Train driver’s reunion with engine outside Stratford station
- Credit: Archant
As a young man, Stanley Bray drove Robert the train at a Northamptonshire mine. Now the pair have been reunited outside Stratford station for the first time in half a century
When the ironstone mines where Stanley Bray worked closed down, he never thought he would see the train he worked on again.
Now, 50 years on, he has been reunited with “Robert”, the engine which has taken up residence outside Stratford station.
“I started working at the mines when I was about 25 or 26, after I came out of the army,” explained Stanley.
“I drove Robert for about 15 years, and it was a great job.
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“You just stayed in the cab, you didn’t have to get out.”
A familiar sight in Stratford these days, the engine, built in 1933, looks a lot different from its heyday lugging iron along the tracks.
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On seeing Robert’s bright red coat, Stanley said: “He was never this colour, he was always green.
“He’s got a few bits missing as well.
Robert was one of three trains built for use at the Lamport Ironstone mines near Brixworth in Northamptonshire.
He was only intended to be a reserve train, but that soon changed.
“They needed another engine, and they asked me if I’d drive him,” explained Stanley.
“We used to have to take them up a slope as high as the [Stratford] station roof, but the other two trains were better at it.”
With around 30 people working at the mines, Stanley was just one of three dedicated train drivers.
The visit was a surprise trip for Stanley’s 80th birthday, organised by his daughter Stacey Wootton and her husband Martin, who made the hour-and-a-half journey down from Northampton with him.
“When I realised we were going to Stratford, I knew what we were going to see,” said Stanley.
“A friend told me a while ago that he had been restored and put outside Stratford station.
“I’d said I’d wanted to come and see him.”
After the mine closed down in 1969, Stanley worked first as a bus driver and then for the county council on the dustcarts until he retired in 1996.
Robert, meanwhile, moved around several heritage railways before being bought to reside in the Kew Bridge Steam Museum in 1993.
The following year he moved to Beckton, but after some vandalism he was relocated to Stratford in 1999.
In 2008, he went to the East Anglia Railway Museum in Colchester for repainting and restoration work, before returning to his current location outside Stratford station in 2011.