'Young' steam train driver qualifies on London-Surrey run

Jim Clarke (right) with his father Don (left) Image copyright PA
Image caption Jim Clarke said he had watched, listened and learned from his father, Don

A 33-year-old man has become the youngest steam train driver to qualify on the mainline for nearly 50 years.

Jim Clarke "passed out" as a qualified driver after he drove the Belmond British Pullman from London Victoria to Guildford, Surrey.

It is believed he is the youngest person to qualify since 1968.

He was following in the footsteps of his father, Don Clarke, who started driving steam engines in the 1960s but is now retired.

Mr Clarke, from Haywards Heath, West Sussex, said he had been watching, listening and learning from his father who spent 49 years working on the railway.

Image copyright PA
Image caption The Belmond British Pullman includes carriages dating back to 1925

Before setting off, Mr Clarke said: "A good few years of work has gone into it.

"Before, you have to be passed out as a fireman, work your time, be put forward for driving, go through the training and then hopefully today pass the driver's exam."

His father said: "We are very proud of him. It's something he's always wanted to do."

Explaining why he enjoyed driving steam trains, Mr Clarke Senior said: "You feel part of the machine and it's the sheer physical effort of what you put in to get the power out of the loco.

"It's quite satisfying if you've had a good run."

The Belmond British Pullman includes carriages dating back to 1925 and is hauled by the Clan Line engine, owned by the Merchant Navy Locomotive Preservation Society.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Jim Clarke's father said driving a steam train needed "sheer physical effort"

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