artist and conservationist David Shepherd, famous for his paintings
of tigers and elephants, has another passion. He is mad keen on
steam locomotives and in 1967 he bought a 120 ton steam engine and
named it Black Prince. His purchase of the locomotive saved it from
being scrapped and he thought that would have been a travesty. He
threw these things [steam engines] away in the mid-1960s in a disgusting,
premature race to dieselise under the name progress. They were going
to throw my engine away when I paid £3,000 for it. She was
eight years old, she'd just had an overhaul and they were going
to just chuck her away and cut her up. I managed to save and thank
God I did."
Prince, a 9F class heavy freight locomotive, was one of the last
steam engines to be built in the UK for main line use. It was turned
out of Swindon works in 1959 and David bought it eight years later.
nearly 40 years of costly work, he got to see his beloved engine
rumble along the old Gloucestershire Warwickshire railway in October
2004. Buoyed by the nostalgia of his childhood, he has spent a small
fortune to restore the locomotive back to full working order and
it has very much been a labour of love for him. David says:
can have all sorts of emotional feelings on an engine when it's
in steam! I just love this engine for the pleasure it gives. That's
what she is, a bit of our heritage."
to see it back on the track in operation again is something that's
thrilled David. He revealed:
highly emotional. This is a wonderful, wonderful day. The moment
I've been waiting for since I bought Black Prince back in 1967.
It's an utter joy and delight."
the future of Black Prince is not entirely certain and seeing the
locomotive on the track is tinged with a hint of sadness for David.
also a moment of despair because the amount of money this engine's
costing me is quite incredible. It is quite possible that in couple
of years I'll have to sell it because I cannot go on meeting these
costs. She should be in service for ten years but we've found that
all the steel tyre will have to be [replaced] and that'll cost £28,000
so that means she's going straight out of service again after the
[rededication] ceremony. But it's one of these hazards when you
buy large toys as I have done."
strange as it may seem David views the Black Prince as a member
of his family, such is his fondness for the engine.
he's not the only fan of Black Prince. TV presenter and writer Alan
Titchmarsh is also a fan and he was there on the footplate alongside
David as the train steamed into Toddington on its latest journey.
Alan talks of his experience on the train with typical enthusiasm:
was just amazing. It's almost impossible to describe - it's like
a living beast and, actually, I did have charge for a moment or
two when we were coming along a straight.
just the most wonderful steam loco and a real living, breathing
thing. That's the wonderful thing about locomotives like Black Prince,
they're not just pieces of metal."
Alan thinks that David's contribution to saving this little bit
of Britain's heritage cannot be understated. He said:
desperately need people like David who can give so much pleasure
to the rest of us. Pleasure's underrated; joy, thrills - the face
aches from being alongside and inside that locomotive."
Black Prince making its way through the beautiful Gloucestershire
countryside is a tremendous sight and David deserves much praise
for pouring his love and money into the restoration of this elegant
symbol of our heritage.
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