EAGER fund raisers have pledged almost half the £5m required to build Britain’s most powerful steam locomotive by 2021.

The project is the idea of the A1 Steam Locomotive Trust which, famously, was behind Tornado, the first mainline steam locomotive to be built since 1960.

About 50 people gathered at Darlington Locomotive Works in Hopetown Lane, Darlington, one of a series of roadshows being held around the UK, to hear the progress to date and the next steps towards the creation of a new build Gresley class P2 No 2007 Prince of Wales.

The class P2 2-8-2 ‘Mikado’ locomotives were the most powerful express passenger steam locomotives to operate in the UK, designed by Sir Nigel Gresley for the London & North Eastern Railway to haul 600 tonne trains on the arduous Edinburgh to Aberdeen route.

However the design was never fully developed and they were given an ungainly rebuild in 1943 before being scrapped in 1961.

The project, which was first announced in October 2013, will demonstrate how the design can be fully realised through use of modern computer design techniques, enabling the new locomotive to deliver its full potential, hauling passenger trains at high speed across today’s national network.

More than 800 people have already signed up to the ‘P2 for the price of a pint of beer per week’ (£10 per month or more) covenant scheme.

Several other schemes have also raised funds including The Founders Club, which has now closed and saw more than 360 people donate £1,000 each.

Meanwhile, The Boiler Club has seen more than 115 people pledge £2,000 each and The Mikado Club 145 people pledging £1,000 each.

Donations from existing supporters have surpassed £200,000, while sponsorship money has also come from The Gresley Society Trust.

The first component was made by former Top Gear presenter James May in February 2014 and the erection of the frame plates began in the summer of that year.

About 100 volunteers have been working on both Tornado and the new Gresley class P2 with assembly taking place at Hopetown Lane and help with fabrication and machining coming from local businesses.

Mark Allatt, P2 project director at The A1 Steam Locomotive Trust, said: “We have had pledged about £2.4m, thereafter we need to raise about £700,000 a year.

“We hope the locomotive will be on its wheels by the autumn and other bits of it are going very well, the smoke box and the cab is on and we have just commissioned the last batch of steel castings needed.

“Tornado took 18 years to build, a lot longer than what we previously hoped. With the P2 we have been going three and-a-half years and we are probably where Tornado was in about year nine.

“We are as confident as we can be that we can do this, but we still need people to come on board and support us.

“Darlington was the birthplace of the railways, a gift to the world, and with this we are re-telling some of those stories and enthusing younger people with our great history.”

For details of how to support the project visit www.p2steam.com, e-mail enquiries@p2steam.com or call 01325 460163.

:: A documentary about Tornado’s momentous 100mph journey last month on the East Coast Mainline is being screened on BBC1 on Monday evening at 7.30pm.