Tornado locomotive story brought to life by speaker

Graham Ball, Pocklington Probus Club chairman, with David Whitelam.
Graham Ball, Pocklington Probus Club chairman, with David Whitelam.

The chairman Mr Graham Ball, welcomed members, a new member and a visitor.

Malcolm Fairburn introduced the speaker Mr David Whitelam, a gentleman with a keen interest in heritage railways.

Mr Whitlam opened his talk with references to the history of British railways after the advent of the Beeching cuts, which resulted in the scrapping of steam locomotives, including many new ones such as the predecessors of the “Tornado” locomotive which was to be main subject of his address.

He explained that just before the Beeching cuts really took effect a very powerful class of steam locomotives - the Al class - was working on the railways, but when they were eventually taken out of service none of these machines survived the scrap yard.

The consequence was loss of an example of the pinnacle of British steam railway engineering to be available as a companion to others which, comprehensively, portray the history of locomotive design from the earliest days.

A pioneering group of gentlemen who were very concerned at this loss managed to obtain sufficient interest for funds to be made available for the design and construction of a steam locomotive similar to the Al class but with some further modern innovations making it highly efficient for steam working and compatible with present day operations.

David explained how, fortunately, the main drawings for the class A1 locomotives were traced and made available to enable the new engine to be designed and built by a specialist team of professional engineers including many who were volunteers.

The association of the locomotive with the famous RAF airplanes of the same name was signified by the presentation of the nameplates “Tornado” by representatives of the RAF. David explained how the engine was built in the North of England and then transferred to Loughborough for track testing and its final certification for main-line running.

Initially many of its operational journeys were in the North of England but presently it operates mainly from the London area, which is a disappointment to Yorkshire people, who in the past have had such a close connection with locomotive engineering.

A subject of this nature engendered many questions, all of which David answered with aplomb.

Members were reminded they would convene on the second Wednesday of March for the annual general meeting.