Since way before the completion of the A1 Pacific No 60163 Tornado, it has been an objective one day to run her in public service at 90 mph. For years after her inauguration nothing was heard, and meanwhile A4 No 4468 Bittern stole a march in 2013 with a series of three memorable runs.
At last Tornado undertook a test run last year reaching 100 mph, and the stage was set for her first public run from Kings Cross to York and back, which was quickly fully booked. The timings were only announced a couple of days before the run, and they were mouthwatering, with only one water stop each way and many stretches, each many miles long, cleared for 90 mph running.
So it was with great anticipation that the crowds gathered on a bright April morning, to see Tornado looking magnificent, albeit with a motley collection of Mark 1 and Mark 2 vehicles, because DBC has no authority to carry passengers in Mark 1 vehicles at speeds of more than 75 mph behind steam!
We set out up the hill from Kings Cross more briskly than I remember behind steam, reaching 33 by Finsbury Park, 47 at Harringay, 54 at Hornsey and continuing in the mi fifties to our last pickup at Potters Bar. Another smart getaway saw us pass Welham Green at 63 before reaching 70 before Hatfield. We were slowed on the approach to Welwyn Garden City before the pathing stop at Digswell Junction.
Away from this on time, we stormed over the viaduct to pass Welwyn North at 48 and Woolmer Green at 56, then Knebworth at 59 and Stevenage at 67. We reached 72 before being slowed at Wymondley. Then we accelerated again through Hitchin in the mid sixties, flying down the next five miles to pass Arlesey at 86, and two miles later the magic 90 mph between Langford and Biggleswade. This continues for a few hundred yards before the brakes went on due to the incident up front.
This is not the place to dwell on the details of the disappointing failure of parts of Tornado’s middle cylinder, but all parties came to the rescue and eventually we were drawn forward to Peterborough, where those who chose could return free to London as guests of VTEC. The rest of us continued to York and after two hours returned to London with a DB Class 66 which kept Tornado’s schedule pretty well n0twithstanding its maximum speed of 75 mph.
We did not have the day of high speed running we had hoped for, but we did reach 90 mph behind Tornado and we did reach York, where I was able to remind myself in the NRM of happier days of East Coast high speed, which I have used to pad out the very modest collection of photos obtained at Kings Cross.
Many thanks and commiserations to the A1 Trust and all its partners, and we look forward to the promised repeat run before too long
© Peter Hewitt's Transport Pictures