Tor­nado’s new Dar­ling­ton home, and the ‘Ja­co­bite’ for Easter 2017

AND NOT FOR THE FIRST TIME

Steam Railway (UK) - - Contents -

Tor­nado’s builders could cel­e­brate ‘Shildon 200’ in 2025 from their own depot in Dar­ling­ton - a home for the ‘A1’ and ‘P2’ plus train, and cra­dle for a third main liner. That’s not me say­ing that - it’s the A1 Trust it­self. It was half a cen­tury ago, on March 26 this year, since the last Dar­ling­ton steam shed closed and, in­ter­est­ingly, ‘A1’ No. 60124 Ke­nil­worth was one of the last en­gines to leave. It had rarely been given any work, and it stood around for a cou­ple of months be­fore be­ing towed to Draper’s yard at Hull for break­ing up. The ‘A1’ or­gan­i­sa­tion’s an­nual get-to­gether on Oc­to­ber 1 amounted to the mo­ment when No. 60163’s builder moved pub­licly and de­ci­sively along a path away from a ‘sin­gle (or even dou­ble) lo­co­mo­tive owner’ to some­thing much broader. The prospect - aim even - is to be­come another Ty­se­ley or Crewe, with ev­ery­thing needed to of­fer main line steam trips, short of an op­er­at­ing li­cence. Plus, in this case, the spe­cific pur­pose of build­ing en­gines, too. Now, while the con­ven­tion’s 240 peo­ple heard en­tic­ing plans to run Tor­nado at 90mph and for a Mk 3 train (as de­tailed in last is­sue’s Down Main), plus con­fir­ma­tion that a Gres­ley ‘V4’ is planned af­ter the ‘P2’ (see over), the re­ally sig­nif­i­cant move is ar­guably some­thing else. That is the trust’s am­bi­tion for “a new site in the Dar­ling­ton area with larger fa­cil­i­ties for new steam lo­co­mo­tive con­struc­tion, main­te­nance, op­er­a­tions and ed­u­ca­tion.” It’s the pro­posed new ‘su­per HQ’ that gives No. 60163’s cre­ators the abil­ity to pull their other am­bi­tions to­gether. Tor­nado’s birth­place in the old 1853-built Stock­ton & Dar­ling­ton car­riage works on Hopetown Lane may have been chez Trust for over 20 years, but it is not rail-con­nected. Also, while the ‘A1’ and the ‘P2’s’ frames have been in­side to­gether, that’s been achieved by putting the ‘P2’ to one side of the door, on a bit of floor with­out rails. ‘Pacifics’ and ‘Mika­dos’ are big things, and Hopetown is not overly blessed when it comes to space for cat-swing­ing… In con­trast, this planned new home would be a set of points away from the na­tional net­work - and have “the po­ten­tial for a turntable and a car­riage shed for the new train.”

Shed start

It’s am­bi­tious, but then so was build­ing a new 4-6-2 ‘for the price of a pint’ back in 1990. Am­bi­tion in this case means maybe £3-£5 mil­lion

It’s am­bi­tious, but then so was build­ing a new 4‑6‑2 ‘for the price of a pint’ back in 1990

- or the cost of another en­gine. How­ever, while ‘replica’ lo­co­mo­tives fall out­side the re­mit of the Her­itage Lot­tery Fund, sheds maybe don’t, and in ad­di­tion to Net­work Rail and Dar­ling­ton Bor­ough Coun­cil, the trust has been speaking to the Lot­tery Fund. All these or­gan­i­sa­tions, it says, “have been sup­port­ive of the plan.” So, what is that plan? As yet, the trust hasn’t con­firmed where the new fa­cil­ity will be. How­ever, al­though this hasn’t drawn much pub­lic­ity, it has in the past ex­pressed in­ter­est in a rare sur­vivor: a four-road Stock­ton and Dar­ling­ton 1860s en­gine shed, less than a mile from its cur­rent home. Like Hopetown, that re­mark­able find also lies along­side the Bishop Auck­land branch (aka the S&D), but just across the Whes­soe Road from the for­mer Dar­ling­ton Works that closed in 1966 to have its space taken by re­tail­ers like Mor­risons; the shed site is still owned by NR, but it’s now oc­cu­pied by lo­cal busi­nesses. Trust chair­man Mark Al­latt told me that his or­gan­i­sa­tion was “look­ing at a num­ber of sites in the Dar­ling­ton area,” when I quizzed him in Oc­to­ber. But he added that: “Yes, con­ver­sa­tions are most ad­vanced with one site.” Dis­cus­sions with the HLF, NR and coun­cil had taken place over “an ex­tended pe­riod of time,” he said and added that the trust now has a ded­i­cated pro­ject man­ager in place to take the depot scheme for­ward. “By the time of the 200th an­niver­sary of the Stock­ton and Dar­ling­ton Rail­way, the trust is hope­ful that it will have com­pleted its sec­ond en­gine and started on a third, com­pleted its main line train and moved to a new main line rail-con­nected site.” Wouldn’t that be some­thing to cel­e­brate? Es­pe­cially if the new HQ for the ‘A1’ et al does end up be­ing a for­mer ‘S&D’ en­gine shed - a home for new steam, so close to where Dar­ling­ton’s great works once stood.

ROBERT FAL­CONER

‘A1’ No. 60163 Tor­nado heads the ‘Bel­mond Bri­tish Pull­man’ at Gomshall on Oc­to­ber 22.

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