MORE than 100 commuters left freezing when their modern electric trains broke down in a snowstorm had to be rescued by a steam locomotive.

The Tornado, which was made in the North-East from blueprints almost 50 years old, was the only train capable of rescuing London city workers when their trains ground to a halt because of the bad weather.

The Darlington-built steam engine, the first main line locomotive to be built in Britain for more than 40 years, was one of only a handful of engines left operating in Kent when the winter weather struck on Monday.

The £2m Peppercorn class locomotive, which was built from scratch by volunteers, was pulling The Cathedrals’ Express from London to Dover.

Tornado pulled two trains along the route that day, and on the second journey it became apparent that scores of commuters were faced with the possibility of a night stuck in the capital.

So organisers of the privately- operated tour, Steam Dreams, invited the marooned passengers to hop on board.

Mark Allatt, the chairman of the A1 Steam Locomotive trust, which owns and operates Tornado, said: “We were more or less the only train working that day.

“I think I only saw two trains the whole day.

“There were a lot of people stranded there on the platform and we were going to the same places so we invited them on board.

“A lot of them didn’t even realise they were on a steam train until we came round selling souvenirs.

“They were all extremely grateful and one or two even bought souvenirs.”

Tornado was able to operate effectively because many of the southern rail networks use electric trains, which use a “third rail” to provide power to the engine.

But the snow and ice meant they were unable to access this power source. Because Tornado is coal-powered, it had no such trouble.

Mr Allatt said: “I have made an offer to some of the railway operating companies that if they are interested in buying any steam locomotives I would be happy to give them a quote.

“Monday’s Cathedrals’ Expresses were Tornado’s last main-line trains of her first year of operations.

“Not only are we delighted that she was able to brave the Arctic weather to haul two of the few trains to run in Kent on Monday, but we were pleased to be able to help some of London’s stranded commuters to get home in style.”

Tornado has returned to the region and is undergoing winter maintenance at the National Railway Museum, in York.

It will remain there until early February, and will be on public display in the workshop between January 1 and 20.

■ The A1 Steam Locomotive Trust has DVD copies of the BBC documentary Absolutely Chuffed: The Men Who Built a Steam Engine.

The disc contains extra footage not shown on the TV programme.

It costs £14.99 and can be ordered from the trust’s website – – where more information about future Tornado journeys can be found.