THE first new steam locomotive in Britain for almost half a century chugged into action this morning.

Peppercorn Class A1 Pacific 60163 Tornado, a replica of the last passenger steam locomotives, was built by the A1 Steam Locomotive Trust at its Darlington site.

In an 18-year project, the A1 Trust has built Tornado to be fully equipped for use on Britain's main line railways.

Designed by Arthur Peppercorn for the London and North Eastern Railway, the A1s worked from the late 1940s to 1966 when, following the decision to end steam traction on Britain's railways, the last of their class were scrapped.

The project to build a new Peppercorn class A1 was launched in 1990.

So far the project has cost £2.9 million, raised through deeds of covenant, commercial sponsorship and a bonds issue.

Organisers estimate they need a further £66,000 to get Tornado on the main line as quickly as possible and are hoping the country's railway enthusiasts will dig deep to help the cause.