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A Gift for Railfans


In 1825, in the northeast of England, the Stockton and Darlington Railway began operating the world’s first steam locomotive. Next February, in the same locale, the world’s newest steam locomotive will enter service.

The engine, whose full title is Peppercorn Class A1 Pacific 60163 Tornado, was built for £3million following donations from thousands of enthusiasts.

…in 1990 a group of railway enthusiasts began their project to build an engine from scratch. They set up the A1 Steam Locomotive Trust, asking supporters to donate the price of a pint of beer a week – £1.25 at the time – and slowly completed Tornado. After 18 years, the engine made its first run, of 120 yards, along track in a rail yard in Darlington on November 4.

It completed a further successful test run two weeks later, reaching 75mph between York and Newcastle.

Trust chairman Mark Allatt said: ‘The steam locomotive is the nearest thing Man has created to a living thing.

‘You can’t turn it on. You can’t turn it off. You coax it along and it hisses and it bubbles and that is not like a modern machine.

‘A child when they first draw a picture of a train, they never draw diesel, they draw a steam engine. And that is what it is all about.’


People with the same passion are at work near the 55418. A drab shed near the intersection of Broadway and Central Avenues is home to a vintage Milwaukee Road steam locomotive, number 261.

A non-profit group, Friends of the 261, maintains and operates this magnificent machine. It is neither cheap nor easy. Here’s a bit from their shop blog:

Milwaukee 261 returned to the shop at Harrison Street on Sunday, September 14th after a successful trip on the Canadian Pacific’s rails to La Crosse, WI; returning to the Twin Cities on the Burlington Northern Santa Fe. For both the crew and the engine it was a great way to end the season. And the beginning of the big rebuild.

Since Sunday, the shop crew has removed the elements of the exhaust system, cleaned the smokebox and built scaffolding across the pit to facilitate disassembly of the boiler. Last weekend the superheater elements were disconnected from the header and one-by-one all 58 superheaters were pulled from their flues, blown clear of residual water, numbered and stacked at the far end of the platform. With the removal of the superheaters, the flues can be cut from the sheets at both ends, pulled out the front of the engine and recycled.

The group is always looking for volunteers. And always welcomes donations. Twin Cities-area railfans, or those with a railfan on their Christmas list, should certainly consider helping keep this piece of history alive.