North Yorkshire Moors Railway's 'Piglet' wins major award for rescuing and restoring Belgian steam locomotive

The popular head of traction and rolling stock at the North Yorkshire Moors Railway has won a national award.

Lucie is rail-worthy once again (photo: Charlotte Graham)
Lucie is rail-worthy once again (photo: Charlotte Graham)

Paul Middleton - known as 'Piglet' - and his family saved a 131-year-old Belgian steam locomotive called Lucie from an uncertain future after he spotted the engine in a shed during a visit to the Middleton Railway in Leeds.

His parents and brother helped him purchase Lucie four years ago, and she is now rail-worthy once again.

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Mr Middleton won the Heritage Railway Association's Steam Railway magazine award for 2021, with 40 per cent of readers voting for his project.

Lucie's full name is Tramways de l’Est de Bruxelles No. 8, and she was built in 1890 in the eastern province of Liege, Belgium.

The engine had an eclectic working life serving zinc mines and sugar factories before an initial restoration in 1988, after which she ran at Peak Rail before moving to the Middleton Railway in 1995.

Lucie was withdrawn from service in 2000 and lay in storage for 17 years before the Middletons moved her to Grosmont.

“It was completely by chance really. I’d actually gone over to Middleton Railway to look at another locomotive. 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’,” said Mr Middleton.

“At first I knew nothing about its history but was blown away by this unique looking locomotive and I thought: ‘I would like to restore this locomotive as it would look amazing running along the line at the NYMR’.”

Mr Middleton has even been invited to take Lucie to visit the Brussels Tram Museum in 2022 to celebrate the museum's 40th anniversary. Lucie left Belgium in 1897.

“It’s a genuine surprise to win. There was some strong competition from other restoration projects, and I voted for Welsh Pony!”

Although Lucie is not running on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway yet, visitors will be able to view her in the shed at Grosmont this spring.