James Lester, who was the fireman on Winston Churchill’s funeral train in 1965, has given his backing to a fund raising campaign to restore steam locomotive No. 34051 Winston Churchill, in time for the 50th anniversary year of the wartime leader’s death.
Winston Churchill died in 1965 and 34051 was chosen to haul the funeral train from Waterloo to Hanborough on 30th January that year. The Friends of the National Railway Museum plan a series of events starting with a gala dinner on 9th April at which Mr Lester will be guest of honour.
Churchill apparently took great delight in planning the state funeral which was watched by millions of mourners worldwide. After the locomotive bearing his name fulfilled its solemn duty, it was earmarked for preservation and joined the National Collection in 1966.
Currently on display at the NRM in York, 34051 is in the same condition it arrived in, and is in urgent need of an overhaul. Winston Churchill was one of 44 ‘Battle of Britain’ Class locomotives produced by the Southern Railway between 1945 and 1950.
They were all named after the people, fighter squadrons, aircraft and airfields involved in the Battle of Britain. Designed by Southern Railway’s Chief Mechanical Engineer Oliver Bulleid, their unique shape and innovative technology set them apart from all other British steam locomotives.
Says Ian Harrison of FNRM, ‘We are determined that the work be carried out in good time for the 50th anniversary of Churchill’s death and the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War in 2015.’
James Lester began his railway career in 1957 as a cleaner at Nine Elms and finished in 2004 as a Traction Officer at Eurostar. ‘The steam days were always special to me, and my journey on the funeral train stands out in particular. My memories remain with me today and I am giving the proposed restoration of Winston Churchill to its former glory my full support,’ says James.
Tickets for the gala dinner cost £55 or £500 for a table of 10. To book Call 01904 636874 or email [email protected] Donations to the appeal should be sent to FNRM (Winston Churchill), Leeman Road, York, Y026 4XJ.