25 years ago this day, construction started on Tornado

The A1 Steam Locomotive Trust marks birthday before historic first visit of Tornado to Tenby

It’s hard to believe that on this day 25 years ago – Wednesday 13th July 1994 – the construction of No. 60163 Tornado officially started at the then British Steel facility in Leeds. Mrs Dorothy Mather, the late President of The A1 Steam Locomotive Trust and widow of Arthur Peppercorn, ceremonially started the CNC Plasma and Oxy fuel profile cutting system which cut the main frames from steel donated by British Steel.


Watched by David Champion, Dorothy Mather starts the frame-cutter – A1SLT

The Peppercorn class A1s were designed by Arthur Peppercorn for the London & North Eastern Railway and 49 were built in 1948/49 by British Railways. However, following dieselisation, all were scrapped by 1966. The A1 Steam Locomotive Trust was formed in 1990 to right that wrong and build a brand-new Peppercorn class A1. The ‘impossible’ project took rather longer than initially anticipated but Tornado was finally unveiled to the world’s press outside Darlington Locomotive Works on 1st August 2008 – the first new main line steam locomotive to be built in Britain for over 50 years and the first by public subscription.

Frequently headlined in the press and on TV, Tornado was the subject of the 2008 BBC documentary ‘Absolutely Chuffed: The Men Who Built a Steam Engine’ and was undoubtedly the real star of BBC Top Gear’s ‘Race to the North’ with Jeremy Clarkson on the footplate which first aired in 2009.  Tornado went on to receive publicity world-wide for the ‘I S&C’ Plandampf-style trains to mark the reopening of the Settle & Carlisle Railway in February 2017 and her 100mph test run on the East Coast Main Line in April 2017 – the first British steam locomotive to reach 100mph for 50 years and the subject of a second BBC documentary ‘Tornado – the 100mph Steam Engine’. To the delight of her younger fans, Tornado had a starring role in PADDINGTON 2 the movie which was released globally in 2017.

Members of Tornado’s crew with her birthday cake at Tenby on 13th July – A1SLT

David Champion, President, The A1 Steam Locomotive Trust, commented, “What a 25 years it has been! After 18 years of construction and fundraising the new £3m locomotive was unveiled to the world’s press at Darlington Locomotive Works in August 2008. Since completion, No. 60163 Tornado has covered over 100,000 miles and seen service on the Network Rail main line and heritage railways right across Great Britain. Some of the highlights have included three Royal Trains, with the first following the naming of the new locomotive by TRH The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall in February 2009 in honour of the now retired RAF aircraft; ‘The Winton’ train to commemorate the 70th anniversary on the Kinder Transport and the rescuing of stranded commuters in Kent.”

In June 2019, The A1 Steam Locomotive Trust announced that it had placed a £1m order with DB Meiningen for two new boilers for its two steam locomotives. The order is to supply the boiler for new Gresley class P2 No. 2007 Prince of Wales, currently under construction at Darlington Locomotive Works, and a ‘spare’ boiler for use on both No. 2007 and No. 60163 Tornado. This order will enable the Trust to rotate the three identical boilers over its two locomotives, with two operational boilers and one ‘spare’ undergoing overhaul at any one time. DB Meiningen delivered Tornado’s original boiler in July 2006.

The first new boiler – to be fitted to No. 60163 Tornado during its next overhaul – will be delivered in September 2020 with the second – to be fitted to No. 2007 Prince of Wales – scheduled to be delivered in July 2021. The funding of No. 60163 Tornado’s contribution to the ‘spare’ boiler will come from extending its ‘I 60163’ fundraising campaign – 100 supporters donating £601.63 in up to six payments – beyond the 100-supporter target.

David Champion continued, “In order to ensure we have the funds available for No. 60163 Tornado’s overhauls we need to raise in excess of £250,000 each year. Our Covenantor scheme – an A1 for the price of a pint of beer a week – raised the funds to build Tornado and now provides the essential support to keep our locomotive in tip-top condition. To ensure we keep Tornado on the main line where she belongs, we would be delighted to welcome you on-board as a Covenantor, from as little as £2.50 each week.”

Tornado is now fulfilling the dream of those who helped to build her, hauling main line steam excursions, visiting heritage railways and giving joy to thousands of passengers and linesiders who want to witness the legend in action.  You can be part of this by travelling with us, becoming a Covenantor or by donation to the I 60163 appeal for the ‘spare’ boiler – helping us to raise the funds to keep the dream alive.”