AN eighteen-year multi-million pound dream of steam has finally been realised.

In Darlington, the birthplace of the railways, the first steam locomotive to be built in this country for 48 years took to the tracks.

Invited guests and members of the media watched as the new steam locomotive Tornado moved under its own power for the first time.

The Peppercorn class A1 engine has been built entirely from scratch by a band of volunteers at a cost of more than 2.9m.

The project first began back in 1990 and members of the A1 Locomotive Trust spoke of their delight at seeing their dreams come to fruition.

The trust chairman, Mark Allatt, said this weekend was the perfect time to celebrate steams "second coming" as August 4 marks the 40th anniversary of the end of British Railways and August 6 is the 60th anniversary of the Peppercorn class trains.

Mr Allatt said: "To see the culmination of 18 years of hard work is fantastic.

"To be surrounded by so much interest is more than we could ever have dreamed of.

"I never thought that we wouldn't be able to finish it - I just didnt think it was going to take 18 years.

One of the first passengers on the footplate as Tornado took its first trip the short distance along the track at the Darlington Locomotive Works was Dorothy Mather, the widow of Arthur Peppercorn, the locomotive's designer.

The project has been funded through sponsorship, donations and 2,000 regular donors who pledged to pay the price of a pint of beer each week to help fund the ambitious scheme.

The train was waved off by the mayor of Darlington Ian Haszeldine.

He said: "What a magnificent achievement.

The level of engineering and skill that has gone into building this brings back some of the old skills that originated in Darlington.

"Darlington has always been on map as a railway town with the first passenger railway and a lot of steam trains were built here.

"The revitalisation of this will lift Darlington in the esteem of a lot of railway enthusiasts."

Later this month the locomotive will be taken for trials and testing in Loughborough for the next two months, before being taken onto the mainline for more testing and painted in traditional apple-green livery.

It will then become a mainline charter train, with one of its first trips planned to be back in Darlington.

The trust still needs to raise a further £66,000 on top of its existing pledges to carry out the testing.

For more information about the train or to become a sponsor contact 01325-460163, visit or email

Members of the public are being given a chance to see Tornado move at the locomotive works on Hopetown Lane next Saturday, August 9.

To see the train, visitors must purchase a ticket for Head of Steam: Darlington Railway Museum which is on the same site.