A new age of steam began yesterday at York station when some 1,000 people gathered to see The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall name Tornado, a Peppercorn class A1 steam locomotive. It was the culmination of 19 years work by the A1 Steam Locomotive Trust to build a new steam engine in the grand tradition of the Flying Scotsman.

Prince Charles inspected the controls and praised the skilled work of the Trust, before embarking for a journey to Leeds. He called the success of the project ‘a tribute to all of those incredible British engineering skills which made this country so famous’. Mark Allatt, chairman of the Trust, said: ‘This is the rebirth of main-line steam in the UK. It fills a missing link in the preservation of steam locomotives.’

The A1 class of steam engines were designed by Arthur Peppercorn, the last chief mechanical engineer of the London and North Eastern Railway. The original 49 Peppercorn Class A1s were ideal for the post-war time, being able to run on lower-grade coal than their predecessors, and were the most reliable of all British Railways’ trains. They could reach speeds of up to 100mph and could pull up to 600 tons. Sadly, the move to diesel power in the 1960s meant that all 49 were scrapped, and attempts to save any of the engines all failed.

Now, the 50th A1 has been built to the same design as the lost locomotives, with necessary adjustments to fit modern requirements. The water capacity has been increased from 5,000 gallons to about 6,200 gallons, allowing Tornado to travel for about 300 miles non-stop, or King’s Cross to Newcastle. The old engines were designed to pull heavy post-war trains, limiting them to an average of 60–70mph on level track, but Tornado will be able to pull lighter, 10/11-coach trains at higher speeds.

Tornado will run main-line services open to the public, with the next being on February 28, from York to Edinburgh. On April 18, the first return trip from King’s Cross to York will take place, with Pullman class seats available at £449 per person. For details of how to book your seat on all Tornado’s scheduled journeys, telephone 01325 460163 or visit www.a1steam.com.

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