Tornado takeover: ‘A1’ sparkles on timetabled trains
Steam successfully replaces DMUs as the Settle-Carlisle line prepares for full line re-opening next March
The operation of similar trains in future should not be ruled out
‘THANK YOU for travelling with Northern’. Six simple words that summed up what February 14-16 was all about. And travel they did - early estimates put the number of people taking advantage of Tornado on timetabled trains, paying normal fares, at around ten times that of those travelling on the SettleCarlisle DMUs. Blanket TV, radio and newspaper coverage - and a blizzard of social media responses - heralded the initial day of trains that breathed much-needed life back into what had been a semi-moribund S&C. Reports went out live on the BBC including on BBC Breakfast - even before the first train had run. Extended by one coach to eight passenger vehicles, the ‘A1’-hauled trips offered around 6,000 seats across the three days - and still people were queuing at Skipton. On day one, train operator Northern Rail ran a ‘relief’ DMU immediately behind the 10.44am from Skipton so anyone who didn’t make it could reach Appleby for the return run. It fell to a locomotive that wasn’t even built five decades ago, when timetabled steam came to an end on the ‘Long Drag’, to prove it could still be done. Stabling overnight at Appleby, and hauling a set consisting of eight Riviera Mk 2s as well as its own Mk 1 support coach and DB diesel No. 67029, Tornado was timetabled for a series of two ‘out and backs’ to Skipton on each of the three days. Of those, two trains were ‘extras’ (but with normal tickets valid), while the other pair were a straight replacement of existing trains, re-timed to take account of the unusual locomotive and consist. Working tender-first on the initial 8.25am out of Appleby (where there is no turntable), the Peppercorn engine was forced to accept assistance from the ‘67’ behind the locomotive to keep schedule with its train that weighed some 375 tons without the diesel. But on the returning 10.44am, now chimney-first and with the diesel ‘locked out’ at the rear of the train, a thunderous performance from the A1 Trust’s ‘Pacific’ converted a nine-minute late departure from Skipton into a one-minute late arrival at Appleby. That followed stops at Settle and Kirkby Stephen - and being filmed by a BBC drone crossing Ribblehead Viaduct. Such was the essence of ‘Plandampf’, or timetabled steam - a concept the Germans have made work for more than a quarter-century, but which remains such a novelty here it can command so much media coverage. Developed to raise the profile of the S&C, which will remain shut until next month due to the half-million ton landslip at Eden Brows last winter, the ‘I Love S&C’ trains were a collaboration between Northern, Network Rail and DB Cargo, plus the A1 Trust, Friends of the Settle-Carlisle Line, and Steam Railway and our sister title RAIL. Representatives of the two magazines first mooted the idea around two years ago. For more coverage, see news feature: page 64.
As real as it gets: The 10.44am Skipton-Appleby limited stop Northern service train rolls into a busy Settle station on February 14, using 2008-built traction: No. 60163 Tornado.