Tornado’s new Darlington home, and the ‘Jacobite’ for Easter 2017
AND NOT FOR THE FIRST TIME
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.”
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.
‘A1’ No. 60163 Tornado heads the ‘Belmond British Pullman’ at Gomshall on October 22.