A1 Locomotive Trust 60163 Tornado ‘The Aberdonian’ Train Pack
comprising BR Mk1 BSK 35185, TSO 4856 and FO 3096.
The London North Eastern Railway’s ‘Aberdonian’ was the company’s sleeping car express service that ran between London King’s Cross and Aberdeen and prior to the LNER inheriting the service from the North British Railway in 1923, the journey had taken up to sixteen hours, ten minutes, before the opening of the Forth Railway Bridge reduced the timetable. In August 1895, the ‘Race to Aberdeen’ resulted in a journey time of just eight hours, twenty-six minutes, arriving in Aberdeen at 04:40, but a more normal departure time of 19:40 from King’s Cross and a journey time of twelve hours was in place for the inaugural titled run that took place on 11 July 1927.
During the summer period, Elgin and Lossiemouth were served in conjunction with the ‘Highlandman’, while through sleeping cars for Fort William and Inverness were included during the winter timetable. Restaurant cars were also included for the King’s Cross to York and Aberdeen to Edinburgh sections, the resulting load of 500 tons being well within the haulage capacity of the LNER Pacifics, but necessitating a double headed relief between Edinburgh and Aberdeen until 1930, after which the Pacifics extended their run until Gresley’s P2 Class 2-8-2s were introduced to the service in 1934. Throughout the Second World War the ‘Aberdonian’ retained its name and routing, though not its headboard and carriage boards, serving a valuable role in transporting service personnel between Scotland, the airfields of northern and eastern England and the capital. The headboard was restored to the train during 1946, but now as ‘The Aberdonian’ and on 6 June 1950 the painted headboards were replaced by a cast headboard with raised letters and beaded edges, with additional plaques showing the Coat of Arms for London and Aberdeen being featured from May 1952. A slightly different version of the headboard was introduced during the summer of 1962, as British Railways’ ‘Deltic’ locomotives took over responsibilities for ‘The Aberdonian’, but as the service headed towards its final days, being withdrawn on 2 May 1971, it became increasingly rare to see the headboard adorning the train.
On 14 March 2019, the A1 Steam Locomotive Trust revived ‘The Aberdonian’, with 60163 Tornado hauling the inaugural train between Edinburgh and Aberdeen and a further four trips took place in August and September that year. During 2020, further tours took place, taking passengers out from Waverley station in the centre of Edinburgh, passing Princes Street Gardens and pausing to pick up further passengers at Haymarket station in the west of the city. From Haymarket, Tornado leaves Edinburgh, passing through open countryside before crossing over the Forth railway bridge and then following the coast through Inverkeithing and Burntisland. Approaching Kirkcaldy, the route turns northwards alongside the coast, before heading across the rich countryside of Fife towards Perth, then following the route of the River Tay to Dundee. Once the changeover point for the Gresley P2s on the original ‘Aberdonian’, Tornado leaves Dundee and heads alongside the River Tay to Carnoustie and then eastwards past Arbroath, before crossing the Montrose Basin to Montrose, Laurencekirk, Fordoun, Drumlithie and Stonehaven, the route of the former East Coast Junction Railway. The line now works its way along the cliffs above the North Sea, running high above the water all the way to Aberdeen, before winding a course through the ‘Granite City’ prior to crossing the River Dee on the magnificent curving bridge. Once across the river, the ‘Aberdonian’ passes the former Ferryhill depot, home to the refurbished turntable where Tornado is turned for the return journey, before heading into Aberdeen’s light and airy station.