Britain: the age of steam returns

The Tornado sets out from Crewe en-route to Glasgow, a 510 mile (820 km) round-trip, heralding a new tourist-attracting phenomenon.

There was a time before computer-games and playstations when little boys toyed for hours with model railways. Many hanker for those days of complex brain-teasing self-amusement. And so heritage rail became popular. Most of these lines are short and run by small operators, often staffed by unpaid volunteers and enthusiasts. Some are commercial successes, and many draw tourist passenger traffic. 

Now the latest in a proud list of ventures, and one which will possibly be the most successful. A shiny new addition, in the form of a BR Brunwick green liveried steam Tornado, run by A1 Steam Trust. The train will climb the UK's steepest gradients, affording stupendous views.

"The A1 class steam locomotives were designed by Arthur H Peppercorn, and 49 were built during 1948 and 1949 by British Railways" reports the BBC. Hence the name of the Trust. Such locomotives were scrapped in 1966, after Beeching's rail rationalisation programme.

The route from Cheshire through Cumbria to Scotland will attract people from all over the world, undoubtedly. This might be nostalgia, or it could be re-invention. Or a touch of both. But in these days of austerity, a bit of fun never harmed. And if it boosts employment and generates economic activity to boot, so much the better.

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