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Tornado admits to reaching 100 mph

Posted: Thu Apr 13, 2017 4:21 pm
Many of the UK subscribers to this forum will be aware of "Tornado", but others perhaps will not. Sir Nigel Gresley, who was responsible for the design of "Mallard", holder of the steam speed record, died rather young, and one of his successors during WW2 was Mr Peppercorn, who designed and built several locomotive classes for wartime conditions of poor track, long trains and sketchy maintenanace. They were rather successful, but the timetabling and location of the scrapping programme with the advent of diesel locomotives in the 1960s meant that all of the A1 class of Pacific type locomotives were scrapped rather rapidly.
About 15 years ago, a group decided to recreate one of Peppercorn's A1 Pacifics, but using updated methods and materials where necessary, and with various refinements to the design using advanced CAD methods. Tornado is the result, and she has been hauling enthusiasts trains all over Britain since coming into service, with no major breakdowns or problems.

She has been running a scheduled service this year, sharing the roster and timings with modern diesel trains, but limited to 75 mph, which was adequate on the Settle-Carlisle line.
The photograph below shows her in Skipton station, with modern trains running the same service in the background.


The locomotive had been designed and built with a full set of modern electronic safety equipment, and the mechanical margins of all the components had also been very thoroughly checked at the design stage, so the design team were very confident she could operate continuously at 90 mph, and perhaps 100 mph, with an ultimate safe top speed somewhere in the region of 120 mph (with a tail wind). She normally operates with a single private coach immediately behind the locomotive, which houses generators to operate modern train electric air conditioning etc. Steam locomotives were capable of badly overstressing track via out-of-balance forces, but Tornado had her balancing done by computer, and on test demonstrated track forces within the normal range for modern diesel or electric locomotives.

On Wednesday last, she hauled a normal heavy train between Newcastle and Doncaster, to show that the ruling modern schedule speed of 90 mph was within her capacity. There will be a lot of data analysis and checking to do, but she reached 100 mph for a few miles on the flat, and sustained 90 mph nicely.


This wasn't any sort of hero attempt to break any records, just to demostrate that Tornado could comfortably and safely haul 90 mph trains on the same track as sheduled electric passenger services, with something like a 10% margin of speed in hand occasionally. There is no offical recognition that she can haul such trains regularly yet, and indeed there will be months of negotiation at best, but the initial test results look good.

Re: Tornado admits to reaching 100 mph

Posted: Fri Apr 14, 2017 2:28 pm
by TahoeSteam
That's AWESOME!! Still a great accomplishment! I can't imagine what the cacophony must have been like on the footplate at 100mph! It's nice you have such well built and maintained track over there. I'm not sure if that could safely be accomplished over here just due to the condition of the track.

I hope they allow her to run the service in the future.

I really love all the heritage things your countrymen and women are doing.

Re: Tornado admits to reaching 100 mph

Posted: Fri Apr 14, 2017 3:23 pm
by Lopez Mike
It's interesting how little things change. Just about one hundred years ago the Pennsylvania Pacific class E6 locomotives were running at very much the same speeds and loadings.

There was some gloating a decade ago among the D--sel electric locomotive set that some behemoth had achieved 1000 h.p. per axle. It was pointed out to them that an E6 had reached a dyno tested performance of just over 2000 h.p. on two axles and did it with hand firing!

The Lindberg special that was run to rush films of his arrival back in the states to the N.Y. theaters touched 115 mph and ran non-stop by using track center troughs to fill with water at high speed.

I'm impressed that the Tornado is running so apparently trouble free. It usually takes a considerable period of settling in to reach such reliability.

One must acknowledge the 4-8-4 superpower locomotives designed in the thirties. The U.P. 844 and it's sister locomotives were balanced to run up to 120 and develop 4500 h.p. continuously. I'm told that there exist films of one of them running on rollers and using strobe lights to show that the drivers were just starting to lift from the rails.

I was a cab passenger in that locomotive on the Idaho division many moons ago when the engineer (driver) showed us that the train could break traction at 75 m.p.h. Believe it or not, it had a speedometer. Also It had a automotive type radio and there was country and western music playing. Riding like a bus. We talking on normal tones.

Locomotives like the Tornado exemplify the peak of concentrated power in steam. Confined by bridge and tunnels the only way to get more power was to force the issue. And they did.

Kudos to you brits to have the guts to run your trains at speed. We yanks have turned our backs on what was the peak of larger trains running at high speeds. We are just now starting to run a few commuter trains at rates that G.B. has been doing for years.

Re: Tornado admits to reaching 100 mph

Posted: Fri Apr 14, 2017 8:19 pm
Lopez Mike wrote: I'm impressed that the Tornado is running so apparently trouble free. It usually takes a considerable period of settling in to reach such reliability.
So am I. I know a couple of members of the design team, and without any exageration they are very clever guys right at the top of the mechanical engineering profession, and they went to town using every CAD tool in the book, and then festooned Tornado with strain gauges and other instruments for her earlier test runs. It's still quite an achievement for a small private group of people. I suppose the point is that the present UK rail network is mostly very fully utilised, operating slots have to be strictly adhered to, and any breakdowns would have been catastrophic in terms of future plans for using the main public rails.

I don't know, but would guess Tornado is capable of 2000 - 2500 HP continuously, but of course you could add 50% to that for short periods. The class was never designed in the 1940s for particularly high speeds like Gresley's A4s, but would cope with much heavier trains at slightly lower top speeds.

Her design team were highly amused a couple of years ago, when she had run a "special" south of London, and was just going home with an empty train. The commuter line network here is very dense, and operated by an outdated but reasonably effective 600V dc system using a 3rd electrified rail. All electric services were suspended due to a heavy fall of wet snow, and Tornado ended up taking well over 1000 commuters home (illegally in fact, but with the connivance of the control room staff). There you are standing on the platform wondering how on earth to get home, and this large and shiney steam locomotive pulls in, with a warm and comfortable train behind....

Re: Tornado admits to reaching 100 mph

Posted: Fri Apr 14, 2017 8:50 pm
by Lopez Mike
High tech has it's limitations. I do a lot of steaming around the public and often there is a group standing around when I light up and raise steam. Again and again I get comments about the lack of any electrical involvement.

But then I explain that my plumbers torch has an electrical lighter inside it. I cheat.

Maybe I should learn to make fire with two sticks.

On further thought, I have in my bag a GPS, a flashlight, sometimes a cell phone, a hand held marine radio . . .

Re: Tornado admits to reaching 100 mph

Posted: Fri Apr 14, 2017 10:18 pm
by Mike Rometer
Lopez Mike wrote:

Maybe I should learn to make fire with two sticks.

I dunno Mike, my Grandmother always claimed to be able to make a fire with just one stick.

Reckoned her nickname was "One Match Elsie" :lol:

Re: Tornado admits to reaching 100 mph

Posted: Sat Apr 15, 2017 12:52 am
by Lopez Mike
My mom could make a fire with one stick but the fire was where I sat down!

Re: Tornado admits to reaching 100 mph

Posted: Tue Apr 18, 2017 4:22 pm
by cyberbadger
Simply amazing!

As pointed out it's pathetic in the states how they hamstring steam locomotives on the rails.

Here near me, the Cuyahoga Valley National Park - everything is limited to 15mph on the track including the yearly visiting steam locomotives.

That's not what they were designed to run....

To Tornado and all the crew that made this run possible: "Hail Britannia! Britannia Rule the Waves, Britons never never shall be slaves!".


Re: Tornado admits to reaching 100 mph

Posted: Tue Apr 18, 2017 7:58 pm
by Lopez Mike
Can't imagine how I missed that but the thing is hand fired. Amazing. The last hand fired locos I know of stateside didn't make it much past the end of the first war. And some of them, like the N.P. W3 Mikados had to be converted to stokers as they were pure man killers. Two firemen (stokers) couldn't keep ahead of them.

So does the Tornado have a coal pusher to keep the coal within shoveling range? Not a person, a machine.

The record for hand firing was, I believe, set on the Idaho division of the Union Pacific in the mid thirties on a helper (pusher) engine on a grade called King Hill near Twin Falls. One man. One hour. Twelve tons (2000 lb. tons. That's a thirty pound scoop of coal every five seconds. My body hurts thinking about it.

The victim then got to rest and freeze half to death after the helper engine disconnected and went back down the hill to push the next train up the hill.

An inspector was sent out from the division shops as the consumption figures were held to be not possible for a hand fired engine. The fireman in question soon managed to wangle a job as an apprentice in the shops at Twin Falls and never shoveled coal again and remained a machinest the rest of his life. He was my father.

Re: Tornado admits to reaching 100 mph

Posted: Wed Apr 19, 2017 3:30 am
by cyberbadger
I highly recommend viewing the below at HD full screen.

I love how the valve gear area is lit at night!