60163 Tornado

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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 recognized 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 in March 1990 to discuss the feasibility of building a replica Peppercorn A1 locomotive. The first public meeting was held at the Railway Institute, York, in April 1990.

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 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.

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.

The organisation was based around four principles:

  • It would have to be run using the best business practices by people experienced in the appropriate areas.
  • The funding method would have to be simple, and capable of being understood and afforded by virtually anyone.
  • Because of the enormity of the task, there would have to be a single aim to focus on, the project’s mission statement – “The building and operation of an A1” – against which all proposed actions would be judged.
  • The rules of the organisation would prohibit cliques and any form of élitism. Everyone would achieve recognition based on effort rather than size of cheque book. This would enable all efforts to go into the building of the ‘A1’.

Before the construction of 60163 began, copies of all the relevant design drawings had to be obtained and any necessary updating/redesigning undertaken. The Trust examined about 400 drawings located in the archives of the National Railway Museum and produced a computerised catalogue of a further 300 drawings cross referenced from those already examined.

The Trust continued to research into the background of the A1 design and their operations in British Railways’ service. Invaluable information was provided by many contemporary railwaymen, including Mr J F Harrison, former assistant Mr A H Peppercorn (the designer of the A1s) during their design and Mr Peter Townend, Shedmaster at Kings Cross locomotive sheds during the late 1950s.

In order to control the design and manufacture of the locomotive, manuals were prepared to ensure the standardisation of areas such as quality, tolerances, dimensioning, material specifications, configuration control and contractual procedures.

Tornado was built by the Locomotive Construction Co Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of the A1 Steam Locomotive Trust. The assembly of Tornado has mostly taken place at the A1 Trust’s Darlington Locomotive Works, bringing together components manufactured around the country, and some from overseas.


Actual manufacture and construction started in 1994, before the Darlington works opened, with casting of the cylinders and wheels, cutting of the frames and construction of the cab. The locomotive frames were assembled at Tyseley Locomotive Works and completed by October 1996.

In March 1997, Tornado, as a completed frame and inside cylinder, was displayed in the Great Hall at the NRM for several weeks before returning to Tyseley to await completion of the facilities at Darlington works. The elements of Tornado were brought together with the opening of Darlington Locomotive Works in 1997, and the opening ceremony saw the unveiled locomotive, now consisting of the frame with its three cylinders and cab attached. Spring 1998 saw the smokebox construction started and the tyres fitted, and by 1999 forging of the motion components had started, with the first delivery of components commencing in January 2000.


By September 1999, the last wheel had been pressed onto the wheelset and by January 2000, the front bogie had been assembled. With the fitting of these parts, the mounting of the frame onto the wheelset, and fitting of the smokebox, by the end of 2000, the most visible missing parts of Tornado were the boiler and tender.

Post-2000, assembly and setting of the motion proceeded, and attention turned to the design of the boiler; a £250,000 appeal was launched. Tornado became a rolling chassis by October 2002, and achieved the first synchronous movement of the motion and all wheels in August 2004.


2005 saw construction of the boiler in Germany, with construction begun in October, and completed in time for delivery in July 2006. By June 2007 Tornado’s internal construction was sufficiently complete to allow fitting of the boiler to the frame, using a 100-ton crane. The most complex casting, the superheater header, was started in 2007, and after defeating two foundries the complex shape was cast by a third supplier.

Owing to space constraints at Darlington works, the Tornado tender frames and body were built off-site, with the body being significantly built locally in Darlington. The tender wheelsets were assembled by Riley & Son (E) Ltd. The tender frame and wheelset were united by December 2007, and the tank attached to it by February 2008.


A computer simulation was used to assist in the setting up of the valves and motion. The boiler safety valves were tested on LNER Class A4 60009 Union of South Africa at the Severn Valley Railway before their delivery to Meiningen for fitting to the boiler.

In July 2006, the boiler was hydraulically tested at the manufacturer’s factory at one-and-a-half times working pressure and was passed safe and two years later in January 2008 the boiler passed its first steam test. The boiler was noted by the inspector to be a very rapid boiler, boding well for use on the main line. As also noted by the inspector, being brand new Tornado’s boiler exhibited no leaks of any kind during the test, in contrast to heritage restorations.

At that time the tender body was not yet finished, so the test was conducted using a water bowser. The boiler was creating steam so efficiently that the water supply was being used faster than it could be replenished by the mains water supply to the works. In order to complete the test and not prematurely damp down the fire, an emergency call for water was made to the local fire brigade, who responded with a fire tender to supply more water.

Steam Trials

Low speed trials of Tornado as a live steam locomotive first occurred on the 500-foot long Darlington works track. After a series of private tests in the days beforehand, in which Tornado made its first in-steam moves on 29 July, Tornado was launched on 1 August 2008, moving up and down the test siding in front of the press.

The 1 August launch was timely, as it coincided with the 40th anniversary of the end of steam on British Railways, on 4 August 1968, and with the 60th anniversary of the entry into traffic of No. 60114 W.P. Allen, the first Peppercorn A1 class locomotive.

From Darlington works, Tornado was moved by road on two articulated lorries to the Great Central Railway (GCR), where it would perform mileage accumulation and testing, before hauling her first passenger trains.

Tornado performed its first non-stop mile run at the GCR on 21 August, and hauled its first empty trains on 22 August.

It was Planned that Tornado would have around 2,000 miles of running to bed in, before moving to the main line proper. Following HM Railway Inspectorate (HMRI) approval, 60 mph running was achieved by the end of September 2008. Prior to mid-October 2008, Tornado had achieved 1,000 miles of fault-free running and by the end of October, Tornado had completed 1,500 miles.

On 21 October 2008, Tornado arrived at the National Rail Museum in York, and was first put on display in the Great Hall for a few days. Tornado then remained operationally based at the NRM behind the scenes, for final preparations and testing on the main line, reaching speeds of up to 75 mph, before an expected main line debut in February 2009.

Following the completion of the mainline test runs, Tornado entered the NRM paintshop to receive its first proper livery, and was unveiled in a launch ceremony on 13 December 2008. After some brief further work behind the scenes, Tornado returned to the NRM turntable on 22 December and was displayed there over the Christmas period until 11 January 2009, whereupon she was moved back into the workshops to undergo preparation for its main line passenger debut.

Inaugural Main Line Runs

Tornado completed its first passenger trip on Network Rail East Coast main line on 31 January 2009, a return trip from York to Newcastle, via Darlington and Durham. Tornado’s first trip to London, was hauling an A1 Trust Talisman railtour on 7 February 2009 from Darlington to King’s Cross.

Tornado continues to be operated on the Network Rail main line by DB Schenker, under an agreement with the A1 Steam Locomotive Trust which has been in place since the locomotive’s completion in 2008. It does make visits to heritage railways but because of concerns about road haulage it only travels to lines which can be accessed via the mainline railway network.

In February 2017 Tornado worked the first timetabled ordinary main line passenger train for nearly 50 years when it operated on the Settle Carlisle route.

In April 2017 the locomotive achieved a speed of 100mph on a secret night time run on the East Coast line between Doncaster and Newcastle. This was the first time this speed has been achieved by a British steam engine since 1967.

The run was organised as part of the progress towards the ambition of the owners of the locomotive held to be able to haul main line passenger trains at 90mph rather than the current 75mph limit. As part of the exercise two emergency stops were made whilst the train was travelling at speeds of 84.5mph and 88mph.

Tornado achieved the 100mph on the return journey to Doncaster whilst hauling nine coaches between Thirsk and York (between Raskelf and Tollerton)

Whilst operating on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway in March 2018 the locomotive achieved the 100,000 miles in service milestone.

Due to a lorry running into a bridge on the Esk Valley line Tornado had to be moved from the North Yorkshire Moors Railway to the Severn Valley Railway by road.

In April 2018 after been given clearance to run at 90mph (the normal speed limit was 75mph) on a railtour from Kings Cross to York the locomotive suffered severe damage to its inside motion and had to be replaced by a diesel.

The locomotive was still at the Nene Valley Railway where it had not been returned to steam by August 2018. The hope was that it would be back on the main line in September 2018 after completing a planned 750 miles of running in on the Nene Valley Railway.

The report into the incident in April will not be made public until the locomotive is operational again.

In November 2018 the owners of the locomotive announced that the locomotive would not haul any rail tours on the main line during 2018 despite being scheduled to do so. It was anticipated though that a main line test run would take place in December or early in 2019. Unusually for the locomotive it was  used at the end of November and during December 2019 to haul Santa Specials and other trains on the Nene Valley Railway.

In January 2019 the locomotive completed its first main line test run. During the run it was found that the exhaust timing was slightly off beat throughout the run. When the locomotive was examined it was revealed that a motion pin on the left-hand combination lever had run warm and a further inspection found some minor distortion. The owners then said that the issue should not affect the main line schedule for the locomotive but this proved not to be the case.

Following the test runs the locomotive was taken to Barrow Hill Roundhouse for further examination.

The locomotive returned to main line operating in March 2019.

In 2019 two boilers were ordered by the A1 Steam Locomotive Trust from DB Meiningen Works in Germany. One is for P2 Prince of Wales and one for 60163 Tornado. The boiler currently on Tornado will be overhauled for future use when the new boiler is fitted.

Tornado was based at the Wensleydale Railway at Leeming Bar for winter maintenance with the intention to move it to Darlington when the new facility there is available.

Just before the lockdown for Corvid-19 came into effect during March 2020 the locomotive was moved to the National Railway Museum at York for safe storage.

Later in 2020 the locomotive moved to West Coast Railways at Carnforth where by early September it had been repainted in BR green.

In November 2021 the locomotive was taken out of service for examination with a potential intermittent valve issue. Further investigation revealed that Tornado had suffered a number of wheel flats caused by wheel slide during the leaf fall season. A number of wheel flats on the tender were found to be beyond limits for mainline operation. New driving and tender wheel tyres will be fitted during the locomotives upcoming overhaul as re-profiling the existing tyres was not considered to be a viable option.

In November 2021 the locomotive moved to the Great Central Railway where it will be fitted with the European Train Control System (ETCS) as part of the trial of the equipment on steam locomotives.

The overhaul of the locomotive will start in February 2022.

The overhaul of the locomotive started in February 2022. The tender was sent to Locomotive Maintenance Services in Loughborough whilst the wheelsets will be fitted with new tyres at South Devon Railway Engineering. The boiler is being sent to Germany for servicing as the production of two new boilers was delayed by six months due to Covid-19. The rest of the overhaul work is being undertaken at the Great Central Railway.

In November 2022 the boiler passed its hydraulic tests at DB’s steam locomotive works at Meiningen in Germany before being delivered to Darlington Locomotive Works. The boiler will be steam tested before being moved to Loughborough for fitting back onto the frames of the locomotive. Following this the re-assembly work will be undertaken with the aim of having the locomotive in operation in the Spring of 2023.

Home BaseCurrent StatusOwner
DoncasterUnder OverhaulThe A1 Steam Locomotive Trust

60163 Tornado still in grey undercoat paint at Quorn and Woodhouse on the Great Central Railway – September 2008
60163 Tornado in the National Railway Museum at York – January 2009
60163 Tornado at Kings Cross – April 2009
60163 Tornado arriving at York-2009
60163 Tornado and 60532 Blue Peter at Barrow Hill – 2009
60163 Tornado at Gloucester Central on a train to London Victoria – November 2009
60163 Tornado at Ropley on the Mid Hants Railway – March 2010
60163 Tornado heads north at Winwick – April 2010
60163 Tornado heads 71000 Duke of Gloucester at Bury on the East Lancashire Railway – October 2010
60163 Tornado at Didcot – June 2011
60163 Tornado at Bewdley on the Severn Valley Railway – September 2011
60163 Tornado at llangollen – April 2012
60163 Tornado heading the Cathedrals Express from Colchester to York at Whittlesea – May 2012
60163 Tornado at Bath Spa hauling the Cathedrals Express from Victoria – November 2012
60163 Tornado leaving Stirling for Edinburgh at the head of the Cathedrals Express – June 2013
60163 Tornado on the Mid Hants Railway – October 2013
60163 Tornado on the Bluebell Railway – July 2014
60163 Tornado at Bewdley on the Severn Valley Railway – November 2019

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