Inverurie steams back in time

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INVERURIE Railway Station took a step back in time on Tuesday (May 22) when the steam locomotive 60163 Tornado stopped en route to Edinburgh.

Arriving exactly as expected at 2pm the magnificent L.N.E.R. Peppercorn Class A1 Tornado pulled majestically into the historic station, effortlessly pulling 11 carriages, in a scene reminiscent of the bygone days when Inverurie reverberated to the sights and sounds of steam locomotives.

A large crowd of rail enthusiasts and locals had gathered to witness the Tornado’s brief halt in glorious sunshine, and were not disappointed as she effortlessly glided to a halt in a flurry of steam and smoke.

There was a tangible thrill amongst the crowd, young and old, who had gathered to see the locomotive, elder residents of the area reminiscing on times when such engines were a familiar sight, and the younger generation marvelling at her size and power. Even railway employees were impresed by Tornado, signalman Stewart Hay told the Herald, “I have been a railwayman for 17 years all over the North-east and I have never seen one come through while I’ve been working. I’ve seen a few pulled-up and stationery, but coming through the station like this has been a first.”

The Tornado was on a charter by steam holiday specialists “Steam Dreams” and had arrived after spending two days in Inverness as part of a package tour in Scotland. While there she had carried out two days of excursions throughout the North including trips to Eilean Donan Castle, Culloden, the Glenmorangie Distillery and the Kyle of Lochalsh. After heading through Aberdeen and down the East coast main-line to Edinburgh, the Tornado will be carrying out excursions to St Andrews and the surrounding area.

And although her stop was brief in Inverurie, it highlighted the town’s long association with the railway, dating back to the 1850’s when the Great North of Scotland Railway line was opened. The town was well known for it’s Locomotive Works, a renowned first class repair depot and major employer until it closed in 1969.

To all who witnessed her visit to Inverurie a surprising fact about 60163 Tornado is that she was only completed in 2008, the result of a project by the A1 Steam Locomotive Trust to build a steam locomotive to the original design from scratch. She was built to the exact specification of the L.N.E.R. Peppercorn class that used to ply their trade on the East Coast Main Line but incorporating improvements that would have evolved had steam power continued. However, despite some modifications she remains officially a “first generation” locomotive.

She is number 50 in the series and was numbered 60163 accordingly. Sadly all 49 of her predecessors, by 1966 none had managed to avoid the breakers yard, so she is an important piece of railway history, continuing the series’ lineage.

“Steam Dreams” told the Herald that Tornado has been in service with them since 2009, and in that time has had only a brief lay-off for repair last year due to problems with her boiler, manufactured in Germany, the only part not built in the UK.

Tornado is also something of a TV celebrity, having starred in her own documentary “Absolutely Chuffed: The Men Who Built a Steam Engine” and in an episode of “Top Gear” where she took part in a race with a car and motorcycle from London to Edinburgh.

Tornado is restricted to 75 mph, but is theoretically capable of 100 mph as were her predecessors. Weighing a whopping 106.9 long ton, she is also one very expensive lady, costing around £1.6 million to manufacture!