Ben Alder will be the first steam locomotive built in Scotland for 60 years

A team of engineers design an all-new engine based on Ben Alder – the last of a class that ran on lines across the Highlands which was scrapped in 1967.

They were inspired by the success of Tornado, which was completed in 2008 as the first new mainline steam locomotive built in Britain since the 1950s.

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The engine has toured extensively across Britain, hauled the royal train, featured in a London-Edinburgh race on the BBC’s Top Gear, and is due to return to Scotland for several excursions this summer from two weeks away.

Ben Alder’s original shed in Inverness. Photo: Mike Morant

The company involved is currently building another steam locomotive, Prince of Wales, while a century-old Great Western Railway locomotive was re-created as Lady of Legend in 2019.

The Ben Alder project is expected to cost up to £7m and could take over a decade to complete.

This would see the resumption of steam locomotive building in Scotland, which would have ended in 1958 when the North British Locomotive Company completed its last in Glasgow.

Ben Alder project team members Jack Goodall, Gavin Johnson, Anthony Wiaczek and Ross Isdale in front of Tornado during his visit to Bo’ness and Kinneil Railway in 2019. Photo: New Build Locomotive Scotland

The original Ben Alder was built for the Highland Railway by Dubs and Co in Glasgow in 1898 and ran until 1953, then dismantled 14 years later after preservation plans failed.

Most of the project team are volunteers from the Scottish Railway Preservation Society (SRPS), which run the Bo’ness and Kinneil Railway, east of Falkirk.

Member Gavin Johnson said: “The main motivation has been the success in England and Wales with the production of new engines.

“The standard bearer for all ‘new construction’, as the movement is described, must be Tornado.

Bin Alder in storage at Dawsholm shed in Glasgow after being taken out of service in 1953. Photo: Mike Morant

“This engine has become world famous and only the Flying Scotsman can claim to be better known.

“But for Scotland there was no new construction project, and as a country that was home to the UK’s largest private builder, North British, we felt it was necessary to ‘remediate.

“Most projects of this size are for ten to 15 years, and that’s what we’re aiming for.”

Mr Johnson said he hoped as many parts as possible could be made in Scotland, potentially at the foundries in Bo’ness and Glasgow, but tires and axles would have to come from South Africa.

The new Tornado steam locomotive was completed in 2008. Photo: Ian Georgeson.

He said: “Our ultimate plan is to collect the components in storage, and once we have proven ourselves as a viable group we will line up with one of Scotland’s historic railways to begin the main building.

“When completed, it would act as an ambassador for Scottish heritage railways and engineering.”

SRPS Chairman Stephen Humphreys said: “It is really encouraging to see another new steam locomotive project.

“Following the success of Tornado, which we will be delighted to see criss-crossing Scotland again this summer, the number of new construction projects underway demonstrates the public’s support for steam locomotives.

“The Ben Alder project is one of them and will, in time, provide a new powerhouse with a very clear Scottish ancestry.”

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