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Steam train reaches 161kph in Britain


The Tornado, a Peppercorn-class A1 steam locomotive, crosses the Ribblehead Viaduct in England on Oct. 3, 2009.

Photo: AFP

A steam train on Wednesday clocked 161kph on Britain’s mainline railway network for the first time in almost 50 years.

Tornado, a Peppercorn-class A1 steam locomotive, reached the landmark speed during a test run aimed at proving it can operate passenger services at 145kph.

A steam locomotive has not hit such speeds in Britain since 1968, according to the Daily Telegraph.

Built by heritage enthusiasts, Tornado hit the speed on the East Coast Main Line — the route between London and Edinburgh — during a run between Doncaster and Newcastle in northern England.

The test run was part of a bid to raise Tornado’s speed limit for passenger services from 121kph to 145kph by the end of this year.

Preservation steam locomotives have been restricted to 121kph since the end of steam services on the main lines in the 1960s.

Tornado was the first steam locomotive to be built in Britain for almost half a century when it was completed in 2008.

If Tornado can run at 145kph, it will be able to fit in better with other trains on the busy main railway lines.

Pulling passenger carriages on a secret run, it ran at 10 percent above the 145kph mark to demonstrate a sufficient safety margin.

“We are delighted to have completed the test runs that move us one step closer to 90 miles per hour [145kph] operations with Tornado,” A1 Steam Locomotive Trust operations director Graeme Bunker-James said.

“This will allow us to ensure that the locomotive continues to haul trains on the busiest parts of the UK network, allowing as many people as possible to enjoy traveling with Tornado,” Bunker-James said.

“As part of these tests, the locomotive operated at 90 miles per hour for a sustained period and also achieved 100 miles per hour under these special conditions and running with clear signals,” he said.

Workers on the locomotive, their faces blackened, celebrated with a cup of tea after hitting the landmark.

The world speed record for a steam locomotive is 203kph, set by the Mallard further south on the same railway line in 1938.

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