A1SLT Op­er­a­tions Di­rec­tor Graeme Bunker dis­cusses the trust’s main line as­pi­ra­tions and the ‘P2’

Steam Railway (UK) - - Contents -

A1 Steam Lo­co­mo­tive Trust op­er­a­tions di­rec­tor GRAEME BUNKER tells TONY STREETER why its new 2-8-2 will be an ideal match to its decade-old ‘A1’ Tor­nado, and dis­cusses lux­ury trains, new TOCs, modern sig­nalling and a be­spoke fu­ture home for the Dar­ling­ton or­gan­i­sa­tion.

It may be ready­ing to cel­e­brate a whole decade since Tor­nado first ran, yet the A1 Steam Lo­co­mo­tive Trust is look­ing not back, but for­ward. There are plans for a train, a new rail-con­nected base in an his­toric shed… and com­ple­tion of the first Gresley ‘P2’ 2-8-2 to run since 1944. The aim, says Graeme, is for the ‘Mikado’ to be fin­ished in 2021/2022. That’s now not so far off… but it is long enough for things like the im­mi­nent squeeze on timetable paths we talked about last is­sue to be ev­ery­day facts. To be blunt, there seems lit­tle point in build­ing one of Gresley’s mon­ster 2-8-2s un­less it is able to run on the main line – and core routes at that. Is Graeme con­fi­dent that when the new No. 2007 is fin­ished it’s ac­tu­ally go­ing to have a rail­way to play on? “Ab­so­lutely. I don’t see there’s any doubt of that; and I think your point around the core main lines, yes, that’s where you’d ex­pect to see it. But I think the dif­fer­ence with Prince of Wales is away from the core main lines. “We’ll see what its per­for­mance is like when we’ve built it, but if it be­haves as we would ex­pect an eight-cou­pled Class 8 to be­have, we should find that [in] places like the Set­tle & Carlisle, or over the High­lands to In­ver­ness, South West to Devon and Corn­wall – it should be a very ef­fec­tive lo­co­mo­tive.” He adds that “whether or not you can get round the North Lon­don line or whether you can get through New Cross or Clapham Junc­tion, East Croy­don or any­where like that will be a sec­ondary con­cern.”

With the ‘P2’ be­ing a 6ft 2in-wheeled ‘Mikado’, the trust’s op­er­a­tions di­rec­tor says he thinks No. 2007 “will al­low us to do slightly dif­fer­ent things” to Tor­nado, or to what oth­ers are do­ing with other Class 8s – none of which have eight driv­ing wheels. “If you take the High­land Main Line from Ed­in­burgh to In­ver­ness, we’ve done that as a day trip with Tor­nado, but you’re get­ting near the limit of what it will do go­ing up the big hills. The ‘P2’, how­ever, will just be more ca­pa­ble...” Some­where like the South Devon Banks and into Corn­wall is, he says: “al­ways an is­sue of load lim­its… we take ten coaches with Tor­nado and we wouldn’t do that in the au­tumn”. How­ever, with the ‘P2’ he says: “If it is as we ex­pect, it will in haulage terms eas­ily han­dle what Tor­nado can do, and on some of the stiffer climbs it’s likely to be one coach bet­ter. “So it won’t be as fast, no, but it might… make the dif­fer­ence be­tween a train where you say ‘well I can do one of th­ese each year be­cause peo­ple will pay the higher prices’, against say­ing ‘ac­tu­ally I can do a se­ries of th­ese be­cause we can now make the prices a lit­tle bit more ac­ces­si­ble’.” At the other end of the mar­ket, the trust had been plan­ning a multi-day lux­ury rail­tour us­ing the ‘Royal Scots­man’ set and pro­moted by Golden Ea­gle Lux­ury Trains (SR473). De­spite the fact that Golden Ea­gle has de­cided not to pro­ceed in the light of so-far in­suf­fi­cient take-up (SR477), does Graeme see much po­ten­tial at that end of the scale? He says the ‘Royal Scots­man’ is “a great prod­uct and does very well but I think it’s an ex­cep­tion…” “We’ve got a ‘Royal Scots­man’, we’ve now got a ‘Grand Hiber­nian’, which Bel­mond has in­tro­duced to much ac­claim in Ire­land… we don’t have one in Eng­land. “So do I think there’s a gap? Yes, I do. We’ve got some of the best his­tory in the world but I don’t see us mak­ing the most of it. Now, are we, as the trust, in a po­si­tion to do it? I don’t think we are, it’s prob­a­bly big­ger than we are. “On a per­sonal ba­sis I’ve looked at how to do it and what could be of­fered. The chal­lenge is the cap­i­tal that is needed to in­vest in the ve­hi­cles and mar­kets and bring this to­gether. “Is there an ar­gu­ment that the mar­ket ex­ists? I would say yes. With steam? Yeah, prob­a­bly a lit­tle bit of steam in there, why not?”

Tor­nado flashes through the dark­ness of March 27 2010 dur­ing a visit to the Great Cen­tral Rail­way. ANDREW RAPACZ

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