A guest post by Michael Abbott, volunteer with the A1 Steam Locomotive Trust 60163 Tornado about what it is like to be a volunteer working with this famous steam locomotive.
Hello, my name is Michael and I am aged 19 and live in Bristol. I am one of many fortunate people who suffers from the incurable “Railway enthusiast disease”.Please don’t try to come up with a cure as you’ll be wasting your time!
Thanks to my Granddad, I grew up with steam locomotives and railways . After many steam trips in my life time, I am now at the age where I can finally work on locomotives and heritage railways.
Since seeing it in 2008, I have always been interested in the new build locomotive A1 class locomotive “Tornado” 60163. The locomotive was designed by Arthur Peppercorn but unfortunately none of the original A1 Pacific’s made it into preservation. A small group of people decided they were going to build a brand new A1 and the official launch to build Tornado took place in 1990. By 1994 construction had started. You can read a lot more about the history of Tornado, Arthur Peppercorn and the original A1s here.
Getting involved with 60163
My involvement with the loco all started during the Torbay Express season in 2015. Tornado was booked to haul many of these trips from Bristol Temple Meads to Dartmouth and back. On one Summer’s evening when she returned to Bristol, I was invited up onto the footplate of the locomotive. I had a very interesting chat to the crew and a support crew member. After a short time on the footplate I stepped down back onto the platform and a few months later I was part of the A1’s support crew. I was extremely happy and grateful to become part of the crew who work on the Tornado steam train.
Being a Tornado steam train volunteer
By late September I was rostered onto Tornado’s support crew whilst she was at the West Somerset Railways Autumn Steam Gala. I got to the station and unpacked all my stuff in one of the compartments of the support coach. The coach travels with the locomotive wherever she goes. It has a workshop, kitchen, toilet and somewhere for the support crew to sleep. My alarm was set for around 4am in the morning where my day would begin cleaning and preparing the locomotive for the day ahead.
This meant doing jobs such as:
- Cleaning below the running plate (wheels, frames and outside valve gear). We clean with a 50/50 mix of oil and diesel using a rag or brush.
- Cleaning the sides of the tender, cab sides, boiler, smokebox and smoke deflectors.
- Oiling all the motion using an emery cloth and then coat in a thin layer of oil.
- Building up the fire for the days steaming. We start the fire the day before using a wood fire and gradullay adding coal before getting some rest. I set my alarm for the middle of the night to add some more coal and keep the fire topped up. In this way the engine is already warm when we build the fire up for working. The loco needs to be warmed up slowly in this way as starting with a big fire would be too much of a shock and the sudden metal expansion could give rise to leaks. It’s best to start with a bit of pressure in the boiler before getting going properly at the beginning of the day.
Travel and Tornado Railtours
One of the main things I really enjoy is traveling around with the locomotive. When ever I am with it I love making sure the loco looks clean and presentable. I even go as far as quartering the buffers and making sure it is all neat. There’s nothing that beats a clean and shiny locomotive as beautiful as Tornado. So far I have been on trips to Southall Depot, London Paddington to Worcester and back and Bishops Lydeard to Kidderminster. On occasions, Tornado also hauls the Belmont Orient Express and I had a great trip around the Surrey hills. On runs out I help to guide the crew and take on water. I also dispose of the fire at the end of the day. You can find out more about Tornado Railtours here.
Although Tornado is built and running, we need more funding to secure a long and exciting future. We also need to keep the locomotive running and maintained. If you fancy becoming part of this for as little as £5 month please click here.
Future plans include building a new charter train based around British Railways mark 3 coaches and a dedicated depot in the Darlington area. Follow news about Tornado and the Trust here.
Oh and in a few years there will be a £5m LNER Gresley class P2 No. 2007 Prince of Wales!
Hopefully you will agree with me, there is nothing better than the smell and sight of steam locomotives. Let’s hope that the future will bring more amazing memories of steam on the mainline and running on preserved railways!
(All photos are copyright and reproduced with kind permission of Michael Abbott and were taken from a place of safety)