So, some real-world railway news this week that piqued my interest, “New Build” A1 type Pacific locomotive Tornado (completed in 2008) hit the Ton (100mph) in a secret test on Wednesday night/Thursday morning. Since the “End of Steam” on British Railways in 1968, main line steam locomotives in the UK have been limited to 75mph top speed aside from a couple of rumoured unauthorized speed runs, and a special series of 90mph runs in 2013 to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Mallard’s 126mph world speed record for a steam locomotive. I know that speeds of 112mph have been achieved in recent years in Germany by the worlds fastest operating steam locomotive, but I personally just don’t have much knowledge of or interest in German railways.
Tornado “racing” up the Severn Valley in 2011. It’s actually slowing to the station at Highley from the gentle 25pmh pace permitted on preserved railways.
The run was part of obtaining permission for regular 90mph running so that mainline tours can better fit in on an ever faster and busier rail network. To obtain that permission, they had to be able to demonstrate safe operation at a 10% safety buffer, allowing the locomotive to hit the 100mph mark. According to the articles, it was at or over 100mph for a total of 48 seconds. Not long, but long enough to check the box that it can run safely at that speed if needed.
This is something that catches my interest, as almost all the travel behind steam locomotives I have done is on preserved lines, where the maximum speed is 25mph, and you can hear locomotives like Tornado being held back to keep to that speed, rather than being turned loose as they want to be. The only “mainline” tours I have been on have been on lines with speed limits of 50mph (Nickel Plate Road 765 on the “southern tier line” in New York), same or less on the Scranton-Moscow PA with Steamtown; same or less on BC Rail with the Royal Hudson from North Vancouver to Squamish; and the Jacobite from Fort William to Mallaig, which is also a slow run. I’ve never been on a mainline excursion with a locomotive really stretching its legs at high speed for a long period of time. Its something that I definitely have on my list of things to do on a future trip to the UK.
The link below has a short BBC news video of the 100mph run:
I may break out the loop of track on the kitchen table this weekend and give my OO Gauge model of Tornado a run in circles around the table to celebrate the real world one’s speed run!