What results when 30 enthusiastic volunteers spend 18 years and some £3 million working in a shed in Britain?
It's a project which makes no sense on paper – but it has created 90 tons of polished, gleaming, shining nostalgia. Above all, it means the world to the small team behind it.
Their aim? It's ambitious, to say the least. To build, by hand, the first new full-sized mainline steam express locomotive in Britain for half a century.
Since 1990, a team of around 30 enthusiasts, contractors, volunteers and staff – under the banner of the A1 Steam Locomotive Trust – have turned up every day to an old shed and happily milled and turned, cast, drilled, bored, welded and torqued mountains of gleaming brass, copper and nickel-silver steel to create a machine that belongs in another age.
In a few weeks, all being well, the boiler will be fired and their locomotive, christened Tornado, will turn its wheels for the first time.
The whole project is delightfully bonkers, so utterly British that just stepping through the doors of the workshop and getting a whiff of oil and acetylene, hot brass and stove enamel is enough to blow away the cynicism that comes from living in the 21st century.
It is completely mad to build a brand new, coal-burning steam engine today. Which is why I hope it works out for the builders! They are planning to run passenger trips with the new engine, possibly even running over to Europe via the Chunnel. More about the extremely eccentric project can be seen over at their website.