Seeing the Locomotive Tornado in action in Somerset is one thing, but I hadn’t realised it took 18 years to build her from the drawing board until she moved under her own steam in August 2008.
What amazes me is that she worked perfectly “straight out of the box”. The saying “it does what is says on the tin” is very apt. What an incredible feat of engineering that there were no real teething troubles to delay her arrival on what is left of our railways. Mind you it was another year and a bit before she had passed all the tests and won her licence from Network Rail to steam ahead.
And on 13 December 2009 she was unveiled in her new coat of LNER Apple Green, a gleaming example of people power. Those that had built her and those that paid the price of a pint and more to see the realisation of the dream.
The rest, as they say, will one day be history….
Another fan of steam was the steeplejack and engineer Fred Dibnah. In later years he became more widely known through presenting his series of TV shows which I used to love watching.
He was a blunt, no nonsense, Northern bloke who knew how to communicate his love of steam to a wide audience in a simple and direct way. Watching him fussing over his steam traction engine and following his tours in it around the country was a delight. Instead of rushing around in our tin cans on wheels, his stately progression gave us a new perspective as from his perch up high he could see for miles across the countryside.
The steam bug had bitten him at an early age and her was clearly still a “boy with his toys”. The fame never seemed to affect him in anyway or change his down to earth character. Even with his untimely death, he will be remembered for encouraging thousands of people to care about the industrial heritage that put the Great in Great Britain.
Clearly he has had an impact as one of his engines, featured in his last series “Made in Britain”, was sold at auction this summer for £240,000, twice the guide price. The new owner Michael Oliver, wants to keep the engine in the North West and continue to take it to shows around the UK so people can still enjoy the results of Fred’s many hours of labour.
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