Black Prince ready to rule Poppy Line

It is a true heavyweight of the steam world, admired by rail enthusiasts across the country - and now the Black Prince has arrived in Norfolk.

It is a true heavyweight of the steam world, admired by rail enthusiasts across the country - and now the Black Prince has arrived in Norfolk.

Weighing in at 120 tons, the British Rail 9F class heavy freight locomotive will be steaming along the Poppy Line, between Sheringham and Holt, for the next three weeks.

The engine, which was turned out of the Swindon coach works in 1959, is the pride and joy of wildlife artists and conservationist David Shepherd.

He was on hand to welcome it on to the tracks at Weybourne Coach Works yesterday and is currently taking Black Price to lines round the UK raising money for his wildlife foundation as he goes.

The huge loco was brought from the Gloucestershire and Warwickshire Railway, where it usually runs, on the back of a low load trailer and slid straight on to the tracks in one smooth action. Mr Shepherd saved the historic locomotive from being scrapped in 1967, when he bought it for the princely sum of ?,000. But since then he estimates it has cost him more than ?00,000 to maintain.

Despite the cost, Mr Shepherd, 76, says he would never part with the loco.

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He said: "I have a love-hate relationship with it. I hate it because it costs me so much money, but I love it. It is like a fifth child.

"I bought it when I had a successful one-man show in New York in 1967. I sold all my pictures in the same day and being impulsive I rang up British Rail and asked could I buy an engine.

"I am really please to have the Black Prince in Norfolk. It is an opportunity for more people to see the engine."

A total of 281 9F locomotives were built by British Rail, but now there are only five left, only two of which are currently running.

The visit is a huge coup for the Poppy Line and the engine will take pride of place at the railway's steam gala at the end of this month.

Hugh Harkett, managing director of the North Norfolk Railway, estimates around 20,000 visitors will come to see Black Prince over the next three weeks.

He said: "This is the most powerful engine ever to be on the line and we are delighted to have it and to support David in his work to save wildlife."

A fundraising evening for Mr Sherpherd's wildlife foundation is being held on Sunday, August 26.

It offers a talk by Mr Shepherd at Sheringham station before guests take a trip on the line, pulled by Black Prince, to Weybourne for a champagne reception.

For more information visit www.nnr.co.uk or call 01263 820800

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