On Monday I was travelling from my home town of Lancaster to the Town of Middlesbrough where I attend Teesside University. I went by Train and when I was leaving York Train Station I saw something very interesting. The National Railway Museum is just next to the Train Station and outside the Museum I saw a couple of Steam Trains. One of them was a LNER Class A4 (which I accidentally thought was Mallard) with Steam coming out. There was also another train outside; The New A1 Tornado (LNER Peppercorn Class A1 60163 Tornado). What is particularly special about the A1 Tornado is that it is the First Train built by British Railways since 1960. If you are a fan of Top Gear you may recognise it as the train that raced a Jaguar XK120 and a Vincent Black Shadow in a race from London to Edinburgh. It was an amazing sight to see this Train and it had Steam coming out as well and even though I was still a bit of a distance from it, it was still Very Big.
Seeing both trains did bring to mind some interesting Ideas the main one being why not have the Steam Trains return to regular service in Britain. Most trains that run in britain today are Electric Trains or Diesel Locomotives. Steam Trains being the size they are would not really work for Commuter and Stopper Trains but why not main line trains. Some Steam trains can reach speeds of 100+ mph. Mallard holds the record for the fastest Steam Train in the world with a speed of 125.88 mph.
Now most Steam Trains these days have been retired except for a small few that are operational and are used as Attractions. If Steam Trains were to return to active main line service they would have to be brand new. That means building them again. If they were brand new they would be in better condition and that is important in terms of getting passengers to their destinations. Getting the right trains to do the job is important and in today’s world of High Speed Transport the Fastest Trains would have to be used. The trains would also have to be strong to carry large numbers of passengers because Main Line service trains need to carry plenty of people. For this Job I think the A4 Class and the Peppercorn Class are best suited for the Job (and also those are the only 2 I can currently think about). The Peppercorn Class are very Big Trains meaning that they are strong enough to pull large weights but they are also very fast for Large steam trains. The A4 Class are also Big Trains but they are also very fast Trains.
Trains to do the job is not the only issue, One issue is that of Infrastructure. With Diesel and Electric locomotives one advantages is that they don’t need to turn around because there is an engine room at both ends of the train. Steam Trains have an Engine at the front but not at the back. In order to use these trains to their full use their would need to be Turntablesat both ends of the line to turn around the engines and some track points to allow the engine to get to the front of carriages and move into position. Also train stations with roofs over them will need to be well ventilated so that the Steam generated won’t cause health and safety problems. Building the trains is another issue because Steam Trains have not been massed produced for 51 years. There needs to be an industry and need for them to be produced in large numbers again.
I do think that a return of the Steam Train will bring more excitement to the railways so that the train journey is not just about travelling from point A to point B but will be something Fun to do as well. Yes there are issues with bringing back the Steam Train to Main Line service. It could take years before there are enough trains to meet passenger demand and the Infrastructure will need work done to it but I think that the Steam Train will bring more Excitement to the railways and add more Fun travelling by rail. I do like Diesel Locomotives and Electric Train like the Pendolino but if I was to have a choice between the Pendolino and Mallard; I would choose Mallard.
Off-Topic: Next week is my 100th Post.