I have been away. My friend owns a railway locomotive (yes, owns). It is more Titfield Thunderbolt* than Hogwarts Express. It isn’t that big, but if you own a steam loco then you don’t really want it big, do you? You need something manageable. Something maneuverable. Something that doesn’t consume coal by the cartload. ‘Jennie’ uses so little coal that you can hand-pick each piece from the stack. My arms still ache from polishing the paintwork. Video of Jennie here
Over the weekend I learned more about steam engines than I ever did as a boy. I now know how a regulator works and what to if your clack valve gets stuck. Also it’s just as well I don’t mind getting my hands dirty – though dirty is hardly the word for it (I’m well-used to dirty and oily, I’m rebuilding an old motorbike). Nor was it just my hands. I had been wondering why everyone at Amerton wore flat caps like Fred Dibnah. When I showered afterwards and smelt the smuts and black muck as it washed out of my hair, I knew.
*for those that don’t know, click here