Page last updated at 16:04 GMT, Saturday, 7 February 2009

New steam train makes London trip

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'She's something else, she really is... it goes like a greyhound'

The first new mainline steam engine to be built in Britain for nearly five decades has made its first long-distance passenger trip into London.

The train set off from Darlington at 0745 GMT and arrived at London King's Cross station shortly after 1400 GMT.

The 3m Peppercorn class A1 Pacific engine was built in Darlington over 18 years with donations from enthusiasts.

Hundreds watched Tornado arrive in London. Passenger John Warren described the journey as "absolutely phenomenal".

Tornado pulled 13 carriages, equating to about 500 tons, and ran at speeds of up to 75mph.

Additional passengers were picked up at York and the train passed through stations including Newark, Peterborough and Potters Bar before arriving in London.

Tornado steam engine
In these dark days, to have something like this is absolutely brilliant
Passenger John Warren

The journey took twice as long as the regular rail service and was delayed by 30 minutes following electrical problems near Peterborough unrelated to the steam engine.

Mr Warren, from Whittlesey, Peterborough, was one of the first passengers to step off the train.

He said: "Thousands of people were at the sides of the tracks waving as we went by.

"In these dark days, to have something like this is absolutely brilliant."

Derek Bryne travelled to York from Seaford, East Sussex, to catch Tornado after his wife bought him tickets for his 75th birthday.

He said the atmosphere on board was "unbelievable".

"Everyone was so friendly. They were all of the same ilk and wanting to travel," he added.

The train is apple green, the colour carried by the first 30 Peppercorn class A1s, and it began taking fare-paying passengers on 31 January.

Robert Morland from the A1 Steam Locomotive Trust said: "We built it to the original plans and drawings which came from 1948, so the engine is completely new but it is as it would have been as one of the original engines."


Although it does of course create some smoke, actually pulling 500 people with a steam engine is quite... efficient
Robert Morland, A1 Steam Locomotive Trust

The train's headlamps, signalling system and onboard voyage data recorder or "black box" are powered by electricity, he added.

Mr Morland denied the steam engine posed a health risk.

"The approach to steam has changed in the last few years but once you have your engine fully certified for the mainline there isn't really a problem," he said.

"Although it does of course create some smoke, actually pulling 500 people with a steam engine is quite an efficient way of transporting people."

Trust chairman Mark Allatt said the journey marked "the end of another chapter in the story of a project that many said could not be completed".

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