Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen has toured Darlington locomotive works, which has forged a reputation for restoration projects including bringing back to life the A1, no 60163 Tornado steam engine.
During the visit Mr Houchen was given a briefing on a renowned railway heritage and restoration initiative that has ambitious plans for expansion.
The A1 Steam Locomotive Trust – a registered charity – completely built a new ‘A1’ to the original design. Fitted with additional water capacity and the latest railway safety electronics, Tornado is fully-equipped for today’s main line railway.
Its latest project is employing the latest computer-aided design and modelling techniques to build No. 2007 Prince of Wales – a class P2 ‘Mikado’ locomotive.
Designed by Sir Nigel Gresley, the ‘Mikado’ hauled 600 ton trains between Edinburgh and Aberdeen, and was the most powerful passenger steam locomotive to run in the UK.
The Mayor also heard first-hand about the plans by the Trust for a new steam centre in Darlington where it would build and maintain its locomotives and rolling stock.
It also has ambitions to create a state-of-the-art charter train, from a locomotive that hauled Mk3 carriages, which will be extensively refurbished and overhauled for its new role.
The Trust has thousands of supporters and the backing of leading British business – including William Cook Cast Products, Rolls-Royce, British Steel and BAe Systems, which helped to raise the £3m needed to complete Tornado.
Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said: “This is a wonderful project taking place at the home of the modern passenger railway and we should be getting behind it.
“It was exciting to hear the Trust is looking to expand into at a larger and better facility. It will be a fantastic thing to be able to take this project forward to the next level, even beyond completion of the Prince of Wales, which is an achievement in itself.”
Mark Allatt, P2 project director & chairman, said: “One of the remarkable things about this project is the amount of money we’re putting back into local industry; around 70 per cent of the £5 million we’re spending on Prince of Wales is going to be spent in the local area.
“We’ve briefed the Mayor on our exciting plans for the future and he is fully supportive of what we are trying to achieve.”
The full video can be found here.