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Tornado steam engine pulls into Norwich station

PUBLISHED: 08:00 29 May 2010 | UPDATED: 16:53 01 July 2010

The Tornado.

The Tornado.

Matthew Sparkes

Norwich railway station was filled with the sights, sounds and smells of a bygone era yesterday when a steam locomotive chugged into view and pulled up at platform two.

Norwich railway station was filled with the sights, sounds and smells of a bygone era yesterday when a steam locomotive chugged into view and pulled up at platform two.

Towed behind it were several vintage maroon carriages full of tourists brought from Liverpool Street, Chelmsford and Colchester.

But although it looked like an authentic piece of transport history, even to the hoards of train spotters awaiting its arrival, this engine was actually far newer than the diesel engines it sat beside.

Construction of this new £3m Peppercorn class A1 pacific steam locomotive, number 60163, was started 20 years by a charitable trust and completed just over a year ago.

It is an exact replica of the dozens of Peppercorns that were once in service all over the country, but were all sadly scrapped in the 1960s.

Modern safety equipment on board is the only indication that it is younger than it first appears.

Don Clarke, 61, who drove the Tornado to Norwich, said the allure of working on steam engines was difficult to explain.

“It's a challenge, it's interesting, it's very rewarding,” he said, through a thick layer of soot.

“To be put in charge of something like this is a great honour. There's lots of people out there who would give their right arm to do this.”

Mr Clarke began his career in the 1960s on steam engines, but only worked for three years before diesel trains were phased in.

Admiring the train from the platform was another man who remembered the steam era well.

Arthur Edwards, 83, came to the train station especially to see the Tornado.

He drove similar trains between Norwich and Liverpool Street for just a few weeks short of 50 years, and during his time he was in charge of steam, diesel and electric trains.

He said that the transition from steam to diesel was like “going from the ridiculous to the sublime” as they were cleaner, quicker and more reliable.

“The diesels are much faster but there's something romantic about a steam engine, although they're hard work,” he said.

“They were dirty old things, but you enjoyed it. They were happy days in a way.”

He admitted that he had in the past used the train's boiler to make cups of tea while driving, and on two occasions had even cooked bacon and eggs near the furnace on a coal shovel.

But he also broke the record for the fastest run between the two cities in 1987, after arriving in London just 83 minutes after leaving Norwich.

But he said that there was no little that such a feat could be repeated now, even given the recent Norwich in 90 campaign.

“They'll never get to 90, it's too congested the other side of Colchester,” he said.

The imposing locomotive was officially named Tornado by the Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall in February 2009 and has been running regular services such as yesterday's journey ever since.

The trip marked the first time that it had left Liverpool Street station and also its first visit to Norwich.

Passengers who arrived on the train had around four hours to explore the sights of Norwich while the engine was turned around and serviced, and then returned home via Ely and Bury St Edmunds.

The train has also starred on Top Gear, where it raced a Jaguar XK120 and a Vincent Black Shadow from London to Edinburgh with Jeremy Clarkson stoking the boiler.

The A1 Steam Locomotive Trust behind its construction is currently raising funds to repay the outstanding £500,000 borrowed to complete the work.

For details of the Tornado's upcoming journeys visit www.a1steam.com

Named after its designer, Arthur Peppercorn, a total of 49 Peppercorn Class A1s were built for British Railways in 1948 and 1949.

But a move to diesel trains in the 1960s led to them all being quickly scrapped after an average lifespan of just 15 years.

A rescue attempt was made for the very last example, 60145 Saint Mungo, but it too was melted down in 1966.

The project to build a new Peppercorn class A1 was launched in 1990 and after 18 years of planning, construction and fundraising the £3 million locomotive was completed in August 2008.

Fitted with the latest safety electronics, Tornado is fully equipped to run on modern tracks and hauled her first main line passenger train in January last year.

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