|NAH standing next to Joyce - just before he realised I'd arrived at Midsomer Norton station.|
I'm taking a break from my usual content to celebrate the amazing achievements of my husband aka NAH (Non-Allotmenteering Husband).
For the past 5+ years he's spent most weekends at Midsomer Norton station tending to the restoration of his '28 ton mistress' aka 'Joyce' aka Sentinel Steam Loco 7109. NAH is joint owner of this engine.
|NAH drives by - he rescued me later. That cab is much warmer than it was trackside last weekend!|
Joyce is a unique engine in the UK, quite unlike most steam locos, who started her working life at Croydon gasworks in the 1920s. There is a gardening connection along her road to restoration, as she spent some time as part of Alan Bloom's collection at Bressingham in the late 1960s.
I was surprised when NAH suggested we visit Bressingham; it wasn't until we arrived I realised he had an ulterior motive. He went off to research Joyce's history (and see if any of her missing parts were there), and I happily pottered around Dell Garden and Foggy Bottom, bumping into Adrian Bloom for a chat along the way.
Then there's all the time he's spent in the garage making parts to fit the engine, learning how to weld, other visits around the country to see similar engines (which often meant scrambling around beneath them to take photos of how they were put together so he could figure out what needed to be done), plus lots of research time spent in various archives.
I wouldn't have the patience, but that's why he's an engineer and I'm not.
|Joyce (left) races Great Central Railway's Jinty loco. This engine is currently a guest at Midsomer Norton station|
After what seemed to me like forever, the final stages of restoration went very quickly. Two weeks ago Joyce was in steam for the first time in 48+ years; last week she obtained her boiler certificate (which means she can officially run on heritage railways for the next year); and last Saturday and Sunday she was a star attraction at Midsomer Norton's steam weekend.
This coming weekend (5th and 6th March 2016) is a significant one as it's 50 years since the much-loved Somerset and Dorset railway closed. Midsomer Norton was a station on that line and Joyce is once again poised to star alongside Great Central Railway's guest Jinty for the weekend.
Needless to say I'm incredibly proud of NAH, but even I hadn't truly grasped the scale of his achievement, until someone commented on Midsomer Norton's Facebook page Joyce is the first engine to be restored at the station.
Fingers crossed she becomes a TV star soon, as Michael Portillo and a film crew were filming at Midsomer Norton station when she took her first steamy breaths.
In the meantime you can catch up with her via NAH's blog or his Facebook Page. I still giggle over how disparaging he was about Veg Plotting in the early days, but as soon as he had something to say (and record as a diary), he also found blogging is the perfect way of doing so.