserted – as they warmed up they expanded to become a tight fit.

More and more parts… including a very big one!

By 2006 a multitude of smaller components was being added to the frames, including seemingly miles of pipework, sanders, brake components, valve heads and spindles and by the autumn the Trust was making great progress with the valve gear and motion components. The valve heads and spindles were now completed and in the works in Darlington. The oil box tops for the crosshead drop arm boxes and machining of the valve spindle crossheads were completed. and the cross heads white metalled.

Tornado boilerSummer 2006 – The boiler arrived! Following a successful hydraulic testing in Meiningen, witnessed by all the required approval bodies, Tornado’s boiler was given the confirmatory CE marking. After some very careful – and somewhat euphoric – inspection, the whole unit was parked overnight on the field behind the Locomotive Works. Sunday morning saw the early arrival of a large crane plus other lorry loads of associated equipment. The boiler was soon swinging gently from the crane ready to be lowered into the works. The superheater header casting was subjected to ultrasonic non-destructive testing at Keighley Laboratories and found to be sound. It was sent to Multi-Tech for machining. Great Northern Steam completed the ash pan and it was delivered to Darlington Locomotive Works where it was lowered into place on the frames to check the fit. Good progress had been made with the boiler clothing and the rocking grate lever brackets had been fitted to the back of the firebox. The chimney pattern was at South Lincs Patterns for casting.

A tender behind

Tornado’s tender was designed to benefit from all the modern features that could be applied; the tank is fully welded with additional water capacity – water is the biggest limiting factor on the main line and the small amount of coal space sacrificed has proved insignificant to our operations. In addition, the tender, like to locomotive, was equipped with roller bearings and houses the air brake reservoirs as well as an axle-driven alternator to generate power for the engine’s electronics and lighting, as well as that of the tender, much of which is located in cabinets on the tender front. The coal space is equipped with a sprinkler system to keep the dust down and the water space has a manhole in place of the usual filler to provide ease of access; watering is facilitated by low level fillers on both sides of the tender so that it can be replenished by tankers at intermediate stops.

William Cook Cast Products Ltd (the Trust’s premier sponsor) had agreed to sponsor the construction of the tender and cast and proof machined all the wheels for it. The axle boxes were also cast and machined. Timken delivered the Class D cartridge bearings to be fitted to the axles after the wheelsets were assembled by Ian Riley at Bury. The tender brake cylinders and the alternator mounting were fitted to the tender. Prior to assembling the tank, North View had completed the tender tank base which was moved to Ian Howitt’s at Crofton for fitting to the frames which were turned over by crane with BBC Sheffield’s cameraman present. Piecing together the TornadoBy autumn 2007 North View Engineering had completed the tender tank details (coal doors, feed pipe connections, shovel plate etc) and a successful water test was carried out. Ian Matthews painted the axleboxes and covers in grey and axles in finished red gloss. Ian Howitt completed the brake gear at Crofton and by the winter of 2007 had completed the spring gear. The main and brake reservoir receivers were fitted to the tender frames.

By the end of 2007 much of the brake gear had been fitted, the air system completed and much of the associated pipework finished. The motion was now largely complete and the boiler was in the frames, now the task was to finish the multitude of small tasks required to connect up all the components.

In steam for the first time!

By the start of 2008 the end of the project was within sight. A huge number of small tasks still needed to be completed but with the boiler in the frames and the key ancillaries attached it would only be a matter of days before the certification process could begin. In early January 2008 the hydraulic and boiler tests were successfully completed on the planned days, after some late night working. The hydraulic test was successfully completed on Monday 7th January 2008 in the presence of John Glaze (Boiler Inspector) and Paul Molyneux-Berry from the Deltarail VAB. The boiler was lit up for the first time by Dorothy Mather on Wednesday 9th January and allowed to warm slowly. Pressure was raised initially to 100 PSI on the following day and the live steam injector tested. This was fed from the DRPS loco water tank in the NELPG end of the building with the aid of several fire hoses kindly lent by NELPG. With the water tank delivery pump running, sufficient water was delivered to the injector to enable it to start first time. Pressure was subsequently raised to 175 PSI to further test the injector which continued to function correctly. On Friday 11th January, the formal steam test was carried out under the direction of John Glaze and Paul Molyneux-Berry and was successful.Tornado steam for the first time

With the boiler’s insurance ticket now running, the race was on to complete the locomotive. The main steam pipe components from Induction Pipe Bending Ltd in Sunderland were delivered, MultiTech of Featherstone then completed the main steam pipe flanges and Taylors of Leeds was contracted to fabricate and weld the steam pipe assembles from the kit of parts. DLW completed insulating the boiler and re-fitting the cladding, including manufacture of the trailing coupled wheel splashers. The firebox arch was cast in situ which enabled the fire hole door mask to be fitted which in turn permitted completion of the backhead cladding. GN Steam manufactured the fire hole leg guards and these were now fitted to the backhead. The chimney had been properly attached to the liner and set up in the correct position over the blastpipes and bolted to the smokebox – it was subsequently removed to facilitate access to the smokebox. The smokebox was fitted out including the anti-vacuum valve and top cover and the blastpipe fitted for the last time. The regulator cross shaft and other back head fittings were finally fitted. The boiler hand rails had been made and fitted. The cladding was thus effectively complete as ceramic fibre insulation and aluminium foil were fitted to the boiler, followed by the cladding sheets themselves.

Rob Morland fitted and commissioned much of the extremely complex electrical gear including the frame and injector overflow lights, the safety equipment in the cab cubicles, cab lighting, headlights and the roof mounted switch gear. On 3rd July 2008, Tornado rested on her springs for the first time, exactly 70 years to within an hour since fellow LNER designed locomotive Mallard reached the world steam speed record of 126mph. The rest of the month was occupied with final fitting miles of electrical cable and wiring up the components in the cubicles, finishing the cab fittings, completing the air braking systems and preparing and painting the loco and tender in works grey – the latter task undertaken by Ian Matthews to a very high standard.

Britain’s first all new main line locomotive moves for the first time

Finally, on the first weekend in August 2008, Tornado moved in steam for the first time, the culmination of eighteen years hard work lived and breathed in front of the assembled press, dignitaries and covenantors. Waved away by the Mayor of Darlington and with Dorothy Mather on the footplate, Tornado eased up and down the short length of track laid for the event.

After a successful debut at her birthplace, little time was wasted in moving the locomotive to the Great Central Railway at Loughborough for testing and running in. While at the GCR Tornado underwent extensive analysis by the vehicle acceptance bodies to ensure she would be fit to haul passenger trains on preserved lines and Network Rail. While at the Great Central Railway No. 60163 hauled her first passenger trains, initially for covenantors and then for the general public, and was the star guest at the railway’s gala. It might have been expected that some teething troubles would need fixing but the loco worked perfectly ‘straight out of the box’ and delighted the team that had built it. Test loads were gradually built up and culminated in the locomotive hauling eleven coaches and a ‘dead’ diesel and developing an estimated 2,000hp in doing so. The opportunity was also taken to run at 60mph and conduct track force tests for Delta Rail.

By the beginning of November Tornado had been transferred to the National Railway Museum which would act as her base for the three planned mainline test runs. These were a stepped series of trips with increasing loads and speeds finishing with a 75mph dash to Newcastle and back on the 17th November. The test runs were generally a success but the failure of the white metal of the inside and one of the outside crossheads led to an improvement in lubrication to the inner one and re-metalling of both. Delta Rail were once again on board for the Newcastle run and the locomotive and support coach were festooned with cables to facilitate this – after an astonishingly quick start from York the locomotive showed it had an incredible appetite for hard work and high-speed running, recording an amazing average of 71.2mph before the scheduled emergency stop just beyond Chester-le-Street (which also showed how well the brakes worked!).

With the locomotive returned to York for a visit to the paint shop at the NRM, the final pieces were added to the certification data and paperwork, allowing Delta Rail to report that Tornado had met the requirements for acceptance onto Network Rail, the Office of Rail Regulation issuing their own authorisation on the 27th January 2009. Meanwhile, Ian Matthews and his team worked their magic in the facilities kindly offered by the NRM, rubbing down the works grey and applying a pristine coat of LNER apple green with ‘BRITISH RAILWAYS’ in full on the tender. On 13th December the final result was unveiled before hundreds of covenantors and supporters of the Trust in the Great Hall at the National Railway Museum. The rest, as they say, is history…

In October 2018, the No. 60163 Tornado will haul the prestigious Belmond Royal Scotsman as part of an exclusive, 12-day rail tour of Great Britain, hosted exclusively by Golden Eagle Luxury Trains. To find out more, click here.

Tornado at Staveley, near Rotherham
Staveley, near Rotherham – Alan Weaver
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