North Yorkshire Moors Railway’s Belgian steam engine invited to Brussels

For the past few years Paul Middleton, his family and volunteers have been working restoring one of the smallest steam engines in Britain.

Mr Middleton, head of traction and rolling stock at North Yorkshire Moors Railway first encountered Lucie when visiting the Middleton Railway in Leeds in 2017 and joked to colleagues about how he’d love to buy her. A month later, he was told she was his.

Now the 131-year-old machine has triumphed in the Heritage Railway Association’s 2021 Heritage Railway News magazine award, attracting more than 40 per cent of the votes.

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Number 8 was sold new to the Tramway of East Brussels in 1890. She had a short working life as a tram, working from Place Madou to the Brussels city cemetery in Evere.

Paul 'Piglet' Middleton and his award winning restoration of a 1890 Brussels steam tram named Lucie, Cockerill Vertical Boiler steam locomotive, Grosmont Station. 8th April 2021. Picture Bruce Rollinson

“It used to run round the city amongst all those horses, people and carts and survived two World Wars and here it is in Grosmont back in the condition when it was first built,” said Mr Middleton, who is nicknamed Piglet.

Lucie went on to work for a zinc mine where she would have hauled wagons around the mine and then a sugar factory until 1940. She was restored by Dorothea Restorations in 1988 and ran at Peak Rail, before moving to the Middleton Railway in 1995. Withdrawn from service in 2000, she was in storage awaiting an overhaul when Mr Middleton clapped eyes on her. “I’d actually gone over to Middleton Railway to look at another locomotive,” he recalled. “While there, I saw Lucie and asked, What’s that strange thing then?’ and they said, ‘You can buy it off us if you want’.”

Now the restoration is complete, he has been invited by the Musée du Transport Urbain Bruxellois to take Lucie over for its 40th anniversary in 2022, returning it to its “birthplace” for the first time since 1897. People will be able to visit Lucie in the shed at Grosmont when the railway reopens later this year.