Welcome to the last “model of the week” series, which will become a less regular feature in the future. However, today’s model is an important one to end the series – A1 class 60163 Tornado. This Bachmann model has previously been reviewed (click here for more) and is a regular runner here at Locoyard. Today we look at the history of this new-build prototype.
“This locomotive was built and paid for by people who shared a vision and were determined to turn it into reality”. If there was a ever a sentence that summed up how and why 60163 Tornado is with us today, then this is it and it can be found on a plaque on the the locomotive. However, although Tornado was completed in 2008, it’s ancestry can be traced back to the glory days of steam.
So what is this called a Peppercorn A1 class locomotive and why is “Peppercorn” almost always mentioned in the type’s name? Well the answer to that question is a little convoluted. The London and North Eastern Railway (LNER) classified locomotive’s according to a letter designation that corresponded with specific wheel arrangements. Anything that had an “A” prefix was of a pacific (4-6-2) type, which explains why (for example) the Mallard is an A4 class locomotive. So far this makes sense, however when you consider the different locomotive types that shared the same class classification, things become increasingly complicated. When it was new, The Flying Scotsman was designated as an A1 class – naturally (Chief Mechanical Engineer) Sir Nigel Gresley’s flagship locomotive took the ultimate “number one” place within the structure of the LNER class system. “A2” was given to the pre-grouping Raven 4-6-2 class that was in service until 1937. Those of you who know the history of 4472 Flying Scotsman will know that it was modified to become an “A3” class, as were most of all Gresley A1’s. The Gresley A1’s that were not converted were later re-designated A10 by Gresley’s successor, Edward Thompson. So the Gresley A1 class is a different machine altogether. Thompson created an A1/1 class – which consisted of one locomotive – a rebuild of pioneer Gresley A1 class “Great Northern. Legend has it that Thompson’s hatred of Gresley’s practices motivated him to rebuild this historically significant locomotive. The A1/1 was largely unsuccessful and the 15 new members of this class that were ordered by Thompson were fortunately modified by Thompson’s successor, Arthur Peppercorn who in turn created the Peppercorn A1 class. With Peppercorn at the helm he created a different class, hence, this is a “Peppercorn A1 class”.
Peppercorn’s A1 class were designed to cope with 550 ton East Coast mainline trains running at up 70 mph. They shared classic Gresley features such as the Double-Kylchap chimney, banjo dome and three cylinder wheel arrangement. The chimney was fitted as a result of experience of poor-steaming of the single chimney Peppercorn A2 class locomotives. The A1 class never suffered from poor steaming as a result. However it did result in them being very noisy – louder even than the station tannoys! They therefore required silencers to be fitted.
Although the Peppercorn A1 class were an LNER design, they were never LNER locomotive’s as construction of the whole class was completed after the nationalisation of the British Railway network in 1948. Born at the beginning of British Railways however meant that they carried LNER style apple green livery (as modelled here) at first. Many members of the class also carried the short-lived BR Express blue livery before they all became BR brunswick green. 49 Peppercorn A1 class locomotives were built and were considered successful, except for a few teething troubles that were soon ironed out. Classified by BR as 8P they were powerful and did the job asked of them very well. Despite this, with the withdrawal of steam in 1960’s, none were saved and all were scrapped.
The destruction of this entire class of top-link locomotive left a hole in the preservation world. One Peppercorn A2 class survived (60532 Blue Peter), one A3 class (4472 Flying Scotsman) and six A4 class locomotives (including record breaking 4468 Mallard) were saved, but there was no Peppercorn A1 class remaining after 1966. This class was not unique in having no saved examples. Many others, including some far more numerous 0-6-0 designs were also lost, but with the Peppercorn A1 it was a particularly magnificent type that could be regarded as the pinnacle of LNER 4-6-2 design – the end product of a line of locomotives that broke world records. For many, this loss was too much and as a result a group was formed to build a new Peppercorn A1 class from scratch.
The A1 Steam LocomotiveTrust was formed in 1990 and their ambition was to create the fiftieth Peppercorn A1 class locomotive. Essentially it would be to the original design, but would also feature modifications to make it a steam locomotive suitable for the twenty-first century mainline. It is remarkable that the group achieved this ambition which was a first in the UK (for a standard gauge locomotives). It cost £3 million and required a lot of support, including from major businesses. It was named after the jet Fighter/bomber the Panavia Tornado. Completed in 2008 it has literally taken the country by storm and is a very popular machine. It has also inspired many other new build projects. I recommend going to the A1 Trust’s website (click here) to find out more. I also recommend following and signing up for updates from the “New Build Steam” website (click here) to see the many other exciting new build projects advancing around the country.
With that, we end the model of the week series, although similar articles will continue to be published on a less-regular basis. Fellow followers may wish to write an article or a few about their own models and submit them here to be published if they wish. It is a lot of fun finding out about the history behind the little models that run around your layout. You will learn more about famous record breakers, engineering brilliance, human endeavor, bravery and brilliance than you might expect! Click here to find out how to submit a guest blog post. Links to other model of the week articles can be found in the Loco Model Page (click here to see more). Thanks for reading folks 🙂