12:24 Monday 24 February 2014

Top Gear star James May plays part in making £5m Gresley train

Written byROB SMYTH

A TOP television presenter has helped to make the first part of a train designed by a South Derbyshire railway engineer as part of a £5 million project.

James May, famous for his role on BBC hit show Top Gear, agreed to make the first part of what will be the most powerful steam locomotive to operate in Great Britain, the new steam locomotive Prince of Wales.

He applied his engineering prowess in crafting Prince of Wales’s smoke box dart, the iconic item at the front of the locomotive that secures the smoke box door shut – and resembles the hands on a clock.

It comes only days after the P2 Steam Locomotive Company revealed its bid to build and operate a version of Sir Nigel Gresley’s Class P2 Mikado steam locomotive had seen more than £300,000 donated by those keen to support the project.

James said: “Not many man-made machines stir the soul, but a full-blown steam locomotive is right up there, and we invented it.

“However, over the decades we’ve lost so much of the talent, skill and knowledge needed to build them.

“That’s why it’s such a thrill to work alongside the team building No. 2007 Prince of Wales, determined to not only resurrect this monster from the past, but to improve it using modern wizardry to do so.

“It’s a real privilege to know that when Prince of Wales eventually roars past me at a station, I can proudly say, along with many others, that I helped build that and it works.”

Mark Allatt, chairman of The P2 Steam Locomotive Company, said: “We are delighted that James agreed to craft the first part of No. 2007 Prince of Wales.

“James has been a fervent supporter of ours over the years with Tornado, and we are very pleased to have him on board with our next adventure – to build the most powerful steam locomotive to operate in the UK.”

These locomotives were the most powerful express passenger locomotives to operate in the UK, designed by Sir Nigel Gresley to haul 600-tonne trains on the arduous Edinburgh to Aberdeen route.

Sadly, the design was never fully developed and they were rebuilt by his successor Edward Thompson.

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