Twenty five years ago, in June 1994, we made the following announcement:
The A1 Steam Locomotive Trust announced today that it was opening a register for those interested in helping to build a Gresley P2 class locomotive once the new A1 is completed.
The class P2s were the most powerful passenger locomotives to run on Britain’s railways. They were designed by the legendary Sir Nigel Gresley, Chief Mechanical Engineer of the London and North Eastern Railway (LNER) from 1923 until his death in 1941, who was also the designer of Flying Scotsman, arguably the world’s most famous locomotive and the first to reach 100 mph and Mallard, the holder of the world speed record for steam traction of 126 mph since 1938.
The class P2s were of a 2-8-2, or Mikado, wheel arrangement, in itself unique for a main line express passenger locomotive in the UK. The original six class P2s were built in Doncaster between 1934 and 1936 for use on the main line between Edinburgh and Aberdeen where their enormous power and adhesion was used to haul the heaviest trains over this line of twisting curves and severe gradients. The original locomotives, No. 2001-2006, were given evocative names associated with the route over which they worked: No. 2001 Cock o’ the North, No. 2002 Earl Marischal, No. 2003 Lord President, No. 2004 Mons Meg, No. 2005 Thane of Fife and No. 2006 Wolf of Badenoch.
Although undoubtedly a success in the role they were designed for, they fell victim to internal LNER politics and were rebuilt to become class A2/2 Pacifics in 1943/4 by Gresley’s successor, Edward Thompson. In their final form they were not particularly successful and were scrapped between 1959 and 1961.
David Champion, Chairman, The A1 Steam Locomotive Trust, commented, “It has always been the Trust’s intention that Peppercorn class A1 No. 60163 Tornado would be the first in a series of lost but not forgotten ex-LNER steam locomotives to be built by the Trust. Now that work is well underway on constructing the first of these, the 50th class A1, we have decided to make our next objective clear and set up a register of those interested in and who might have information on the class P2s.
“There are three main reasons for making this announcement now. First, as with No. 60163, the new P2 will require several years of careful research before we can start to cut metal – by starting this work now with the research team who have almost completed their work on the A1, we can ensure that we keep our volunteer teams together, build upon skills already learnt and be ready to start construction of the P2 immediately following the completion of the A1.
“Second, there are many common parts between A1s and P2s, including the boiler, and so it is only sensible to make use of this economy of scale. Finally, it is only by successfully completing Tornado that we can go on to build more ex-LNER steam locomotives. I would urge all of those interested in building a new P2, and others, to come forward and covenant towards the completion of No. 60163 Tornado.”
David Champion – A1SLT