Bringing steam engine memories to life

Ian Morrell and Swin Tempest have published a childrens book based around the Puffin Billy engine.
Ian Morrell and Swin Tempest have published a childrens book based around the Puffin Billy engine.
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A MAN who keeps people moving with mobility machines has turned back time to recreate an engine from his childhood days.

Ian Morrell, boss of North East Mobility Warehouse in South Hetton, has painstakingly built an exact replica of a Puffing Billy, which were a familiar sight as they pulled fun trains around holiday parks 50 years ago.

The 53-year-old grandad, who became captivated by one of the engines when he holidayed at Filey’s Butlin’s resort as a child, has also teamed up with his friend Swin Tempest, 66, to create a series of story books about the adventures of Puffing Billy.

The first of the books, Puffing Billy and the Sharks, has been written and illustrated by Swin, with the pair now working on its follow up.

Ian, who is grandad to six-year-old Owen Brumby and his sister Venna, 10, and one-year-olds Caden Morrell and Oliver Marshall, would spend his breaks at the holiday park riding on the train.

But he would also see inside the workshops where he would watch as maintenance and repair work were carried out by the camp’s staff.

For years, he tried to locate and restore one of the trains, but after much searching, decided the only option was to start from scratch and build a replica.

He purchased an ex-military aeroplane tug to form the base, chassis and engine, and some 12 months later, Ian’s dream was been finally realised.

Visitors to his business showroom in South Hetton’s industrial estate can now see it for themselves and had its first outing at this year’s Houghton Feast.

Ian has also spoken to people in the North Yorkshire coastal town about taking his piece to visit.

He is also looking into whether it can be used to pull carriages on the road.

He said: “People have to see it for themselves, but to me it’s definitely a most desirable piece and it’s taken me 10 years to assemble.

“I hope my grandchildren take an interest.

“We’ll spend the winter organising next year, so we’ll probably try and take it to the airshow and big events like that.”

He added the story books are based on tales the friends, who met when Swin ran a picture framing business in Hetton, have come up with fashioned on family values and is suited to children aged from three to eight.

The books are heart-warming reads about the bond shared between a grandad, his grandson and the building of a magical train – Puffin Billy.

There are also activities designed to encourage family interaction, such as puzzles, quizzes and a model train to build.

Ian and Swin are also to contact books shops if they will stock the books.

First edition copies of the book can be bought online for £5.99 at

Twitter: @EchoEastDurham