Project to restore locomotive named after Forces' Sweetheart and Ditchling resident Dame Vera Lynn
As the first anniversary of Dame Vera Lynn's death approaches, a project to restore a locomotive bearing her name has begun.
North Yorkshire Moors Railway have pledged to bring locomotive No. 3672 'Dame Vera Lynn back to its original splendour in memory of the Forces' Sweetheart and long time Ditchling resident.
Dame Vera died at the grand age on 103 on June 18 2020. She is remembered all around the world for her songs which raised morale in World War Two, and as a symbol of resilience and hope, not just in war time, but more recently as the country battles through the global pandemic.
North Yorkshire Moors Railway has started an appeal to raise more than £600,000 to fully restore the engine, and get it back into traffic. Having already raised more than £175,000, the railway announced work was set to start on the restoration.
Project coordinator Ian Foot said: "The locomotive was built in Glasgow in 1944 for use by the British Army abroad and it was shipped out to Egypt where it worked for two years, before being declared surplus.
"The engine was bought by the Greek state railways where it remained in Thessaloniki until it was withdrawn from service in 1979.
"It was bought by a consortium from the Mid Hants Railway and sold on to the Lavender Line where it arrived in 1984. The owners there decided due to its wartime credentials and the fact that Dame Vera Lynn was still about that the locomotive should be named in her honour. On August 6, 1985 the singer named the engine herself.”
The locomotive was sold to Clifford Brown, a British-based businessman and managing director of a steel company in Virginia in the United States of America. Mr Brown wanted it to be based on the NYMR where it arrived in 1986. It entered service in April 1989 and ran over 100,000 miles before it was withdrawn for its overhaul.
The locomotive has been in store for the last 20 years awaiting the time, money and facilities required for its overhaul and restoration.
The total raised so far thanks to the generosity of the general public stands at £175,000. Another £450,000 is still required to fully fund the project, however with the amount raised so far the NYMR has now announced the star of the restoration, proceeding with the tender.
Mr Foot explains further about the work that has already been carried out on the locomotive.
“The smoke box, which is at the front of the engine with the chimney on the top, has been removed,” he said.
“Internal boiler tubes have all been removed as well, together with the tube plate.
“Big items like the reversing gear, have also been removed and stored, so a lot of work has already taken place. And the tender - the bit that carries the coal, or the water of the locomotive - is due to go away in the next few weeks to Riley & Son’s engineering workshop in Rochdale for a complete overhaul.”
Mr Foot said: “It is a locomotive that has proved very popular on the NYMR.
"We get a lot of people coming to the railway today that remember Dame Vera Lynn in action when they were little. It’s also a way of keeping the name of the Force’s Sweetheart to the fore and not to be forgotten.”
A NYMR spokeswoman added: "Whilst we celebrate the good news, we still need your help so we can return No. 3672 Dame Vera Lynn back into steam and visitors can enjoy the sight and sound of this iconic locomotive once again.
"A £10 donation will help towards nuts and bolts or a £100 donation will go towards buying parts such as new fire bars."
Anyone wanting to support the iconic restoration can visit www.nymor.co.uk/DVL for further information.