RPSI volunteers presented with Queen’s Award

The Lord Lieutenant for Co. Antrim, Joan Christie OBE , (second from right) presents RPSI president Lord O'Neill with the Queen's Award for Voluntary Service. Also pictured are RPSI volunteer Christine Friel (extreme left) who presented Mrs Christie with a bouquet of flowers and (extreme right) Dr Joan Smyth, RPSI vice-president. INCT 31-751-CON
The Lord Lieutenant for Co. Antrim, Joan Christie OBE , (second from right) presents RPSI president Lord O'Neill with the Queen's Award for Voluntary Service. Also pictured are RPSI volunteer Christine Friel (extreme left) who presented Mrs Christie with a bouquet of flowers and (extreme right) Dr Joan Smyth, RPSI vice-president. INCT 31-751-CON

The RPSI has been presented with a prestigious award in recognition of the contribution made by its 150 strong band of volunteers.

The Lord Lieutenant for Co Antrim, Joan Christie, presented the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service to Lord O’Neill, President of the RPSI, and Vice-President Dr Joan Smyth at a ceremony in Portrush.

The event took place against a backdrop of RPSI volunteers and steam locomotive No. 85 Merlin, which had hauled the Portrush Flyer from Belfast.

Mrs Christie took the opportunity to meet as many of the volunteers as possible and then travelled on the Society’s afternoon excursion from Portrush to Coleraine and back.

She was “most impressed” by the extent of volunteer involvement in the RPSI, and said the Society was a worthy winner of the award.

Mrs Christie took time to step onto the footplate of the 103-ton Class V Compound No. 85 Merlin, which was re-launched in 2014 at the end of a 10-year engineering overhaul carried out at the RPSI’s workshops in Whitehead.

Dr Smyth said: “For the RPSI to be awarded the Queen’s Award, the equivalent of an MBE, is the high point of a very busy year. Our volunteers have now restored three mainline steam locomotives to active service and are preparing one of them, our largest, Merlin for Portrush action.”

The RPSI’s Portrush Flyer will be back in action on Sundays August 9 and August 23, starting at Whitehead Excursion Station and picking up at Carrickfergus en route to Portrush. Tickets are available from steamtrainsireland.com