TORNADO joins ‘ton up’ club - BUT IT’S ALL FOR 90
April 12 2017 - preservation’s July 3 - was a significant step towards regular high-speed steam.
One hundred miles per hour. The ‘ton’. The big one… officially reached for the first time since 1967 in the early hours of April 12. While Britain slept, preservation history was made; something seldom achieved even in steam days returned just for a moment. Spectacular as the 100mph headline is, this was actually about something more serious. For rather than being a sell-out, very special tour, it was a test trip, run as a key part of demonstrating that Tornado can run not at 100mph per se, but robustly at 90mph. Yet in the pursuit of the ‘10% over-speed’ to demonstrate that, the new-build ‘Pacific’ was permitted to run up to the symbolic ‘three figures’ - and so it did. It was a ‘hush-hush’ affair, carried out while the railway was at its quietest. As a result, instead of being greeted to a hero’s welcome as it returned to a darkened Doncaster following its southbound run over the racing track from Newcastle, the ‘A1’ was met by virtually deserted platforms. Probably no steam locomotive has ever been so closely measured and analysed using quite such sophisticated technology; an electronic display on the running board transmitted the temperature of the inside ‘big end’ through the darkness, and like an athlete on a running machine, No. 60163 was wired up - with accelerometers, and with a Doppler radar to measure speed. The new-build ‘Pacific’ was hung about with mini cameras too - though they were there for the BBC, which was out to film the momentous event.
That there was a serious purpose to the run was obvious. That there was a sense of anticipation among those who were there was also clear. The theory was known, but how would this new steam locomotive less than a decade old - actually behave in practice? Fuelled by coffee, people from the A1 Trust, from train operator DB Cargo, from elsewhere in the railway family and from the press were aboard and waiting to find out. Answers came gradually. Like that athlete, the ‘A1’ was warmed up slowly. North from Doncaster, the engine ran in the 80s and up to 90mph; it was only after the entire train of Tornado, nine coaches and a Class 67 were turned using the triangle alongside Newcastle’s King Edward Bridge, ready to set off for the return 80 miles, that the real high points came; high speed was aided too by the decision to take the ‘67’ off the train and instead have it ‘shadow’ the return run, dropping the weight the ‘Pacific’ had to heft from 405 to 315 tons. What followed was progress up into the mid-90s before the speed was brought down for signals then restrictions, then even higher after that on the 18-mile section south of Sessay. The symbolic moment, when the GPS recorders aboard a train identified only by its reporting number ‘596S’ flicked from 99mph to 100, came around Raskelf; the banks of GPS devices on board the train, including on the ‘A1’ itself, showed at least the ‘ton’. As for the needle on the engine’s own Smiths speedometer - that was up against the stop.
Neither was this just a fleeting, momentary affair; on board, eyes were fixed on the
readings as they continued to hover around the 100mph mark before the speed dropped away. Was there perhaps a nod of approval from the resting shapes of Mallard and Duchess of Hamilton at York, as a more recently built ‘Pacific’ slipped past all-but unnoticed in the darkness? Either way, it was the smiles later at Doncaster that really told the story. The events of April 12 do not mean the ‘A1’ is yet passed for 90mph passenger operation: that is hoped to follow in the next stage, once the data from the run is analysed. Nevertheless, it represents a key step on the road for what has long been an ambition for the A1 Trust. It is also the reward for months of planning across the railway, with organisations involved including not only Tornado’s owner and its train operator DB Cargo but also, in particular, Network Rail and the Rail Safety and Standards Board. Long-serving chairman of the A1 Trust Mark Allatt, who recently stepped down but who remains a trustee (SR464), said the night was the “culmination of the project that we launched in 1990.” “We said we were going to build a Peppercorn Class ‘A1’, we said we were going to run her on the main line and on preserved lines, and we said we were going to run her at express passenger speeds - and that was 90 - and we’ve done it. And in fact we’ve gone a bit faster than that!” “I’m grinning from ear to ear… it’s fantastic. It’s just nice to do yet another first with Tornado; we’re just going to have to keep thinking about what we do next.” The ‘big end’ sensor mounting tube, based on the original ‘stink bomb’ assembly carried by three-cylinder LNER locomotives, plug containing the electronics assembly and mobile handset running the receiver application. The middle ‘big end’ temperature sensor was custom-designed and built by Rob Morland and David Elliott of the A1 Steam Locomotive Trust, working with Steve Sims of specialist Cambridge sensor company Ziconix. The whole assembly is designed to cope with the challenging environment of the middle ‘big end’, which rotates at 400rpm when the locomotive reaches 100mph, generating a centrifugal force of 67g... Inset: And this is the temperature display, running on a mobile phone, mounted on the running board.