STEAM railway enthusiasts are on track to build another locomotive in the North East.
They have been inspired by the success of Tornado, the first new mainline steam locomotive to be built in Britain for almost 50 years.
It was constructed in Darlington over a period of 18 years by the A1 Steam Locomotive Trust in a £3m operation and has proved a major hit as it pulls special trains for rail lovers across the country.
The group of enthusiasts from across the North East and Yorkshire have set up the G5 Locomotive Company to construct a class of engine which was manufactured exclusively in the region.
While Tornado was the most powerful express passenger steam locomotive ever built for a British railway, the new engine will be a Worsdell G5 class machine.
This was a workhorse locomotive which operated local services on lines in rural Northumberland and the urban North East and routes such as Newcastle-Blyth-Bedlington, Sunderland -South Shields and Newcastle-Middlesbrough.
Designed by North Eastern Railway chief engineer William Worsdell, 110 of the locomotives were built at Darlington between 1894 and 1901.
They were so robust that 108 were still in use when taken into British Railways ownership in 1948 and the class was not phased out until 1958.
The locomotive will be constructed at Darlington by the Great Northern Steam Company in an £800,000 project which is expected to take two years. The G5 chairman is Spennymoor GP Dr Mike Wood while Sunderland computer lecturer Peter Shields is in charge of marketing.
Peter said: “This project is showing the world that we can still build locomotives and that the skills have not been lost.
“They may not be in one place as in the past as locomotive works like Gateshead and Darlington, and are now spread out, but the engineering skills are still there.
“The Worsdell G5 class of locomotive was the mainstay of branch line operations in the North East so this really is an iconic North Eastern engine.”
The engine’s bogie, which carries the weight of the coal bunker at the back of the locomotive, has already been made.
Tornado engineering project head David Elliott is also involved in the new venture.
Original plans held by the National Railway Museum in York are being used to build the locomotive, whose boiler is being designed to modern standards by Neil Jordison from Spennymoor.
Peter said: “When it comes to big boys’ toys they don’t get much bigger than this.
“When Tornado was completed people just said ‘wow’. They were the pathfinders and they have given us advice.”
Peter said that the aim was to use the G5 locomotive on heritage lines such as the Tanfield and Weardale railways and venues like Beamish Museum in the North East.
He added: “The G5 will be really useful on the many preserved steam railway operations that are a growing part of the leisure industry in this country and which make an important contribution to many local economies.
“When complete, the G5 will be used on preserved railways in the area initially but we already have enquiries to take the locomotive to other locations around the country to wave the flag for the region.
“Like Tornado, the locomotive is being built in Darlington and we try, as much as possible, to use local suppliers. After all, that is what the original builders did.”
Story of a 'pipe dream' brought to life is told
IT was a proud day when Tornado first took to the track at Darlington in 2008 and again when she was officially named by Prince Charles at York station two years ago.
It had been a long journey from the day in 1990 when a group was formed with the vision to build at Darlington a Peppercorn class A1 Pacific steam locomotive.
The class A1s were designed by Arthur H Peppercorn for London & North Eastern Railway and 49 were built in 1948/49 by British Railways, but all were scrapped by 1966.
Now a booklet, The Tornado Story, has been published at £10 to tell the full tale of how the locomotive was built.
Mark Allatt, chairman of the A1 Steam Locomotive Trust, said: “It tells the story of this extraordinary project, its highs and lows, and some of the people whose shared vision and determination brought what many said was just a pipe dream to life.”
The Peppercorn A1s were the last of the great express passenger locomotives designed by the LNER.
“Throughout the 1950s these majestic locomotives pulled luxury Pullman trains from London to the North East ,” said Mark.
“They were the last word in post-war speed, style and glamour, yet none survived.”
Donations to the project to re-create the Peppercorn engine came from hundreds of people and backing was also provided by businesses, led by principal sponsor engineering company William Cook Cast Products Ltd. As part of the rebuild project, 1, 100 drawings were catalogued and scanned at the National Railway Museum.
Tornado made her debut runs on the weekend of January 31- February 1 2009 with trips from York to Newcastle and the Doncaster to Durham.
In her first season she racked up a total of 14,000 miles across Britain.