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Finnish Cold War relic steam engine finds new home on Norfolk farm after 25 years in wilderness

PUBLISHED: 07:02 05 November 2015 | UPDATED: 11:05 05 November 2015

A Finnish Steam Train is brought to Fengate Farm in Weeting to be restored.
Trevor Wrench (left) is pictured with Richard Parrott who owns Fengate Farm and will be storing the engine. Trevor is the engineer who will be resposible for the restoration work.

A Finnish Steam Train is brought to Fengate Farm in Weeting to be restored. Trevor Wrench (left) is pictured with Richard Parrott who owns Fengate Farm and will be storing the engine. Trevor is the engineer who will be resposible for the restoration work.

Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2015

In its prime, the hulking frame of the steam-powered Mikado freighter would have been the pride of Finland’s railways.

Snaking its way through the jigsaw of lakes and islands that make up the Nordic landscape, the 80-tonne engine was one of Finnish State Railway’s prize workhorses, one of 67 built between 1940 and 1957 by German manufacturers.

But, unable to outpace progress, the TR1 class engine soon became a relic, and was given a new role, fuelled by Cold War paranoia.

In the late 1970s, it became part of the Finnish Strategic Reserve - a group of around a dozen steam engines kept in government hands in case electricity and fuel were cut off due to an outbreak of conflict.

It was never needed, and by 1990 the Mikado was deemed surplus to requirements and set course for the scrapyard.

That was until Steam Traction Ltd, a UK company, rescued the engine and brought it to Britain.

It has travelled far and wide in search of a home since - but never under its own steam.

The last few years has seen it slumber at the Epping & Ongar Railway, under the ownership of David Buck, who bought the engine to save it from the cutter’s torch.

He has fixed up a sister engine - the passenger engine, 1016 - and also owns the Mayflower.

But he did not have the capacity to repair the Mikado and the hunt for a new home has lasted three years.

Its unusual 5ft ‘Russian’ gauge and poor state of repair has made the search difficult.

But earlier this year, Richard Parrott, owner of Fengate Farm and host of the Weeting Steam Rally, agreed to take the engine on a long-term loan.

The massive engine was delivered to the farm on Wednesday - after two days of loading on to a trailer and an escorted journey from Essex.

Now Mr Parrott dreams of displaying the giant engine on track at his prestigious rally. Speaking moments after the engine arrived, he said: “It looks good. I hope in due time we can get enough track down to shunt it up and down during the rally each year - but it won’t be this year.”

If repaired, the Mikado would be the joint biggest operating steam train in the UK, alongside its sister engine.

Trevor Wrench, an engineer for Mr Buck who is originally from Ickburgh, said it was a “big job”.

“There are no end of parts that have gone missing and while we can source most of them okay, some of them have been used to refurbish the other engine.

“You are looking at several years work, and that’s with money and manpower. We’ve been four years on the other one and not finished it yet, and this is a bigger job,” he said.

Mr Wrench also had the brainwave to contact Mr Parrott after travelling past his farm on the Mayflower during its jaunt up to North Norfolk and Norwich in February.

Are you developing an historic project? Let us know by emailing andrew.fitchett@archant.co.uk

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