‘Remarkable’ work praised at RPSI site

Nora Owen, Vice-President of the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland, on board the footplate of steam engine No. 85 Merlin during train rides run as part of the Whitehead Victorian Street Fair on Saturday November 29. Mrs Owen was accompanied by (from left) RPSI driver Nelson Poots, her husband Brian, and RPSI fireman Mathew Crockett. Picture by Charles Friel
Nora Owen, Vice-President of the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland, on board the footplate of steam engine No. 85 Merlin during train rides run as part of the Whitehead Victorian Street Fair on Saturday November 29. Mrs Owen was accompanied by (from left) RPSI driver Nelson Poots, her husband Brian, and RPSI fireman Mathew Crockett. Picture by Charles Friel

The “remarkable” work of railway heritage enthusiasts in Whitehead has been praised by a former Irish government minister.

Nora Owen visited the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland’s Whitehead depot last weekend during the town’s Victorian Street Fair.

Once Minister for Justice in the Republic of Ireland, Mrs Owens is currently vice-president of the RPSI.

During her stay, she had the opportunity of a footplate ride on engine No. 85 Merlin, which was operating steam train trips on the day.

Accompanied by her husband Brian, she was also given a guided tour of the Whitehead site, where work has recently been completed on the GROW South Antrim-funded extensions to the locomotive works and the carriage sheds.

Mrs Owen said: “I was delighted to be able to undertake what was my first visit to Whitehead - and I am sure it will not be my last time there.

“I had heard and read so much about what the society has achieved at Whitehead and it was great to be able to see it all for myself. Remarkable locomotive restoration work is carried on in the workshops - and the skill of those involved is unbelievable.

“My trip on the footplate of No. 85 was a first for me - and a most enjoyable and exciting experience. But what impressed me most was the enthusiasm of the volunteer members of the RPSI who work with such dedication in so many different areas for the benefit of the society.

“It was great to see the excitement of so many local families as they arrived at the RPSI premises to take their children for a trip on a real steam train. Even in this modern era, there is still something thrilling about the noise, smell and sight of a steam train.”

During the fair, several hundred visitors took advantage of the RPSI train rides and a chance for a close-up look at a mainline express steam engine.

Denis Grimshaw, RPSI chairman said: “We were very pleased to once again be part of the Whitehead Victorian Street Fair.

“It is always one of the highlights of our Whitehead calendar and we salute Whitehead Community Association for all the hard work they have done in ensuring the event was so successful.”