George Frogatt on his visit to Nene Valley Railway.

86-year-old man reunited with steam locomotive he used to drive over 60 years ago at Nene Valley Railway in Peterborough

An 86-year-old man has been reunited with the steam locomotive he used to drive over 60 years ago at Nene Valley Railway in Peterborough.

By Ben Jones
Monday, 15th November 2021, 5:00 am
Updated Monday, 15th November 2021, 6:02 am

George Frogatt was able to be reunited with his old black five locomotive after initially encountering it at Nene Valley purely by chance on a visit to the railway.

George was born in Eccles in Salford, Greater Manchester and drove the locomotive when it was in service in the area in the 1950s during his time on the railway at Patricroft. George left school at the age of 15 on a Friday in July 1950 and the following Monday reported for work at the sheds. At the age of just 16, he was classed by the tax office as a married man with three children, as his father had passed away while he was 14 and he was supporting the family with his wage.

At age 16, he passed out as a fireman and by the time he was 17, he was cleared for mainline duties. He then passed out as a driver five years later.

After leaving the sheds, he didn’t see the engine again until many years later his son Mark moved to Peterborough to accept and job and upon coming down for a visit, the pair decided to visit Nene Vally Railway.

Mark said: “After I moved down to Peterborough, I told dad that about Nene Valley and that I thought they had a black five there and that we should go and have a look.

“Obviously, because of my dad, I grew up around steam and have gained an interest myself. As soon as we saw it, he said ‘that’s my engine.’ I said it can’t be, most of them have been scrapped now, what are the chances of that one actually being the one your drove? Then he started rattling off its number and sure enough it was. It was just an absolute miracle, I thought what on earth of the chances of that happening?”

After mentioning the freak event to Brian Pearce, Trustee of Railworld Wildlife Haven, Brian was able to arrange the chance for George to come down once again and get up close with the old locomotive, 73050 City of Peterborough.

The visit took place last month (October 28), and Mark added: “It was a great event, we were able to go all round the sheds and usually dad isn’t too good on his legs, but nothing was going to stop him getting up close with the steam engines. I turned around and when I turned back, he’d managed to get himself up on a footplate, he was like a greyhound getting around there.

“He loved every moment of it. It was fantastic to see him brighten up, but I think it was very poignant as well. He was impressed to see the dedication of the team there and moved to see the train in bits.

“He said they it would be nice if he was still alive to see it go back into service.”

The City of Peterborough is not currently in service as it is in the midst of an expensive overhaul to get it in full working order; this began in 2017.

Nene Valley has already raised £300,000 to complete the first part of this and in the new year, is planning to begin the efforts to raise the other £300,000 required. The locomotive has been overhauled at least twice over the course of its life so far and this time needs a whole new boiler. The current boiler is the same one that was fitted to the engine in the 50s and is now completely worn out.

Project Manager Stan Bell said: “It is so important to preserve pieces of history like this and it is a great honour to be overseeing this project.

“Getting the locomotive back into working order is especially important in this case as it is part of the history of the city. At the end of the steam era in 1968, Reverend Richard Paten brought the locomotive, with the original plan to display it in front of Peterborough City College but because it was in such good condition, he was able to persuade British Rail to let him continue to run it.

“It didn’t previously have a name but in the mid-70s, he donated it to Peterborough City Council and it got the name City of Peterborough, as it belongs to the city.”

Page 1 of 2