Tornado - the 100mph Steam Engine


Tornado - the 100mph Steam Engine

The new A1 class steam engine Tornado, financed by enthusiasts, tries to achieve 100mph on the main line. The secret speed attempt will be made in the dead of night.


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Transcript


LineFromTo

They said it couldn't be built.

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They said it shouldn't run at speed.

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I reckon that magic 100mph is going to be in the bag.

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Oh, come on, come on!

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I've got 97.

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They said the steam age was dead.

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We're all big steam train lovers.

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This is the story of how Tornado was tamed

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and taken to the tonne.

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Keep going!

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A steam locomotive on a mission.

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Tornado, a Peppercorn Class A1 Pacific, arrives in Doncaster.

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It's a spiritual homecoming.

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The class was designed in the town.

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Now it's base camp for a thrilling railway adventure.

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It's travelled up from London, along with Huw Parker,

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one of the team of volunteers who keep it on the rails.

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If you were sitting where I am,

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you'd feel the heat coming out of there.

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It's very hot, indeed.

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Once alight, managing the fire is an essential chore.

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If the loco's been cold,

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we light a small warming fire and take as long as we can to bring it

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round into steam, to allow the boiler to heat evenly.

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And, even off the footplate, there's a need for elbow grease.

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Cleaning isn't just for cleaning's sake.

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All the oil and grease from the axle boxes and from the front end

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have all been thrown back over the rods.

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So again, just checking the centre of the wheel,

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where it joins the axle,

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to make sure there's no sign of movement here.

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The pressure is on.

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Tornado needs to be in the form of its life.

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We're very confident that this engine will meet the challenge

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without a problem.

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Three days from now, the team will attempt a 100mph run.

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No-one has driven a steam engine at 100mph in this country since 1967.

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We are moving into an environment where we are asking people to do

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something that they've been trained for,

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but they haven't physically done.

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It will be a test of man and machine.

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And, while it has all the hallmarks of a thrilling tale

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from an adventure annual, there is a serious point.

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Tornado's bread and butter living is made by running excursion trains

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around the country.

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Thousands rode behind it when it stormed along

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the Roof of England, on the Settle to Carlisle railway.

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We have, since the back end of the last century,

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run steam at 75mph, but, as people will be aware,

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the rail network has got busier and busier and busier.

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There are more fast express trains, there are more commuter trains,

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there are more freight trains.

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At 75mph, with the fact that steam doesn't accelerate as fast

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as a modern electric train,

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we are starting to run out of places that we can run the loco

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and to make it commercially viable.

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It costs hundreds of thousands of pounds to run Tornado every year.

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It's essential they can please passengers

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and still fit around other trains.

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A plan has been devised to prove Tornado can run regularly

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at up to 90mph.

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Starting from Doncaster,

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the loco will haul a test train up the East Coast Main Line,

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pausing at York to take on water.

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Then they'll press on northwards,

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steadily increasing their top speed to hit 90.

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Just outside of Newcastle, they'll stop and examine everything,

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making sure Tornado is running perfectly.

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After turning round, they'll dash south,

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with permission to try for 100mph.

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This is part of a test to show Tornado is safe,

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even when exceeding the speed limit.

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We want to run regularly at 90mph.

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We need to show that the locomotive operates satisfactorily

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10% over that speed.

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It's 99, but the point of 100 came from Network Rail,

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whose comment was, if we're going to authorise you at 99,

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we should authorise you at 100mph

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and not leave you like a batsman at the crease.

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The Tornado story itself is remarkable.

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Every original locomotive of its type was scrapped.

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This left a gap in the family tree

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of East Coast Main Line motive power.

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To fill it, a group of enthusiasts clubbed together

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to build a brand-new one.

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Top this side up again...

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Working from a converted carriage shed in Darlington,

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they spent 18 years machining and making the parts.

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By the time the last bolts were tightened in 2008,

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the bill came to £3 million.

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But their efforts were rewarded.

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As the first new steam engine built for Britain's main line since 1960,

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it certainly caught the imagination.

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This engine is named Tornado,

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and may God bless all who are lucky enough to locomote behind her.

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Since then, it has become a steam star

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but, to keep its place on the East Coast line,

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running faster is essential.

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And, back in Doncaster,

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Tornado won't be going anywhere unless it passes the crucial

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fitness-to-run examination.

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Every tap tells a story.

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Every cranny could conceal a show-stopping problem.

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Huw faces an anxious wait.

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We've got an independent examiner from DB Cargo,

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our train operating company,

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who is auditing our own engineering procedures.

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So I've got my own engineer going round the engine,

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making sure that everything is safe and secure.

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We check all the pins for security,

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check all the split pins are there, all secure.

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There's no loose legs, there's nothing loose.

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36 hours before the run, everything needs to work perfectly.

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I'm beginning to feel happier.

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And out of sight can't mean out of mind.

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The locomotive is reversed over an inspection pit.

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We've got the three sets of valve gear and connecting rods

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on the outside - we've already examined them.

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This is the middle big-end, so that's flying round

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at a fair speed in here,

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really, so we want to make sure that the nuts and split pins are in place

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for those, as well, really.

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The inspection lasts for most of the day.

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Eventually, though, they have in their hands a piece of paper -

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steam and speed in our time.

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Tornado is good to go.

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This is all about confirming that the locomotive is safe

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and in a fit condition to be running on the main line.

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And we're all quite excited and looking forward to having a crack

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at that 90mph on Tuesday night.

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We are going into an element we've never had the like of at that speed,

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so as much as we can predict what it will do and we can measure what it

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will do, we don't know for sure.

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So this is where there's an element of excitement,

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but also caution.

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As Tornado accelerates, air will be drawn faster across the fire,

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making it burn hotter.

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It will eat coal,

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and the fireman will have his work cut out to make enough steam.

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The driver will need plenty of power at his disposal.

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But, as the metalwork moves ever quicker, if anything overheats,

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it's game over. The lubrication systems are absolutely critical.

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This is a five-figure endeavour.

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If you take into account all the money we've spent so far

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on getting here, ready to do the test,

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it's a six-figure endeavour.

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So we have... You know, we have to succeed.

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Going further, faster,

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has been a recurring theme through railway history.

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The legends slumber in the great hall of the National Railway Museum,

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but before them all came Rocket.

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As soon as Rocket wins the Rainhill trials,

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speed becomes a major ingredient.

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People want to travel places.

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The railway gives you the ability to move long distances,

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but you don't want to spend forever doing it,

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and especially in third class, as they were then,

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it's quite an uncomfortable thing.

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So improving the journey time is really important.

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A century later, speed was the epitome of railway endeavour.

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In 1934, Flying Scotsman was the first locomotive

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to be officially driven at 100mph.

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Four years later, the world steam speed record was set by Mallard,

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at 126mph.

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It has never been beaten.

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This is where we turn speed from a phenomenon for people

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into a science.

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A rolling laboratory called a dynamometer car

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was used to record accurate performance data for the first time.

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There is an umbilical cord between the locomotive and this car

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that's feeding back all sorts of variables.

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You need to understand what's going on,

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whether it's the track that you need to improve

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to make the train go faster, the braking.

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That's also something that was measured in this thing,

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the ability of the train to slow down from speed to stop.

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But, despite the advances, by the late '60s, steam was done,

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swept away by modernisation.

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-ARCHIVE:

-The fastest train in Britain,

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the Bristolian at times exceeds 100mph.

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It's sad to think that superb locomotives

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of the King and Coronation class must be superseded.

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Drivers who know their ways and moods,

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as if the engines lived, are loathed to bid them goodbye.

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Southern Region, in 1967,

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there were numerous occasions where

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Bulleid Pacifics were clocked at 100mph plus,

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because they wanted go out in a blaze of glory,

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and the timings allowed them to do so.

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To prove steam can still cut it at speed,

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the obsession with measuring continues.

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Tornado is being cabled up like a moon rocket.

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These are the accelerometers, so that's measuring vertical loads.

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That one there is measuring lateral loads.

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Stability matters.

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Tornado will naturally move from side to side,

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but too much and that's known as rough riding.

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It might be the track, or it could be a problem with the loco.

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Meanwhile, the wheels and the rods which connect them

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will rain force downwards, just like the blow of a huge hammer.

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We've been able to balance Tornado much more thoroughly than

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any other steam engine's ever been able to be done,

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and that means that Tornado at 90mph produces

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less hammer blow than an A4,

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such as world-record holder Mallard, at 75mph.

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But we also have to look at this as nearly 170 tonnes of loco.

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When it arrives onto a ridge,

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the deflection forces and so on are very important indeed.

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As the vehicle moves up and down,

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the accelerometer sets to measure the two forces.

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If you get 1G, that's 1G

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upwards against gravity.

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So, at that point, you increase base.

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So, if we're getting to that sort of situation,

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there's a possibility the vehicle might become unstable

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and actually want to jump off the track. So that's a no-no, obviously.

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But, as part of the safety process,

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we have to go through the criteria to make sure it's safe to operate

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and doesn't actually exceed those levels.

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The data gathered on the test might help other steam engines run faster

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in future, too.

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And the heritage world is watching.

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Steam Railway magazine are holding their presses,

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hoping to be first with history.

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This is really the big story, isn't it, so we can't really underplay it.

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Reporter Tony Streeter will join the train, writing his copy on the move.

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I've written about these things now for the best part of 20 years.

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Um, never done anything quite like this.

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I cannot think of another locomotive anywhere in the world,

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another steam locomotive anywhere in the world,

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that will regularly run at 90mph.

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Yes, I think it will make it the fastest in the world,

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at least on a regular basis.

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Green for the main line...

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But the East Coast Main Line is faster still.

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The modern electrics have a top speed of 125mph.

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Even at a special one-off tonne,

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let alone the new planned maximum of 90,

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Tornado will be outpaced.

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At Network Rail's London headquarters,

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word of the test train has reached the very top.

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The railway is the heart of the British economy.

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It creates economic growth, it creates jobs and it creates houses.

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And people have to travel in order to do that.

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But that's travel through necessity,

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and we would like people to also kindle their emotional

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and romantic side and actually feel that the railway is for them

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and that they are connected with it,

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and there's nothing like a steam locomotive to do that.

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If you're old, like me, you remember them when you were young.

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If you're not old like me,

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it's just something quite extraordinary

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when you see a steam locomotive passing by.

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At some point, somebody will be driving along on the motorway

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at 70mph and this thing will go tearing past them

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and leave them for dead.

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You know, what's the average car driver going to think when they see

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a steam train, of all things, doing a good 20mph more than they are?

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That engine's now ready.

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All the maintenance is done, all the preparation is done.

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We just need to get out there now.

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The time has come to hand over the star act

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to the train operating company, DB Cargo.

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The only thing now is waiting for the train crew and then we go.

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An experienced footplate crew has been hand-picked

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to meet the challenge.

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Everything is going much faster, things happen more quickly,

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so their reactions are probably going to have to be quicker.

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They're going to have to react to how the engine's performing,

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what it's demanding of them.

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The run is taking place at night.

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The railway isn't as busy then, but it's also being kept a secret,

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so there isn't a problem with crowds of onlookers.

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We'll see how we do going north.

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We might run without the diesel on the back...

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As the gloom gathers, the whole team comes together for a last briefing.

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Any questions?

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Excellent, that is the correct answer.

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-THEY CHUCKLE

-Cheers, guys.

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-Hello, Jim. Are you all right, matey?

-Good.

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And then the men of the hour arrive, the footplate crew.

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Ahead of them, 230 miles of high-speed running into the night,

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and behind them, a tender full of eight tonnes of coal.

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It's a bit special. Yeah, should be good, though.

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We'll just see if we can do it. I think there's no problem.

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I cannae see any problems, you know.

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A moment years in the making has finally arrived.

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WHISTLE BLOWS

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Steam fills Tornado's cylinders.

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Heads are turned as it drifts through Doncaster Station,

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and the test begins.

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The first stage of the journey to York should be routine,

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but, with the data analysts and invited guests on board,

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who know they're here for something special,

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it's not long before eyes are on clocks.

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I use a GPS to tell me how fast we're going these days.

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We used to do it by timing the mileposts,

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or by counting the rail beats.

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The numbers are already being crunched.

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Pretty steady.

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Before long, York is in sight.

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The plan is for a quick splash-and-dash water stop.

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Word of the run is already out.

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It's kind of a thing in my family.

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We're all big steam train lovers,

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so I've kind of grown up with it since I was little.

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So any chance to come and see it,

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I hopped in the car and came here as fast as I could.

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We're taking about 2,500 gallons of water.

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It should take us between five and ten minutes,

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depending on how fast the tanker can fill us.

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We strive to achieve it in the fastest time we can, really.

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Huw is joining the crew on the footplate

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for the next part of the run.

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Ten more minutes of water, Lindsay, please.

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The plan is to take Tornado well above the usual 75 limit.

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-75 to Skelton.

-Skelton to Tollerton.

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83. Tollerton to Thirsk.

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-90.

-90.

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Before long, the loco is settling into its stride again,

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on a part of the East Coast line known as the racing stretch.

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Northallerton comes and goes in a blur.

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WHISTLE BLOWS

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Slowly, Tornado nudges towards uncharted territory.

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-78.

-It seems to be, if you feel it through the gauge...

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There are anxious moments as the speedo climbs towards 80.

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There are hints of rough riding.

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Because it gets a little bit of a natural resonance, the loco.

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It's very low. We have seen one little anomaly,

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but a bit of bad track, so it's been a very stable run so far.

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It's Darlington.

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This is the fastest a Peppercorn Pacific has run

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since the end of steam.

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On board the train, journalist Tony Streeter is writing up the story.

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There will probably be discussions for evermore afterwards

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about exactly this bit or that bit, but that's a sign, I guess,

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of the importance that people are placing on what's happening tonight.

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And there's more to come...

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..as Tornado touches 90.

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It's been a phenomenal effort from the crew.

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Back in 2013, a sister engine of world record-holder Mallard

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was allowed to go this fast, but no more.

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It's a bit early.

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But, as the lights of Durham come into view,

0:18:550:18:59

the pace-setting is over for now.

0:18:590:19:00

A few miles from here,

0:19:030:19:04

Tornado will turn off the main line

0:19:040:19:07

into a depot just outside of Newcastle for a thorough inspection.

0:19:070:19:11

-Handbrake on?

-Yeah, handbrake's on.

0:19:240:19:26

Perfect. Cup of tea for you, then?

0:19:260:19:29

Well done, chaps. That was bloody superb, Tony.

0:19:290:19:32

-Well done.

-Thanks, mate.

0:19:320:19:33

Fastest I've ever been on a steam engine.

0:19:330:19:35

It's the equivalent of a Formula 1 pit stop,

0:19:350:19:38

albeit at a more measured pace.

0:19:380:19:40

With the crew off the footplate, Huw can give the fire a once over.

0:19:400:19:44

Yeah, that's the temperature

0:19:460:19:47

of the middle eccentric there, at 40 degrees.

0:19:470:19:50

Meanwhile, David Wright

0:19:500:19:51

is one of the first support crew members on the ground.

0:19:510:19:54

We're confident with how it runs normally at 75,

0:19:540:19:57

we know what it does,

0:19:570:19:59

but 90's just that little edge more, really.

0:19:590:20:01

On Tornado's motion alone, there are 14 oiling points to check.

0:20:020:20:06

As the bearing's working, it's obviously using oil,

0:20:060:20:10

and it's trying to draw air in.

0:20:100:20:12

So in order for it to draw air in,

0:20:120:20:14

we've basically got a cork with a bamboo cane through the middle.

0:20:140:20:17

So then, as it's using oil, air's drawn in, replaces it,

0:20:170:20:20

therefore we don't get a vacuum,

0:20:200:20:22

therefore it's actually using the oil.

0:20:220:20:24

Having run 80 miles since York, another water tanker pumps

0:20:250:20:29

thousands of gallons into Tornado's tender,

0:20:290:20:32

ready for the next leg of the trip.

0:20:320:20:33

She was waggling a bit at around the 80mph mark,

0:20:350:20:38

but she settled down and was as good as gold.

0:20:380:20:41

With some assistance from the gradients downhill on the way back,

0:20:410:20:44

I reckon that magic 100 mile an hour is going to be in the bag.

0:20:440:20:49

Here you are, Dave.

0:20:490:20:50

Graham will ride on the footplate back to York,

0:20:500:20:53

and there's a new pair of hands on the shovel too.

0:20:530:20:57

-ON RADIO:

-Are you ready to set off now towards Newcastle, over?

0:20:570:21:00

Huw retires to the train.

0:21:000:21:02

If Tornado does top the tonne,

0:21:020:21:04

he'll confirm the on-board measurements with the footplate.

0:21:040:21:07

WHISTLE BLOWS

0:21:070:21:09

OK, that's us on our way back into Newcastle.

0:21:140:21:17

First, though, the whole train is heading across the Tyne

0:21:190:21:22

to turn around.

0:21:220:21:24

It's 2:30am in the morning,

0:21:320:21:34

Britain's commuters are asleep.

0:21:340:21:37

We're in a position to head off shortly, and, you know,

0:21:370:21:42

we'll see what the future brings.

0:21:420:21:44

It's calm and quiet, you know, it's a professional job.

0:21:440:21:48

That's the point.

0:21:480:21:50

We're not playing trains here.

0:21:500:21:52

Dave, remember there's plenty of downhill out of here,

0:21:520:21:55

it will just blow its head off otherwise.

0:21:550:21:57

On the way home, there are three places where they can clock 100,

0:22:010:22:05

but to take heritage steam into a new realm,

0:22:050:22:07

everything has to be in their favour.

0:22:070:22:10

I've sent a message to the Network Rail Head of Operations North,

0:22:100:22:14

and just said, "Greens all the way, please!"

0:22:140:22:17

Tornado's staccato exhaust beats reverberate across the city.

0:22:220:22:26

The crew are getting stuck in,

0:22:260:22:28

and, as requested, there's a clear road ahead.

0:22:280:22:31

Now everyone on board is watching a speedometer.

0:22:360:22:39

At more than a mile a minute,

0:22:440:22:46

Durham is quickly reached.

0:22:460:22:48

She's going up, she's going up.

0:23:000:23:02

81...

0:23:020:23:04

Come on.

0:23:040:23:05

96. Come on, come on, come on!

0:23:140:23:17

97! Come on, come on!

0:23:180:23:20

It's a post-'60s record, though not what they came for.

0:23:200:23:25

How far to Aycliffe?

0:23:250:23:28

About five miles.

0:23:280:23:30

And at the Aycliffe curves, there's a speed restriction for all trains.

0:23:300:23:34

There's no choice but to slow down.

0:23:340:23:36

Ease her back.

0:23:370:23:39

No, don't shut off, just ease her back a bit on here.

0:23:390:23:42

They're disappointed, but not beaten.

0:23:420:23:45

We'll bring her round and we'll go again after Aycliffe.

0:23:450:23:49

We're not very far from Darlington now,

0:23:490:23:52

so the driver will be mindful of the 90 mile an hour

0:23:520:23:55

over the voiding line at Darlington station.

0:23:550:23:58

Graham joins the fireman in shovelling,

0:23:580:24:00

as they prepare for the next sprint.

0:24:000:24:04

But a couple of miles later, there's bad news.

0:24:040:24:07

Why have we got two flashing yellows?

0:24:080:24:11

They haven't got the green signal they were expecting.

0:24:110:24:13

Is that right?

0:24:130:24:15

Instead of going round Darlington station,

0:24:150:24:18

for some reason they're being sent through it.

0:24:180:24:20

The station?

0:24:200:24:22

And that means slowing down again.

0:24:220:24:25

A solitary member of staff gets an unexpected surprise.

0:24:270:24:31

WHISTLE BLOWS

0:24:350:24:37

A mournful lament on Tornado's chime whistle,

0:24:370:24:40

their second chance at the tonne has just disappeared.

0:24:400:24:43

We'll leave it now.

0:24:430:24:45

When we get over the restriction the other side of Thirsk,

0:24:450:24:48

we'll get through Thirsk,

0:24:480:24:50

get past the neutral section, and then we'll go for it.

0:24:500:24:54

We're now accelerating again.

0:24:540:24:57

Unfortunately, we have another 75 at Northallerton to obey.

0:24:570:25:02

-TANNOY:

-The approaching train is not scheduled to stop at this station.

0:25:020:25:06

Fast train approaching.

0:25:060:25:08

It's still a spectacular sight,

0:25:150:25:17

but another temporary speed restriction follows

0:25:170:25:21

just down the line at Thirsk.

0:25:210:25:23

Now Tornado has to drop down to 50mph.

0:25:230:25:26

They're running out of track and time.

0:25:260:25:28

Are we through the neutral section?

0:25:300:25:33

It's all down to the final few miles before York.

0:25:350:25:38

-Like bending the handle...

-Yeah.

0:25:400:25:42

87.

0:25:420:25:43

Oh, 88.

0:25:430:25:45

88...

0:25:450:25:46

Come on!

0:25:460:25:48

Keep going!

0:25:590:26:01

95! 95.

0:26:030:26:05

-Come on, girl!

-Come on.

0:26:080:26:10

Oh, come on, come on!

0:26:100:26:13

They've got 97.

0:26:130:26:14

-Trailing wind, anything.

-Anything.

0:26:220:26:24

Everyone, everyone jump up in the air.

0:26:240:26:26

Yes! Whoo!

0:26:260:26:27

To celebrate, the rarest of snaps for the album,

0:26:370:26:41

a defining moment for Tornado and the crew.

0:26:410:26:44

They're wonderful people, so they've done us proud.

0:26:440:26:46

Take her in, steady lads.

0:26:500:26:52

The water stop at York beckons.

0:26:520:26:54

I bet he's tired out, isn't he?

0:26:540:26:57

He's been doing a lot of concentrating.

0:26:570:27:00

Anywhere there, Steve, anywhere there.

0:27:080:27:11

Well done, boys.

0:27:150:27:18

Don't want to do that again!

0:27:180:27:20

Well done.

0:27:200:27:22

I hope she's all right after this.

0:27:240:27:26

So do I.

0:27:260:27:27

100mph is a big figure to achieve,

0:27:290:27:33

and it's incredibly symbolic.

0:27:330:27:35

I think it's a milestone, and a real, real talisman for the future.

0:27:370:27:42

I asked for a picture of the speedometer when it goes over 100.

0:27:440:27:48

I think it's a really great thing to do.

0:27:480:27:49

I would do it again, aye.

0:27:510:27:53

I don't know if Tornado would do it again, but...

0:27:530:27:56

..it's been done anyway, so...

0:27:560:27:58

THEY CHEER

0:27:580:28:00

She was doing 100 mile an hour for 48 seconds.

0:28:000:28:02

I think we can say it did 100mph.

0:28:020:28:05

When we get it home, and it's all in one piece, then we can be proud.

0:28:050:28:08

From a casual idea, to a titan of steam,

0:28:090:28:12

from nought to 100,

0:28:120:28:15

Tornado has quickly garnered accolades.

0:28:150:28:18

Yes, there is a serious business here,

0:28:180:28:21

but it's adventure that makes the heart race.

0:28:210:28:24

There are still plenty of pages of that annual to fill.

0:28:240:28:27

The new A1 class steam engine Tornado tries to achieve 100mph on the main line. The secret speed attempt will be made in the dead of night. If it tops the ton it will be the first time in 50 years steam has gone this fast. Tornado was built over two decades and financed by enthusiasts who want to show steam has a viable future on Britain's railways.