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.
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They said it couldn't be built.
They said it shouldn't run at speed.
I reckon that magic 100 miles an hour is going to be in the bag.
Come on, come on, come on!
They said the steam age was dead.
We're all big steam train lovers.
This is the story of how Tornado was tamed, and taken to the ton.
A steam locomotive on a mission.
Tornado, a Peppercorn Class A1 Pacific, arrives in Doncaster.
It's a spiritual homecoming -
the class was designed in the town.
Now, it's base camp for a thrilling railway adventure.
It's travelled up from London, along with Huw Parker -
one of the team of volunteers who keep it on the rails.
If you're sitting where I am, you'd feel the heat
coming out of there.
It's very hot indeed.
Once alight, managing the fire is an essential chore.
If the loco's been cold, we light a small warming fire
and take as long as they can to bring it round into steam, to
allow the boiler to heat evenly.
And even off the footplate, there's a need for elbow grease.
Cleaning isn't just for cleaning's sake.
All the oil and grease from the axle boxes and from the front end has
been thrown back over the rods.
So again, just checking that the centre of the wheel,
where it joins the axle, to make sure there's no
sign of movement here.
The pressure is on.
Tornado needs to be in the form of its life.
We're very confident that this engine will meet
the challenge, without a problem.
Three days from now, the team will attempt
a 100 miles per hour run.
No-one has driven a steam engine at 100 miles an hour
in this country since 1967.
We are moving into an environment where we are asking people to do
something that they've been trained for,
but they haven't physically done.
It will be a test of man and machine, and while it has
all the hallmarks of a thrilling tale from an adventure annual,
there is a serious point.
Tornado's bread and butter living is made by running
excursion trains around the country.
Thousands rode behind it when it stormed along the roof of England,
on the Settle to Carlisle Railway.
We have, since the back end of the last century,
run steam at 75 miles an hour, but as people will be aware,
the rail network has got busier and busier and busier.
There are more fast express trains, there are more commuter trains,
there are more freight trains.
At 75 miles an hour, with the fact that steam doesn't
accelerate as fast as a modern electric train, we are starting
to run out of places that we can run the loco and to
make it commercially viable.
It costs hundreds of thousands of pounds to run Tornado every year.
It's essential they can please passengers and still fit
around other trains.
A plan has been devised to prove Tornado can run regularly at up
to 90 miles per hour.
Starting from Doncaster, the loco will haul a test train up
the East Coast Main Line, pausing at York to take on water.
Then they'll press on northwards, steadily increasing their
top speed to hit 90.
Just outside of Newcastle, they'll stop and examine everything -
making sure Tornado is running perfectly.
After turning round, they'll dash south, with permission
to try for 100 miles per hour.
This is part of a test to show Tornado is safe,
even when exceeding the speed limit.
We want to run regularly at 90 miles an hour.
We need to show that the locomotive operates satisfactorily
at 10% over that speed. It's 99, but the point
of 100 came from Network Rail, whose comment was,
"If we're going to authorise you at 99, we should authorise
"you at 100 miles an hour and not leave you like
"a batsman at the crease."
The Tornado story itself is remarkable.
Every original locomotive of its type was scrapped.
This left a gap in the family tree of East Coast
Main Line motive power.
To fill it, a group of enthusiasts clubbed together
to build a brand new one.
Top this side up again...
Working from a converted carriage shed in Darlington,
they spent 18 years machining and making the parts.
By the time the last bolts were tightened in 2008,
the bill came to ?3 million.
But their efforts were rewarded, as the first new steam engine built
for Britain's Main Line since 1960, it certainly caught the imagination.
This engine is named Tornado, and may God bless all who are
lucky enough to locomote behind her.
Since then, it has become a steam star, but to keep its place
on the East Coast line, running faster is essential.
And back in Doncaster, Tornado won't be going anywhere unless it
passes the crucial fitness to run examination.
Every tap tells a story, every cranny could conceal
a show-stopping problem.
Huw faces an anxious wait.
We've got an independent examiner from DB Cargo,
our train operating company, who is auditing our own
So I've got my own engineer going round the engine, making sure
that everything is safe and secure.
We check all the pins for security, check all be split pins are there,
We check all the pins for security, check all the split pins are there,
all secure, there's no loose legs, there's nothing loose.
36 hours before the run, everything needs to work perfectly.
I'm beginning to feel happier.
And out of sight can't mean out of mind.
The locomotive is reversed over an inspection pit.
So we've got the three sets of valve gear and connecting rods.
On the outside, we've already examined them.
This is the middle big end, so that's flying around
at a fair speed in here,
so we want to make sure the nuts and split pins are in place
for those as well, really.
The inspection lasts for most of the day.
Eventually, though, they have in their hands a piece of paper.
Steam and speed in our time.
Tornado is good to go.
This is all about confirming that the locomotive is safe
and in a fit condition to be running on the main line.
And we're all quite excited and looking forward to having
a crack at that 90 mile an hour on Tuesday night.
We are going into an element, we've never had the loco at that speed,
so as much as we can predict what it can do and we can
measure what it will do, we don't know for sure.
So this is where there's an element of excitement, but also caution.
As Tornado accelerates, air will be drawn faster across the fire,
making it burn hotter.
The firemen will need to feed it faster to keep the boiler pressure
up and make enough steam.
The driver will need plenty of power at his disposal.
But, as the metalwork moves ever faster, if
anything overheats, it's game over.
The lubrication systems are absolutely critical.
This is a five-figure endeavour.
If you take into account all the money we've spent so far
on getting here ready to do the test, it's
a six-figure endeavour. So we have to succeed.
Going further, faster has been a recurring theme
through railway history.
The legends slumber in the Great Hall of the National Railway Museum,
but before them all came Rocket.
As soon as Rocket wins the Rainhill Trials,
speed becomes a major ingredient.
People want to travel to places.
The railway gives you the ability to move long distances,
but you don't want to spend forever doing it.
Especially in third class, as there was then, it was quite
an uncomfortable thing.
So improving the journey time is really important.
A century later, speed was the epitome of railway endeavour.
In 1934, Flying Scotsman was the first locomotive to be
officially driven at 100 miles per hour.
Four years later, the world steam speed record was set
by Mallard at 126 miles per hour.
It has never been beaten.
This is where we turn speed from a phenomenon
for people into a science.
A rolling laboratory, called a dynamometer car,
was used to record accurate performance data for the first time.
There's an umbilical cord between the locomotive and this
car that's feeding back all sorts of variables.
You need to understand what's going on, whether it's the track
that you need to improve to make the train grow faster, the braking,
that you need to improve to make the train go faster, the braking,
that's also something that was measured in this thing,
the ability of the train to slow down from speed to stop.
But despite the advances, by the late '60s, steam was done,
swept away by modernisation.
Fastest train in Britain, the Bristolian at times exceeds
100 miles an hour.
It's sad to think that superb locomotives of the
King and Coronation class must be superseded.
Drivers, who know their ways and moods as if the engines lived,
are loath to bid them goodbye.
The southern region in 1967, there were numerous occasions
where Bulleid Pacifics were clocked at 100 miles an hour plus,
because they wanted to go out in a blaze of glory, and the timings
allowed them to do so.
To prove steam can still cut it at speed, the
obsession with measuring continues.
Tornado is being cabled up like a moon rocket.
These are the accelerometers.
So that's measuring the vertical loads, and that one there
is for lateral loads.
Tornado will naturally move from side to side,
but too much, and that's known as rough riding.
It might be the track, or it could be a problem with the loco.
Meanwhile, the wheels, and the rods which connect them,
will rain force downwards - just like the blow of huge hammer.
We've been able to balance Tornado much more thoroughly than any other
steam engine's ever been able to be done, and that means that Tornado
at 90 miles an hour, produces less hammer blow
than an A4, such as world record-holder, Mallard,
at 75 miles an hour.
But we also have to look at this as nearly 170 tonnes of loco.
When it arrives on to a ridge, the deflection forces
and so on are very important indeed.
As the vehicle moves up and down, the accelerometers
measure the GeForces.
If you get one G, that's one G upwards against gravity,
so at that point, you're in free space.
So if we're getting to that sort of situation, there's a possibility
the vehicle might become unstable and actually want to jump off
the track, so that's a no-no, obviously.
As part of the safety process we have to go through the criteria,
to make sure it's safe to operate and it doesn't actually
exceed those levels.
The data gathered on the test might help other steam engines
run faster in future too.
And the heritage world is watching.
Steam Railway Magazine are holding their presses,
hoping to be first with history.
This is really the big story, isn't it?
So we can't really underplay it.
Reporter Tony Streeter will join the train,
writing his copy on the move.
I've written about these things now for the best part of 20 years.
Never done anything quite like this.
I cannot think of another locomotive anywhere in the world,
another steam locomotive anywhere in the world, that will regularly
run at 90 miles an hour.
Yes, I think it will make it the fastest in the world,
at least on a regular basis.
But the East Coast Main Line is faster still.
The modern electrics have a top speed of 125 miles per hour.
Even at a special one off ton - let alone the new planned maximum
of 90 - Tornado will be out-paced.
At Network Rail's London Headquarters, word of the test train
has reached the very top.
The railway is the heart of the British economy.
It creates economic growth, it creates jobs and it creates houses,
and people have to travel in order to do that.
But that's travel through necessity, and we would like people to also
kindle their emotional and romantic side and actually feel
that the railways is for them and they're connected with it, and
there's nothing like a steam locomotive to do that.
If you're old like me, you remember them when you were young.
If you're not old like me, it's just something quite
extraordinary when you see a steam locomotive passing by.
That engine's now ready.
All the maintenance is done, all the preparation is done.
We just need to get out there now.
The time has come to hand over the star act to the train
operating company, DB Cargo.
The only thing now is waiting for the train crew...
An experienced footplate crew has been hand picked
to meet the challenge.
Everything is going much faster, things happen more quickly,
so their reactions are probably going to have to be quicker.
They're going to have to react to how the engine's performing,
what it's demanding of them.
The run is taking place at night.
The railway isn't as busy then, but it's also been kept a secret,
so there isn't a problem with crowds of onlookers.
We'll see how we do going north, we might run without
the diesel on the back.
As the gloom gathers, the whole team comes together
for a last briefing.
Excellent, that is the correct answer!
You all right, mate?
And then, the men of the hour arrive - the footplate crew.
Ahead of them, 230 miles of high speed running
into the night, and behind them, a tender full of eight tons of coal.
It's a bit special.
Yeah, it should be good, though.
We'll just see if we can do it.
I think, no problems here, I can't see any problems.
A moment, years in the making, has finally arrived.
Steam fills Tornado's cylinders.
Heads are turned as it drifts through Doncaster station,
and the test begins.
The first stage of the journey to York should be routine,
but with the data analysts and invited guests on board,
who know they're here for something special, it's not long
before eyes are on clocks.
I use a GPS to tell me how fast we're going, these days.
We used to do it by timing the mileposts,
or by counting the rail beams.
The numbers are already being crunched.
Before long, York is in sight.
The plan is for a quick splash and dash water stop.
Word of the run is already out.
It's kind of a thing in my family.
We're all big steam train lovers, so I've kind of
grown up with it since I was little.
So any chance to come see it, I hopped in the car and came
here as fast as I could.
We're taking about 2,500 gallons of water.
It should take us between 5-10 minutes, depending on how
fast the tanker can fill us.
We'll strive to achieve it in as fast a time as we can, really.
Huw is joining the crew on the footplate for
the next part of the run.
Ten more minutes of water, please.
The plan is to take Tornado well above the usual 75 limit.
75 to Skelton, 83...
Before long, the loco is settling into its stride again on a part
of the East Coast line known as the racing stretch.
Northallerton comes and goes in a blur.
Slowly, Tornado nudges towards uncharted territory.
There are anxious moments as the speedo climbs towards 80.
There are hints of rough riding.
...below the natural resonance of the loco, but very low.
We have seen one little anomaly, with a bit of bad track,
but it's been a very stable run so far.
This is the fastest a Peppercorn Pacific has run
since the end of steam.
On board the train, journalist Tony Streeter
is writing up the story.
There will probably be discussions for evermore afterwards
about exactly this bit or that bit, but that's a sign, I guess,
of the importance that people are placing on what's happening tonight.
And there's more to come, as Tornado touches 90.
It's been a phenomenal effort for the crew.
Back in 2013, a sister engine of world record holder Mallard
was allowed to go this fast, but no more.
It's a bit early!
But as the lights of Durham come into view,
the pace-setting is over for now.
A few miles from here, Tornado will turn off the Main Line
into a depot just outside of Newcastle,
for a through inspection.
Yes, handbrake's on.
Perfect, cup of tea for you, then.
Well done, chap, that was really superb, Tony.
Fastest I've ever been on a steam engine!
It's the equivalent of a Formula One pit stop,
albeit at a more measured pace.
With the crew off the footplate, Huw can give the fire a once over.
Yeah, that's the temperature of the middle at 40 degrees.
Meanwhile, David Wright is one of the first support crew
members on the ground.
We're confident with how it runs normally at 75.
We know what it does,
but 90's just that little edge more, really.
On Tornado's motion alone, there are 14 oiling points the check.
As the bearing's working, it's obviously using oil,
and it's trying to draw air in.
So in order for it to draw air in, we've basically
got a cork with a bamboo cane through the middle,
so as it's using oil, air's drawn in, it replaces it,
therefore we don't get a vacuum, and therefore
it's actually using the oil.
Having run 80 miles since York, another water tanker pumps thousands
of gallons into Tornado's tender, ready for the next leg of the trip.
She was waggling a bit at around the 80 miles an hour mark,
but she settled down and was good as gold.
With some assistance from the gradients
downhill on the way back, I reckon that magic
100 mile an hour is going to be in the bag.
Here you are, Dave.
Graeme will ride on the footplate back to York, and there's a new
pair of hands on the shovel too.
Ready to set off now towards Newcastle, over.
Huw retires to the train.
If Tornado does top the ton, he'll confirm the onboard
measurements with the footplate.
OK, that's us on our way back into Newcastle.
First, though, the whole train is heading across
the Tyne, to turn around.
It's 2:30 in the morning.
Britain's commuters are asleep.
We're in a position to head off shortly, and we'll see
what the future brings.
It's calm and quiet.
It's a professional job.
You know, that's the point.
We're not playing trains here.
Dave, remember, there's plenty of downhill
out of here, it will just blow its head off otherwise.
On the way home, there are three places where they can clock 100.
But to take heritage steam into a new realm,
everything has to be in their favour.
I sent a message to the Network Rail, Head of Operations North,
and just said, "Greens all the way please!"
Tornado's staccato exhaust beats reverberate across the city.
The crew are getting stuck in,
and, as requested, there's a clear road ahead.
Now everyone on board is watching a speedometer.
At more than a mile a minute, Durham is quickly reached.
It's going up, it's going up.
Come on, come on, come on.
Come on, come on!
It's a post '60s record, though not what they came for.
How far to Aycliffe?
About five miles.
And at the Aycliffe curves, there's a speed restriction for all trains.
There's no choice but to slow down.
Ease her back.
No, don't shut off, just ease her back a bit on here.
They're disappointed, but not beaten.
We'll bring her around, and we'll go again after Aycliffe.
We're not very far from Darlington now, so the driver will be mindful
of the 90 mile an hour, over the voiding line
at Darlington station.
Graeme joins the fireman in shovelling, as they prepare
for the next sprint.
But a couple of miles later, there's bad news.
Why have we got two flashing yellows?
They haven't got the green signal they were expecting.
Is that right?
Instead of going round Darlington station, for some reason,
they're being sent through it.
And that means slowing down again.
A solitary member of staff gets an unexpected surprise.
A mournful lament on Tornado's chime whistle.
Their second chance at the ton has just disappeared.
We'll leave it now.
When we get over the restriction on the other side of the curves,
so we'll get through the curves, get past the neutral section
and then we'll go for it.
It's now accelerating again.
Unfortunately, we have another 75 at Northallerton to obey.
The approaching train is not scheduled to stop at this station.
Fast train approaching.
It's still a spectacular sight, but another temporary
speed restriction follows just down the line at Thirsk.
Now, Tornado has to drop down to 50 miles per hour.
They're running out of track and time.
It's all down to the final few miles before York.
They'll be bending the hammer.
Oh, come on!
Come on, come on, come on!
Everyone, jump up in the air.
To celebrate - the rarest of snaps for the album.
A defining moment for Tornado and the crew.
They're wonderful people, so they've done us proud.
Take her in.
The water stop at York beckons.
I bet you're tired out, aren't you, Steve?
He's been doing a lot of concentrating.
Anywhere there, Steve, anywhere there.
Well done, boys.
Don't want to do that again!
I hope she's all right after this.
So do I!
100 miles an hour is a big figure to achieve,
and it's incredibly symbolic.
I think it's a milestone and a real, real talisman for the future.
I asked for a picture of the speedometer
when it goes over 100.
I think it's a really great thing to do.
I would do it again, aye.
I don't know if Tornado would do it again, but...
It's been done anyway, so...
It was doing 100 miles an hour for 48 seconds.
I think we can say it did 100 miles an hour.
When we get it home and it's all in one piece,
then we can be proud.
From a casual idea, to a titan of steam, from 0 to 100.
Tornado has quickly garnered accolades.
Yes, there is a serious business here, but it's adventure
that makes the heart race.
There are still plenty of pages of that annual to fill.
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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.