By their building and successfully operating a replica Peppercorn ‘A1’ No. 60163 Tornado, the A1 Steam Locomotive Trust has justifiably earned a good reputation. So why do they risk this reputation and jeopardise the future running of steam locomotives on the main line, by rostering their locomotive to achieve faster timings, with heavier loads than has ever been demanded before by management experienced in the operation of this class of locomotive? To do so incurs a high risk, as was evidenced by the serious failure near Sandy on April 14. The owners may claim the failure was not speed‑related, but risk increases with speed and the fact that it occurred when 90mph was reached must be significant. My railway career started at York just as the ‘A1s’ were entering traffic. They were designed to haul 500‑600 ton loads at average speeds of 60mph. In this work, they were extremely successful with high reliability, availability and low maintenance costs – the characteristics required for today’s steam operations. They were not, however, 90mph locomotives and were only allocated to work high‑speed trains in emergencies – and then only with relatively light loads. The fastest rostered work I have been able to find for these locomotives is on the 7.50am King’s Cross to Leeds/Bradford ‘Business Flyer’ in the 1950s. The booked time start to stop from Hitchin to Retford was 96½ minutes for the 107 miles, with the load restricted to 315 tons tare. This compares with the 82 minutes pass to pass required by the streamlined trains before the war to keep their 127‑minute timing from the King’s Cross to Doncaster pass, and this with a load of 278 tons tare. The observation car was only added in the summer, making the load 319 tons. So why did the A1 Trust allow Tornado to take a load of 12 carriages, of 417 tons tare, on the ‘Ebor Flyer’, with timings equal to those of the pre‑war streamlined trains? This was four coaches more, or a 50% overload, whichever way you like to put it, based on previous experience. From the mid‑1950s, it became necessary to accelerate the East Coast timetable to compete with road and air competition. The manager in charge of the line was the experienced operator G.F. Fiennes, who exhorted his team of the need to reduce journey times and proclaimed the faster you go, the cheaper you go – and for the need for no less than 3,000 horsepower ‘under the bonnet’. However, having reviewed all the options with his operating and motive power experts, Fiennes came to the conclusion that the only way to achieve shorter journey times, until Deltics arrived, was to reduce loads to eight or nine carriages and run more trains hauled by Gresley ‘Pacifics’. He did not take the view that he could keep the loads high and use ‘A1s’. There is surely a lesson from experience here for the A1 Trust. Similarly, in 1978, when BR first allowed preserved steam over the Settle to Carlisle line, T.C.B. Miller (then Chief Engineer Traction & Rolling Stock BR) wished me good luck, but added ‘do not expect steam to do what diesels and electrics will do’. These were wise words of experience which are as pertinent today as they were 40 years ago. No one should underestimate the seriousness of the Sandy incident. The fractured heavy mechanical parts which dropped on the line at 90mph could have come to rest under the wheels of the train or jammed in a pair of points, causing derailment. It resulted in 2,400 minutes of delay to other trains and nine full or partial cancellations. Many passengers’ days were inconvenienced or spoilt. Compensation for train delays will have far exceeded the £5,000 cap on charter trains’ delay penalties, with the balance eventually picked up by the taxpayer. I have already heard it suggested that the £5,000 cap should not apply to steam trains running on the principal main lines. If imposed, it would severely restrict operations because of the difficulty of obtaining insurance for the higher risk. It is also a serious black mark against preserved steam locomotive owners generally, who will suffer if there is any tightening up of the rules of operation. I suggest the A1 Trust can achieve its objective of a reasonable journey time to York by using diesel or electric locomotives one way and using a water carrier to eliminate stops for water the other. 90mph is not necessary to achieve an acceptable visiting time in York. It should, in theory, reduce the load by three or four carriages and in turn increase the fare per passenger by around £30; irrespective of the increased risk from the higher speed and the higher maintenance costs. The type of water carrier used by Tyseley accommodates 3,000 gallons and this should not require reducing the payload by more than one carriage, bearing in mind the weight reduces as the water is consumed and a total of 8,500 gallons should be sufficient for a journey from King’s Cross to York without replenishing en route. Performance addicts will not like this suggestion, but they are very much a minority market and their specialised requirements for high speed should not be agreed to the detriment of safety.
[‘A1s’] WERE ONLY ALLOCATED TO WORK HIGH-SPEED TRAINS IN EMERGENCIES DAVID WARD
I doubt whether many of them have been on the footplate of a steam locomotive at 90mph and witnessed first-hand the increased stress on the locomotive and on the footplate crew. The A1 Trust’s plans for completion of the ‘P2’ followed by building a new Bantam Cock, the construction of a purposebuilt depot at Darlington, and a set of modern carriages is surely the best way forward and the one most likely to succeed. David Ward, former director of BR Special Trains, by email A1 Trust Operations Director Graeme Bunker responds: David’s comments are made before investigations have been concluded into the incident, including our independent report from First Class Partnerships, so clearly we have not yet had a chance to digest and implement recommendations yet to be made to us. Tornado was built with the intention that it could run beyond the current 75mph historic steam speed limit. It is fitted with roller bearings, enhanced lighting and other enhancements as part of that ambition. The ECML is also a different location to the 1950s, being all continuously welded rail, and key speed limits like the 20mph at Peterborough station removed. The last passenger run of the class in BR service achieved over 100mph, demonstrating that the ‘A1’ was one of the best of ECML express passenger designs. David is right that the locomotives were preferred on the heavier trains, and were remarkably efficient when running them, but they were quite happy running in the 80s and when required a little faster, and that is all we have considered is reasonable to ask of Tornado. The train on April 14 was 12 vehicles of Mk 1 and Mk 2 design. The inclusion of the Mk 2s meant a need for an ETH supply and therefore a generator car was included, raising the train from 11 to 12 carriages. However, the eight Mk 2s in the consist are lighter and on ‘B4’ bogies compared to the heavier Commonwealth type, and thus the overall weight of the train is not at great variation to a full Mk 1 train. In 2013, ‘A4’ Bittern ran well with 11 vehicles on its last 90mph run, and on Tornado’s trial run in 2017, it was running with a higher load than April 14 and cruised effortlessly in the 80s (SR466). We would never plan to run a full 13-coach charter train set at such speeds, but we also only timed the train to need to run in the 80s on the favourable stretches of the ECML. If Tornado had not exceeded 82mph, and made measured climbs of Stoke Bank, then all the passing times would still have been achieved. At the time of the failure the locomotive was only being asked to produce 1,150hp; well inside its capabilities. The 90mph figure, in some ways, is a red herring, as we do not set out to ensure we achieve that speed. Our intent is to be as efficient and as effective as possible. For example, if we can achieve a four-hour York schedule through Network Rail’s strategic charter paths initiative, then the maximum speed is somewhat irrelevant. Speed for speed’s sake is not what we are seeking and if we cover the ground too fast it is not the relaxing day out that most passengers prefer. In the correct place, water carriers have their uses, as Vintage Trains demonstrates to great effect. However, with Tornado having a range of around 115 miles on one tender of water (depending on the route/diagram) there are little or no timing benefits for us on the ECML. If running to York from London there is no way a steam charter at sensible times of the day won’t get looped and that creates a water stop, so the weight penalty of a water carrier isn’t justified. We are considering water carrying capacity in our own train, but this is more about reliability of supply than speeding up of trains. I am pleased to see David’s support for our own plans for the ‘P2’ and ‘V4’. With a dedicated train, the offer should be attractive and commensurate with running steam in the 21st century. For this, we are grateful of his support and look forward to welcoming him on board.
SINISTER AND FRIGHTENING
Haworth’s 1940s event is run not by the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway, but a group of local people, with the aim of bringing significant economic benefit to the village. A military charity always benefits too. Regrettably, there were growing numbers of people attending in German uniforms and, to make matters worse, many bore SS insignia. A few years ago, my wife and I walked up Main Street during an event to be confronted by a man dressed in an SS major’s uniform, dripping in black and silver, with a dagger carrying the Swastika, strutting about slapping his riding breeches with a pair of black leather gloves; he clearly loved it and was being encouraged by a number of others in similar attire. Famously, the following day, two ‘SS generals’ were trying to obtain a drink in the pub at the bottom of the street, but being told, politely, where to go. Just to be near them was sinister and quite frightening. I’m no ‘snowflake’, but these people are wearing the regalia and, intentionally or not, glorifying a regime that worked entirely on the principle that ‘might is right’, and which engineered a war that killed tens of millions of people. It systematically and industrially killed over ten million people, not as a result of conflict, but as a policy and purpose of state. It says a great deal about the reasons why Britain fought them, that we do not ban such dress by law, but then we are not them and our nation does not thrive on force. After an appalling incident at another railway involving a Jewish family, the message seems to have come home that there were never any battles on British soil, so any ‘re-enactments’ have no historical value whatever (SR480). The Civil War, on the other hand, did happen here, so comparisons are wholly invalid. David Pearson, Haworth
BAN IS DICTATORIAL
Sorry, but I think that Nick Brodrick’s response to David Mellor’s letter completely misses the point (SR480). Everyone with a modicum of common sense knows that the English Civil War was fought in England, but the only reference to the German and Nazi uniforms is in films, television and books. It is good that people have access to these uniforms and that they wear them at events. If people think that these uniforms were seen in combat in the UK then the education system has failed miserably. If the wearing of these uniforms prompts questions and thus knowledge then this is good. I am 76 and am often appalled by the lack of knowledge of the so-called experts who are sadly lacking in historical knowledge of the 19th century and thus often speak a load of rubbish. Banning German and Nazi uniforms is dictatorial and wrong. Let the public decide through receipts at NYMR and other events. In case you did not know, Rudolph Hess, when he surrendered, was wearing full Nazi uniform in Scotland and England. Gordon Walker, Jarrow
LACK OF RESPECT
As a railway volunteer of 51 years and also the son of a Second World War Seafire pilot and a WREN, I feel I need to comment on the uniform debate. Most Second World Warthemed events that I see at railways seem to be on the theme of a fun day out: that’s what the Second World War was all about, wasn’t it? All jitterbugging, Jeeps and comical Dad’s Army or ’Allo ’Allo-type fun. Well, no it wasn’t. As we really know, it was a dreadful period in history when huge numbers of people died horrible deaths. I have yet to see any re-enactors at railways who in any way display any accuracy in what they present. Most seem to be people who have never got over playing at war in the playground and are now having a bit of fun in a contrived uniform. What is next? Comedy concentration camp deportations with striped outfitted people being herded into ex-BR fruit vans? We need to remember what happened to remind people not to let it happen again, but presenting it as a family fun day out is not the way. Let’s move on. 1950s and 1960s-themed events, maybe? Mike Gott, Horwich, Bolton
NAZIS HAULED BY AN ‘L1’
The statement that German soldiers [other than POWs] were never on mainland Britain is not totally correct. In April 1936, the German ambassador to Britain, Leopold Von Hoesch, died suddenly. Much respected by the British for his efforts to promote AngloGerman relations and peace in Europe, as well as outspoken views about the Nazi regime, his repatriation to Germany was an extraordinary affair. The British authorities arranged, on April 15 1936, an almost semi-royal funeral cortège from the embassy to Victoria station, accompanied by British troops and political figures, as well as one of our regimental bands. Also present in the cortège were German troops in full uniform and, as the cortège left the embassy, Nazi salutes were given. Von Hoesch’s coffin was draped in the Nazi flag, which he would have abhorred, given his opposition to Hitler’s policies. At Victoria a special train, headed by SR ‘L1’ 4-4-0 No. 1756, was waiting to convey his body to Dover where the destroyer HMS Scout was waiting to take Von Hoesch across the North Sea to Wilhelmshaven. Peter Clark, Bromley, Kent
IT SAYS A GREAT DEAL ABOUT THE REASONS WHY BRITAIN FOUGHT THEM, THAT WE DO NOT BAN SUCH DRESS BY LAW
The lightly loaded expresses of the pre-war era are epitomised in this view of ‘A4’ No. 4492 Dominion of New Zealand hauling the eight-coach ‘Silver Jubilee’ in 1938.
A replica Spitfire is displayed in the streets of Haworth.