This Amazing Steam Locomotive Cost $5 Million And Took 18 Years To Build

Tornado A1 Steam Train

Photo: Ian McDonald/A1SLT

At one time long ago, steam was the way to power a train from point A to point B.The steam locomotive was a tradition in England, but the last new steam train was released in 1960 as gas and electric took over the railways.

One of the idols of the steam locomotive world was the A1 Peppercorn train. 40-nine of these were built, with the last one coming out in 1949. But after over a decade in service, all 49 were destroyed in 1966.

None were preserved for future generations.

However, in 1990, the A1 Steam Locomotive Trust was formed with the intent of putting an all-new A1 Peppercorn steam locomotive on the rails of Britain. They planned on making the 50th train so there would be a bridge to the past.

According to A1 Steam Locomotive Trust Chairman Mark Allatt, the trust was established to fill a missing link in steam preservation.

Soon after the trust was established, work began on fundraising so an all-new locomotive could be constructed from scratch. With aggressive fundraising tactics and a motivated team, the project came to fruition.

But it took a long time.

The build took a whopping 18 years from start to finish, but at the end it was the only A1 Peppercorn locomotive in Britain. Christened Tornado, this locomotive is a fascinating study in bespoke engineering.

At the beginning of the construction process, they needed trains to bring the frames to the factory.

This picture from 1999 shows that the build was coming along quite nicely. But it still had nine years to go.

This gives a good idea of just how massive everything on the Tornado is.

In order to lubricate the wheels to put them on the train, Mr. Allatt told us they used Grapeseed Oil from British supermarket Tesco. Amazingly, Tesco wasn't interested in a cross branded ad campaign to show a new use for the oil.

This is Tornado in 2004. This is 14 years into the build process and there is still no boiler on board.

Tornado went through extensive testing to make sure everything was properly aligned and tolerances were correctly set.

The boiler work spanned from 2005-2006. Mr. Allatt told us this was indeed the biggest challenge of the entire build process.

The boiler was FINALLY put on the locomotive in 2007, a full 17 years after the inception of the project.

This is the first steam test of Tornado. Thankfully, it went very well.

The livery was unveiled in a ceremony to a huge crowd in 2008.

Prince Charles was on hand to help christen the locomotive and then took to the driver's seat.

Tornado is on the left of this shot, which includes other legends of the British railroad industry.

While it is a steam train and has a decidedly antique feel, Tornado actually has a number of modern features including a cell phone charger.

Fans of the BBC program Top Gear may remember the episode where the train races a Jaguar XK120 and Vincent Black Shadow motorcycle from London to Scotland.

The train came in second, but also had a small steampipe issue on the journey that was a setback.

Tornado in the British countryside hearkens back to a time long gone by.

Since the level of effort and dedication was so great, it is doubtful that we will ever see a project like Tornado ever again. It's a one-of-a-kind train that will remain that way forever.

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