back to article Fifty years later, steam appears on British railway

A Peppercorn class A1 Pacific traveled from York to Scarborough on Tuesday evening, becoming the first new steam train to run on Britain's railway since 1960. The steam locomotive - No. 60163 Tornado - departed the National Railway Museum in York at 6:04pm, arrived at York station by 6:18, and reached the coast at 8:12, The …


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  1. Jonathan Bryce

    I've seen steam trains on the Fort William - Mallaig route

    Doesn't this count as a steam train running on a British railway in the past 50 years? They share the line with normal First Scotrail services.

  2. Bill
    Thumb Up

    Cool! But Why?

    Interesting, I really love the old steamers, but besides the historical significance in using steam, is the real reason due to climate effects?

  3. Anonymous Coward


    What does Jeremy Clarkson have to say about it??

    IT angle? Hell, it probably travels faster than the packets around here.

  4. Ed

    @ Jonathan Bryce

    You misread the article, it's the first _NEW_ steam train. There are many old steam trains still running all over the network, mainly for enthusiasts and tourists.

    I see them from time to time on the Waterloo - Reading line and Waterloo - Portsmouth line...


  5. Jon H

    @Jonathan Bryce

    Yes there are steam services that use the normal rail lines. There is a "Cathedral Express" than runs from London to various cathedral cities in the UK during the summer using a 1940's steam engine.

    However the point of this article is "the first new steam train to run on Britain's railway ", the word to notice is "new".

    It's a brand new train, built from scratch costing £3m and only finished this year. The first steam train to be built from scratch (ie, not a restoration project) in 40 odd years.

    It's an A1 Class (same as the Flying Scotsman) with a few updates to make it meet the Network Rail requirements such as the modern electronic warning systems.

  6. Anonymous Coward

    too slow

    This country is going backwards....bring on high speed rail...

    unless this is some kind of tourist route..then im all for it!

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    I dream of a day...

    ...when the expansion of gasses in an enclosed space will drive us across the countryside in the belly of eight-legged metal horses. Comely maidens will serve neat gin to the gentlemen in the saloon cabin as news of the latest cricket matches is flown in by trained carrier pigeons while the ladyfolk, in the privacy of their own ladies lounge, will while away the traveling days practicing their needlework and discussing the fashions of the day .

    Angrified Gasses, as the heated vapours will become known, will power our flag poles and our revolving doors. Refinement and miniaturization of boiler technology - made possible by increasingly fine porcelains coming from the orient - will see Angrified Gasses driving our zoetropes and phonautographs.

    Soon the technology will shrink to personal-boiler level - there will be a boiler in every bustle, and every wescot will strain under the motive potential of accumulating pressurised gasses!

    It will be a wondrous second age of man driven by the miraculous properties of expanding gas!


  8. Dave Driver

    @ Jon H

    Nah the Flying Scotsman is an A3 class.

    The whole point of building a new A1 (as opposed to any other class) is that there are no preserved examples of the class.

  9. Jeremy

    Pedant mode...

    <pedant subtype="anorak">

    If it pulled two "support coaches" then it wasn't light engine, was it?


  10. Peter Gold badge

    @Cool! But Why?

    Maybe, just maybe, this could be the first train to run on time in, umm, give or take 12 years since privatisation?

    Just a guess..


  11. Paul

    Steam punk FTW!

    Mines the frock coat with a copy of The Time Machine in the pocket.

  12. John Lodge
    Paris Hilton

    Pedant II

    <Pedant subtype="gricer">

    Also this new A1 Pacific is not a train it is a locomotive or at least a steam engine, When combined with rolling stock it then becomes a train - like the "Jacobite"


    The last A1 cut up was St. Mungo - no "W"


    All good stuff though, nice to see that British Engineering is alive and well! For further reading on the A1 class, take a look at

    Paris? Because she likes 'em long and hot

  13. Alex Tyman


    ...this engine has been going up and down the track outside my flat for the past few months (testing mainly from what I hear)! So it's been about for a fair while, admittedly the track outside my flat isn't a main line, it's the GCR Steam Line in Leicestershire.

    I wonder when they are going to finish painting it? That grey primer is a little... well grey!

  14. Giles Jones Gold badge

    @too slow

    >This country is going backwards....bring on high speed rail...

    >unless this is some kind of tourist route..then im all for it!

    Congestion is a huge problem on the railways, expansion of the network is needed before high speed is realistically possible. While a faster train would spend less time to do a route it is all the other slower trains like freight trains that get in the way.

  15. Jimmy Floyd
    Thumb Up


    Hilarious. Are you secretly Monty Burns, by any chance?

  16. marc

    A1 & A3

    Flying Scotsman was an A1 Pacific Class - all (the majority?) of the A1's were eventually rebuild as A3's as it was a modified design of the A1 apart from Great Northern. Having a quick look around for the date but i cant find one.

    Wonder if theyll go for the 126mph fastest steam engine record...

  17. Dave Gregory

    14 minutes?

    The national railway museum is less than 300m from the station as the train rolls. How the hell does it take almost quarter of an hour to get from one to the other?

  18. Andus McCoatover

    Snow Hill?

    Hmmm.. Born in 1956, I seem to remember a railway station in Birmingham called Snow Hill. I also remember boarding a steam train there with my grandparents (Or, was it a church choir outing - memory is hazy nowadays). And getting a little orange ticket.

    Therefore, I must've been more than 4 years old, so - 1960 - last steam train?

    Anyone help me out here?

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Too slow

    Much as I agree we need to go faster, 50mph is about the same speed as the Aberdeen to Dundee line gets at the moment.

    Why didn't they build another Mallard? It's a steam train, looks great and was bloody fast as well! Drop in some modern materials and you could have some seriously impressive steaming!

    Oh, and @Dream AC- that must be one of the best responses to an El Reg article. Ever.

  20. GrahamT

    @Dave Driver

    To be fair, the Flying Scotsman was created as an A1, then converted to an A3 (new boiler, etc.) but yes, there are no actual preserved A1s left.

  21. Steve K
    Thumb Up

    It has a 13-amp socket on board too...

    My brother-in-law is a railway dynamics engineer and needed to plug his laptop in while doing some work on Tornado.

    "No problem!" they said, and showed him the on-board 13-amp socket.

    Would this have been the first steam-powered laptop?

    He was chuffed! ;-)


  22. Nick Palmer
    Thumb Up

    @AC "I dream..."

    Ah...been re-reading "The Difference Engine"...?

    Great story, by the way; I'd love to actually see it in action.

  23. Michael Sage


    Technically the new train is an A1 peppercorn... The flying scotmas was a A1 and then modified to become an A3. The orginal A1 was designed by Sir Nigel Gresley, the A1 Peppercorn was designed by Arthur Peppercorn.


  24. It wasnt me

    The real question is ....

    Why is Cade Metz from San Francisco reporting on this ? Its a UK rag with a UK angle in the UK.

    Surely the merkin journo's have got other stuff to cover this week?

    Nothing against Cade, just seems a bit strange?

    Hands up if youre a trainspotter.

  25. Sceptical Bastard
    Paris Hilton

    More pedantry

    "... an A1 Class (same as the Flying Scotsman)"

    Different A1, sorry. Switching to anorak mode....

    Nigel Gresley (later Sir) designed the original class A1 Pacifics in 1922. His later design, the A3, included 'Flying Scotsman'. All the original A1s were eventually rebuilt as A3s.

    Gresley's successor Arthur Peppercorn designed the 'new' A1 class (a much more modern design), the first being introduced to traffic in in August 1948. A further 48 were built by the end of 1949.

    'Tornado' is an entirely new machine (as opposed to a restored one) and is effectively the fiftieth Peppercorn A1 class. It is not an exact replica and incorporates changes that reflect more modern manufacturing methods (for example, the boiler is all-welded where the original was rivetted, the firebox is made of steel rather than copper, and roller bearings are used for the wheels) .


    Yes, yes, I know what you're thinking - who gives a shit?

    There are two IT angles here. Firstly, the new loco has been fitted with electronics needed to operate on the modern network. Secondly, the project has attracted a "rival-OS-like" degree of partisanship. Tornado has cost over £3million and enthusiasts are bitterly arguing over whether the money would've been better spent restoring existing 'heritage' locomotives that escaped the scrapyard in the late 1960s - if you think we IT geeks are pedantic, partisan and argumentative, wait til you meet railway nerds!

    Housed at the Railway Museum in York, Tornado has undergone trials on the Great Central Railway steam line in Leicestershire and is intended to pull charter trains on the main-line rail network during 2009.

    Paris because she pulls too

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The future

    I was reading an artlcle (may of been from middlesex Uni) a few months ago about how new chemical based steam trains may provide the future of transport, due to their green credentials.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    @AC I dream of a day

    'every wescot will strain under the motive potential of accumulating pressurised gasses!'

    Pttcchaaa... They already do my boy, they already do.... Only question is if it he motive potential is applied to the owner of said wescot or the colleagues in the same office.

    Paris, she gives stirs the motive potential in my trews...

  28. Paul Crawford Silver badge

    @too slow

    I think the 50mph is just the trial speed, it is supposed to run (with moderate coache load) as fast as the main line trains so it can fit the normal timetable slots. Also (as already mentioned) it was modified to meet the new safety requierments, such as automatic warning system and lower funnel to clear the overhead power line.

  29. John Chadwick

    The Flying Scotsman was not....

    An A1, it was an A3 designed by Sir Nigel Gresley, where as Tornado is an A1 of a design by A.H Peppercorn.

    Being fair as I like to be, it did used to be an A1, but Peppercorn's predecessor Thompson decided that all his designs would be 1s, so the old A1s were relegated to being A3s. Actually his landed up being one of a kind, the A1/1.

    So management hubris is not a new thing. Sadly no Chief Engineer would be allowed to do this today's world where it's never mind the quality, look at the bottom line. I wonder how many current executives grand children will be able to say my Grandad built that. One wonders how many computers will still be running over 100 years after they were designed, as many steam engines still are.

    I'll get my Anorak now.

  30. Garry Mills


    The weather in Scarborough was pretty grim last night so wasn't the best conditions to go and have a look (I didn't...).

    The station is still there so at least the brakes worked!

  31. Moss Icely Spaceport
    Thumb Up

    Anoraks of the world...



  32. amanfromMars Silver badge

    Something New from Old Titans...

    A steam engine powered by a small nuclear reactor would allow for travel at zero cost and with its H2Oemissions captured and condensed/recycled back into the natural water fuel store, would its Energy Efficiency be increased to Practically Zero Waste too?

  33. Chris Hamilton

    I'll grab my anorak and be right with you....

    @ Michael - The loco was built merely to show it can be done. This type of steam loco was popular in it's day, but quite short-lived due to the 1955 BR Modernisation Plan, and no example was preserved. This particular loco has managed to retain all grandfather rights with regards to modern build standards as it is being considered a continuation of the original production run (with a 50 year gap for re-tooling) and has been numbered as such.

    @ Jon H - The loco named Flying Scotsman is an A3, though any suitable express locomotive (including an A1) would have provided the "Flying Scotsman" (London to Edinburgh non-stop) service back in the day.

    @ Jeremy - You are right, if it was hauling anything other than another locomotive, then it was not a light engine, more a testing move.

    As lovely as Steam locomotives are, I'm a much bigger fan of the diesel preservation movement. Nothing better than sitting behind a Class 50 powering up the Lickey. :-)

    Mine is the yellow mac, with the notebook and thermos in the pocket.

  34. Edward Rose

    Old exterior new interiors

    It would be really nice (in my opinion) if they made a flock of trains based on an old/steamer appearance, but just shove the appropriate elec/diesel bits inside (if steam really is a problem).

    The new trains are just so bland and boring. Okay, they may be a bit more fuel efficient, but whatever happened to good old pleasure.

    Oh well, well done to the Tornado team, I look forward to a trip in it someday.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    @He was chuffed! ;-)

    Priceless!! I laughed like a drain!!!!! One of the best ever. 15 out of 10 for that!

  36. Ed

    First new *Main Line* steam engine

    Pedant Mode ON:

    It's the first new Main Line steam loco. There have been lots of steam engines built in the UK in the last forty years. Look up "David Lloyd George" on the Festiniog Railway (2ft Gauge). "Iron Duke" at Didcot Railway centre (7ft Gauge - Brunel should have stuck with Civil Engineering)

  37. Eddie Edwards
    Thumb Up

    The magic of steam

    "The national railway museum is less than 300m from the station as the train rolls. How the hell does it take almost quarter of an hour to get from one to the other?"

    That's the magic of steam!

  38. Ferry Boat

    It takes a lot to laugh, it takes a train to cry

    Surely they can't be using coal to heat the water. Shouldn't they be using a small nuclear reactor? I wonder if that would be more efficient than using a nuclear reactor to drive a turbine to produce electricity to drive the train, all on-board of course.

  39. teacake

    @Andus McCoatover

    "Born in 1956, I seem to remember a railway station in Birmingham called Snow Hill. I also remember boarding a steam train there with my grandparents (Or, was it a church choir outing - memory is hazy nowadays). And getting a little orange ticket.

    Therefore, I must've been more than 4 years old, so - 1960 - last steam train?"

    According to the article, 1960 is when the last new steam locomotive entered service, not when the last steam train ran.

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    @Andus McCoatover

    I think that the final steam locomotives were withdrawn in 1968.

  41. Stratman

    @It has a 13-amp socket on board too...

    "Would this have been the first steam-powered laptop?"

    Nope. At least some, if not all of the 'leccy that charges every laptop battery has been steam generated.

  42. Jeremy

    @Dave Gregory/14 minutes

    Clearly you've not used the railways in the UK in the last 11 years then!

  43. Yorkshirepudding


    yes but where are the steampowered battlebots?

    that is all

  44. Andy Taylor

    @Ed - 7ft Gauge

    Surely a railway is civil engineering? Anyway, Brunel had a lot of influence on the railways and his 7ft gauge was probably the better option - the VHS vs Betamax of its day.

  45. andy gibson


    ...other countries are pissing themselves laughing at the UK and it's antiquated transport infrastructure while they build, test and use their 500+mph maglev trains.

  46. Dunstan Vavasour

    50MPH - AWS

    I suspect the 50mph limit was because the AWS hadn't been used in live production before - it's the limit for any loco without AWS.

    Oh, and shouldn't it be <Pedantry Mode> rather than <Pedant Mode>?

  47. Dave Walker

    Pedant III - Locomotive v. Train

    @John Lodge

    Hi John, actually , for operational purposes as opposed to dictionary definitions, a "Train" is a conceptual object on a rail network being defined as having the appropriate Marker Lights and Flags and a slot in the timetable. It can be as little as one locomotive meeting the above conditions to a 100 wagon drag.

    Synchronous Clocks,

    Packet Routing

    Railways were the birth of the Internet!

    -Mine's the grubby one covered in Welsh Coal with the cables in the pocket...

  48. Red Bren


    Have you been on holiday or are you an imposter? I understood every word you said. And you seem to have stopped capitalising all the "IT"s!

    As for the idea of zero cost nuclear trains, there's no way our privateering train operators would cut prices - there's all the overheads to think of - wear and tear on tickets, installing more comfortable seats (in the boardrooms, not the trains) and making sure the shareholder dividends arrive on time...

  49. Anonymous Coward


    I love steam trains and think its fab that there is a new one on the rails. My son is really into them also (thanks to Thomas The Tank Engine).

    The best train I've seen so far was a Chinese steam train designed for mountain passes that was at the York Railway Museum. It was massive.

  50. Gareth Jones Silver badge


    Have they been messing with the calendar again? Surely 2008 is 48 years after 1960.

    I don't recall the A1 being considered that good. The were designed, not to be particularly good engine, but to be able to cope with poor maintenance (this was British Rail remember) and poor quality coal. Which is probably why none of them was considered for preservation.

    Oh and for those of you who think steam left British Railways in 1968 (excepting special services) you'd be wrong. The Vale of Rheidol line ran on steam until 1989 under BR ownership. The main reason for this was actually that BR were too tight to pay for new engines to run on the 23.75" gauge. The fact that it probably cost more to maintain the engines for 41 years than it would have done to buy new ones probably never occurred to them. Which means of course that we still have the line and it's old engines today, but tells you all you need to know about how BT was run.

  51. Jonathan

    re: "Pedant II" (and "It takes a lot to laugh, it takes a train to cry" )

    Pedant II

    sorry to be pedantic, but... you forgot your backslash..

    <Pedant subtype="gricer">

    blah.. blah


    and then...

    "Surely they can't be using coal to heat the water. Shouldn't they be using a small nuclear reactor? I wonder if that would be more efficient than using a nuclear reactor to drive a turbine to produce electricity to drive the train, all on-board of course."

    Though I'd read a bit recently about how environmentally clean new coal-powered plants could be in comparison to oil and gas (and ho wmuch of the stuff is still lying under the ground in the UK) ?

  52. Anonymous John

    Maximum speed: 50mph.

    No problem. It takes me an hour and a half to get to London by train, and it's only about 50 miles away.

    Mine's the one covered with soot.

  53. David Jackson

    Last Steam

    The last standard gauge steam on British Rail ran in 1968, but for longer on London Underground and in industry. BR retained narrow gauge stream for many years after that.

  54. blackworx

    @Sceptical Bastard

    Very informative comment, cheers.

    <sadcase>But, since we're on a pedantic bent, it's "till" not "til".</sadcase>

    Mine's the one with the well-thumbed copy of Fowler's in the pocket. No, not that one, the one with the pages stuck together.

  55. Dick

    But did they cook breakfast

    on the shovel?

  56. blackworx

    @ John Lodge

    OMG you're not, like, THE John Lodge, legendary Moody Blues bassist and time-served musical genius are you???!!!1!one

  57. Ed

    @Andy Taylor - 7ft Gauge

    The railway bridges, cuttings, embankments and tunnels are civil engineering. The gauge of the track laid on it is not.

    Whilst a boarder gauge is better (which is why the Russians, Spanish, Irish and others use 5' 3"), the rest of the Britain at the time was being covered with 4' 8.5" gauge track.

    Mine is the one with the gauging bar in the pocket, ta!

  58. Ceiling Cat

    Why always nuclear?

    Surely, instead of Nuclear power, they could (at the very least) have used the industrial equivalent of an electric Kettle element + Condensing system to conserve water? they could have even drawn power off the caternary or 3rd rails, although that would spoil the appearance a tad.

    Not that the old way isn't cool to see.

    Mine's the one with a copy of Trainz in the pocket.

  59. Anonymous Coward

    Pictures - did I miss the bleedin' pictures

    And will you be allowed to photograph this thing without having some lol rozzer give you a load of grief? If we don't get pictures it doesn't exist. At least give us the HO version.

  60. A

    Re: But did they cook breakfast

    I can't say for sure on that run, but there was a program about this loco on BBC Four recently, and in that we saw them make a fryup on the shovel of their shiny new A1.

  61. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down



    More polution!

  62. Warhelmet


    Poop! Poop!

    I live on the Paddington mainline - the old GWR line to south wales and the south-west. I see steam trains chuffing along from my back garden on an infrequent basis.

    One of the big criticism of coal power is that it is dirty. No. There is good coal and bad coal. GWR generally used anthracite from wales which has a very high carbon content and doesn't produce horrible smoke in the way that lower grade coals do. I know that some of the small gauge railways have converted old steamers to run on oil because it's notionally cleaner than low-grade coal. Also, am I right in thinking that there were small trains that ran on sugar plantations that used distilled ethanol?

    Whilst I welcome the building of a new mainline stream train, I would have preferred them to build something genuinely novel and utilising modern concepts rather than a duplicate of 70 year old tech. That would have been something really interested to see. A train for the third world, perhaps. Mechanically simple, but more efficient.

    As long as the result wasn't Ivor the Engine.

  63. Anonymous Coward


    there could be created a vapour steam clone version. (!)

  64. Anonymous John

    I for one,

    welcome our new steam-powered overlords.

  65. Tim99 Silver badge

    @Ferry Boat - Electric Traction

    Almost all larger "Diesel" locomotives use electric traction motors. The power is generated from the engine driving an alternator. The power from the alternator then drives the traction motors. It is common for each axle/bogie to have its own traction motor driven off the one alternator.

    It can be argued that the French already have nuclear powered trains as nuclear power stations already generate most of the electricity used to power SNCF trains...

  66. Gareth Jones Silver badge


    The reason they built a new A1 was that no Peppercorn A1s were preserved. Nothing to do with any great need for steam engines or any technical experiments. Basically because they wanted to. There was no actual need for a steam engine to run on main lines, there are more than enough existing engines certified to run on main lines to fulfil the required role of pulling specials. I for one would rather be pulled by a genuine historic engine than a recreation.

    There are those who would argue that the reason no Peppercorn A1s were preserved is that they weren't actually very good.

    If somebody really wanted to build an old fashioned engine brought up to modern standards then the logical starting point was the 9F class alluded to in the article, those last engined built in 1960. Capable of hauling the heaviest freight trains and still pulling an express at 90mph. That was arguably the epitome of British mainline steam design. However they wouldn't want to do that because there are still some 9F's around.

    Of course if you wanted to build a modern steam engine you would probably be looking at a steam turbine driving an alternator. Which is of course pretty much what we have with electric trains, it's just that the steam turbine is miles away from the train.

  67. David Jackson


    Of couse the LMS did try turbine power with the Turbomotive 6202 and it worked quite well. It's a pity the concept wasn't developed further.

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