Arts and culture
Bronze sculpture of the Flying Scotsman.
A legend in miniature
By Tim Dale
Harrogate sculptor, Stephen Allen, has just completed his dream commission. A bronze miniature of the legendary locomotive, The Flying Scotsman. Limited editions are now being sold to raise funds for the restoration of the engine.
Stephen Allen began his working life as an engineering apprentice, not as an artist, despite having a number of creative ancestors; "My great grandfather was a professional artist, and my uncle was also a painter. However my dad wanted me to have a 'proper job' so I became an MOD engineering apprentice, working on everything from armoured cars to machine guns."
Even the driver appears on this sculpture
Modelling continued to be his passion; "Throughout my career, I would produce models which I sold to local antique shops and eventually I evolved into architectural modelling. I've done loads of Star Wars memorabilia and produced miniatures of 12 American football stadiums which sold all over the world.
"I also supply the Sherlock Holmes museum and the Jorvik Viking museum. But my real passion is 'boys' toys', planes, trains and automobiles. You could say I'm living out my boyhood dreams through model-making and sculpture."
He went freelance in 1990, working out of his own studio in Harrogate, where he's lived for the last 28 years.
The commission, to create a miniature bronze sculpture of the legendary Flying Scotsman, came from a London-based company, TMB Art Metal. The company specialises in producing high quality sculptures and jewellery of iconic subjects and they always use material from the original object.
In agreement with the National Railway Museum (NRM), it was decided that the sculpture of the Flying Scotsman would contain metal from its original firebox which was removed during restoration at the NRM.
Bronze scultpure of the legendary Flying Scotsman
Stephen was overjoyed to get this commission for a very personal reason; "My father was a fireman on the old LNER, the line of the Flying Scotsman. He loved locomotives and the Scotsman was his favourite."
To get the design exactly right, Stephen spent six months studying the famous engine; "The NRM and TMB Art Metal both wanted the piece to show the Scotsman as she appeared in 1934, when she broke the 100mph record. It's been a tough job to get the details exactly right.
"I've spent a lot of time in the workshops with the people working on her restoration as the engine has been reconfigured so many times. For example in the 30s the driver controlled the engine from the right-hand side. So to get an idea of how she'd have looked, I took pictures of a similar loco, the Green Arrow. They even let me have a go at driving her. How's that for a boyhood dream come true?"
The initial sculpture is stunning and like any others commissioned, contains around 50% of metals that come from the original locomotive. Anyone ordering one of these sculptures can choose the colours of the patina themselves and, if they want, can even go and see their sculpture cast in the foundry.
The price tag is high though, one of these sculptures will cost you anything from 15 to 20 thousand pounds. A substantial proportion of the money raised from the sale of them will go to the Steam our Scotsman appeal at the NRM.
Stephen Allen with his sculpture
Stephen is delighted with the finished sculpture; "I've dedicated this to my dad, he died when he was only 57, and we were best friends. We made loads of models together eventually, working up to building model trains that we ran on a railway in the back garden.
"When I first got this commission I said to myself that 'I'm going to make this the greatest piece of railway sculpture I possibly can in memory of my dad' and that's what I've done, even though I shouldn't say it myself.
"Even if he didn't want me to be an artist, I think that he might have approved of this piece."
last updated: 12/02/2009 at 18:41
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