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Flying Scotsman Steams In!

Flying Scotsman

Flying Scotsman, the world’s most famous steam locomotive, will be the guest of honour at the formal launch of an exciting new rail engineering project in St Blazey on 30th April that could help revive the town’s and Cornwall’s economy.

Currently celebrating its centenary year, the legendary locomotive will be the first to use the 65ft St Blazey turntable since 2018. The facility has recently been returned to working order by a team of contractors, volunteers and trainees enlisted by MPower Kernow CIC (MPower), a new Cornish social enterprise company.

MPower is working to revive the town’s historic rail depot, including the turntable, the only one of its kind in Cornwall, and ultimately establish a new servicing facility for heritage railway locomotives at the heart of Cornwall’s rail network. It will acquire, refurbish and install engineering equipment, allowing Cornish trainees to undertake wagon repairs and convert old railway vehicles into ‘glamping’ accommodation or catering outlets, both of which are much in demand, and will help MPower generate income from the local tourist industry.

At the same time, a unique technical training centre for Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) and construction industry skills will be created. Like many communities in Cornwall, St Blazey ranks among the UK’s most deprived areas and a key objective of the project is to help support social and economic regeneration.

The ongoing restoration of the turntable and the creation of a servicing facility for steam locomotives is expected to provide many and varied training opportunities for a broad cross section of the community and MPower is already working with local education and training organisations to provide hands-on experience in a range of skills, from woodwork to plumbing, electrics, construction and engineering.

Led by Duncan Mitchell, a locally born Merchant Navy chief engineer, and Mervyn Allcock MBE, who booked his place in rail history by leading the dramatic rescue of Derbyshire’s unique Barrow Hill Roundhouse in the 1990s, MPower leased the St Blazey facilities, including the turntable, from freight company DB Cargo UK two years ago. Since then the team have been busy clearing away vegetation, refurbishing redundant buildings and repairing the turntable.

MPower’s initiative was conceived almost exactly 250 years after the birth of world-famous Cornish mining engineer, Richard Trevithick. It was Trevithick who, at the start of the 19th century, developed the high-pressure steam engine, the technology that powered the industrial world for over 150 years and established Cornwall as one of the leaders of the Industrial Revolution. 

This first phase of the work on the turntable has been funded by a grant of £49,500 from Historic England and £54,500 from the Railway Heritage Trust. Additional funding has come from Par Bay Big Local, Local Trust, European Regional Development Fund and a very generous local benefactor. The project has also had support from Network Rail and DB Cargo UK to inspect and upgrade the turntable access lines. Rail industry specialists Ground Control Ltd, GPX Engineering, Quattro and Taziker have also assisted with ‘in kind’ sponsorship.

Duncan Mitchell said: “This is the culmination of several years’ planning and hard work. It’s my passion to provide practical training and employment opportunities for disadvantaged youngsters in Cornwall. But it’s not just about turning a few steam locomotives; this is a long-term project to provide a sustainable and viable facility that will benefit this community and the region’s engineering industry. Cornwall has a rich engineering history and we want to exploit that to inspire the next generation of engineers.”

Mervyn Allcock, Barrow Hill Roundhouse General Manager and MPower Kernow Rail Operations & Commercial Director added: “I’m delighted to have been invited to be part of this project. The training scheme has huge potential for the area and for the wider railway. I’m very pleased to have been able to bring my skills and experience to help this very worthy project develop.”

Simon Hickman at Historic England South West, said: “Roundhouses, where locomotive sheds are accessed from a central turntable, were a common feature of British Railways in the days of steam. But since steam finished in 1968 nearly all have been demolished, leaving St Blazey as one of the last of its kind in the country. The repaired turntable will allow main line steam trains to be turned in Cornwall again, with each train bringing hundreds of visitors to the Duchy. What better way to celebrate its restoration than with Flying Scotsman, the most famous steam engine in the world?”

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