Washington pensioner’s incredible effort as 19th century steam locomotive is recreated

David Young with his steam locomotive.
David Young with his steam locomotive.
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A retired train enthusiast has painstakingly recreated a 19th century steam locomotive – with the help of just one surviving photo.

David Thomas Young, 79, from Fatfield, Washington, spent more than 5,000 hours, over three years, building Samson at Beamish Museum, in County Durham.

The original photo of Samson which was used.

The original photo of Samson which was used.

It is based on the original 1874 narrow gauge engine, with Mr Young following in the footsteps of his great, great grandfather, Thomas Young, who worked at Hetton Colliery Engine Works.

He worked on the project with Paul Jarman, Beamish’s assistant director for transport and industry.

The Book of Samson, which tells the story of recreating the steam locomotive, was written by Mr Jarman.

Retired safety engineer Mr Young and Mr Jarman used the only surviving photo of Samson, two engravings and a contemporary trade magazine description to skilfully create from scratch a close reproduction of the original.

This is basically a hobby gone mad!

David Thomas Young

Mr Young said: “I was never a hands-on mechanic, I was more an engineer sat behind a desk. This is basically a hobby gone mad!

“I’m from a generation where if you wanted things you had to make it.”

David’s great, great grandfather, Thomas, was involved in the building of steam locomotive Hetton Lyon No.2. The Hetton engine at Beamish incorporates the remains from that engine.

On the book, Mr Young added: “I was quite overwhelmed to see my mug on every other page!

David Young with his steam locomotive.

David Young with his steam locomotive.

“Paul has been his usual modest self as he deserves full recognition for his considerable input in managing the project.”

Mr Jarman said: “It is a strange feeling to finally see Samson in steam after spending so long thinking about its creation and wondering how the original designers approached the various aspects visible in the 1870s photograph.

“David has done a fantastic job turning this limited evidence into the steam locomotive we see here now.

“Like the construction of the engine, production of the book has been something which I have been very passionate about, both to bring David’s story to a wider audience and also shine the spotlight on parts of railway history not widely known outside specialist circles.

Paul Jarman has written a book about the recreation.

Paul Jarman has written a book about the recreation.

“For that reason I think it’s been really important to put Samson – both our reconstruction and the original – into some sort of context.”

The original Samson was built for the London Lead Company by Stephen Lewin, of Poole, Dorset, and was used in Weardale for a quarter of a century, before being scrapped in about 1904.

The 144-page hardback book, The Book of Samson, also covers the history of the original Samson and its manufacturer, as well as information on Weardale’s locomotives and tramways.

Visitors will be able to see Samson in action at Beamish this Saturday and Sunday, in The Colliery Yard from 12pm to 3.30pm.

The Book of Samson – which features 255 photographs, 14 drawings, two paintings, three engravings and two maps – costs £18.50, is available from Beamish’s Gift Shop and online soon at www.beamish.org.uk.

The recreated steam locomotive.

The recreated steam locomotive.

The recreated steam locomotive.

The recreated steam locomotive.

David Young with his steam locomotive.

David Young with his steam locomotive.