Sir Nigel Gresley gave the UK, and the world, some of the most iconic steam engines to ever grace the railway.
He designed the famous Mallard and the Flying Scotsman, just two locomotives that would go down in history. These engines gave the UK an identity and reputation for being able to produce iconic trains and helped to foster a generation of people truly fascinated by the workings of a stream engine. The Mallard went on to break land speed records while the Flying Scotsman was one of the pioneering engines of the East Coast Main Line.
Gresley class engines have a long list of admirers and they are always huge favourites when paraded at special events up and down the country. While the Mallard and Flying Scotsman usually grab the attention of many railway enthusiasts there is one locomotive whose revival is turning a number of heads.
The P2 2-8-2 steam locomotive is set to become the UK's most powerful steam engine thanks to a project by the P2 Steam Locomotive Company (P2SLC). Named the Prince of Wales, the steam engine is being built thanks to a £5 million investment and will use the designs set out by Sir Nigel to create a traditional steam train with modern traits.
Among the volunteers involved in the project is Top Gear's James May. The television star has a huge passion for steam engines and agreed to take part in the first building phase of this new locomotive. Mr May was involved in making the smoke box dart, an item which sits at the front of the train which keeps the smoke box shut.
It is a project that Mr May is immensely proud of being involved with, explaining that not many man-made machines could "stir the soul" but a steam locomotive can get pretty close. He also touched on Britain's history of producing steam trains but conceded that this has been sadly declining in recent years.
The Top Gear star said: "Over the decades we’ve lost so much of the talent, skill and knowledge needed to build them. That’s why it’s such a thrill to work alongside the team building No. 2007 Prince of Wales, determined to not only resurrect this monster from the past, but to improve it using modern wizardry to do so.
“It’s a real privilege to know that when Prince of Wales eventually roars past me at a station, I can proudly say, along with many others, that I helped build that and it works.”
The P2SLC's project will help to produce the seventh member of the P2 steam locomotive family. It was formally launched in February and is expected to take between seven and ten years to complete. The £5 million investment is being generated thanks to public subscriptions and other donations.
Mark Allatt, chairman of The P2 Steam Locomotive Company, spoke of the decision to name the train after The Prince of Wales: "It is well known HRH has a passion for our heritage and a particular interest in steam, but also the skills and craftsmanship required to build a steam locomotive from scratch. It is a clear demonstration that nothing is beyond the realms of possibility.”