Tornado, the first new main line steam locomotive to be built in Britain for almost 50 years, is currently visiting the West Country for the first time. The locomotive arrived in Minehead on Saturday 30 May 2009 after hauling the ‘Severn Coast Express’ organised by Pathfinder Tours from Gloucester via Cardiff and Bristol and will be pulling trains daily on the West Somerset Railway (WSR) between Minehead and Bishop’s Lydeard until Monday 15th June 2009.
The new £3m Peppercorn class A1 pacific steam locomotive was built over almost 20 years by The A1 Steam Locomotive Trust, a registered charity, at its Darlington Locomotive Works and was officially named Tornado by TRH The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall in February of this year. The locomotive has since entered regular service on excursion trains on the Network Rail main line. Frequently headlined in the national and international press and on TV and radio, No. 60163 Tornado was the subject of a BBC documentary ‘Absolutely Chuffed: The Men Who Built a Steam Engine’ broadcast on Christmas Eve on BBC2 last year and is soon to appear in an episode of the BBC’s ‘Top Gear’ programme racing a Jaguar XK120 car and Vincent Black Shadow motorcycle from London to Edinburgh with presenter Jeremy Clarkson on-board.
Paul Conibeare, general manager of the West Somerset Railway, commented:
“There has already been a terrific amount of interest in the visit of the engine following Tornado’s well-publicised introduction into railway service last year after a building project that had lasted nearly twenty years. Between June 1st and 11th it will do two round trips each day from Bishops Lydeard whilst between June 12th and the 14th it will be a star attraction in the ‘Mixed Traffic Weekend’. The irony is that the ‘Mixed Traffic’ event is one which features diesel locomotives dating from the 1960s and so Tornado will actually be the most modern machine in action on those three days. On Monday June 15th it does two more round trips and then leaves the WSR to return to main line excursion train duties. We very much hope to welcome the engine and its owners back to the Railway in the future but in the meantime we are very much enjoying seeing and hearing this magnificent locomotive at work.”
In addition to hauling trains every day on the West Somerset Railway, there are a limited number of unique opportunities for footplate rides on Tornado available to members of the public. The footplate rides available are from Williton to Minehead, from Minehead to Watchet and from Williton to Bishops Lydeard. The cost for each journey will be £125 (enquries to 01643 704996 0900 – 1700) and the available dates are:
Wednesday 3rd June (afternoon only)
Thursday 4th June (afternoon only)
Friday 5th June (morning only)
Saturday 6th June (afternoon only)
Sunday 7th June (morning and afternoon)
Monday 8th June (afternoon only)
Tuesday 9th June (morning and afternoon)
Wednesday 10th June (afternoon only)
Thursday 11th June (morning and afternoon)
Mark Allatt, chairman of The A1 Steam Locomotive Trust added:
“We are delighted that the West Somerset Railway has chosen to bring Tornado to the West Country for the first time. We hope that railway enthusiasts and members of the public who have followed Tornado’s progress in the press will take this opportunity to travel behind her or on her footplate during her summer holiday on this delightful heritage railway.”
The Trust respectfully requests that anyone wanting to see Tornado's passenger trains follows the rules of the railway and only goes where permitted.
Tornado will be at the West Somerset Railway – www.west-somerset-railway.co.uk – from Sunday 31st May to Sunday 14th June 2009.