British India Line ‘farewell’ tribute to charter pioneer Nigel Dobbing

STEAM locomotive No. 35018 British India Line will haul a special train from King’s Lynn this weekend in a farewell to leading heritage railway industry figure Nigel Dobbing, who died in October.

This is a rare appearance so far south for the 1945-built steam loco.

King’s Lynn-based The Railway Touring Company (RTC) has organised the tribute to Nigel, who established the company in the town 22 years ago.

The private train will take around 80 members of Nigel’s family, his friends, colleagues and people who supported him over the years, for a steam journey to celebrate his life and achievements.

A love of steam, inspired by the locomotives which operated close to his childhood home in Melton Mowbray, drove Nigel’s entrepreneurial vision to organise mainline steam excursions, both in the UK and worldwide, at a time when steam on the mainline was almost a thing of the past. 

A stop at Melton Mowbray during the journey will include the unveiling of a memorial plaque in the station waiting room. The ceremony is taking place by kind permission of Network Rail and East Midlands Trains with the help of its stakeholder and community rail manager Donna Adams,

The fact ‘Merchant Navy’ Class No. 35018 British India Line will haul the train is particularly appropriate according to his former colleague and friend of many years Kelly Osborne, who is now managing director of the RTC.

“Nigel had been eagerly awaiting the completion of British India Line’s restoration, and had arranged for this historic locomotive to haul a leg of The Railway Touring Company’s annual ‘Great Britain’ steam tour in April 2018, on which he planned to travel,” she said. 

“Unfortunately, due to ill health, he was unable to take that journey, so we are very pleased No. 35018 is to haul the train in memory of Nigel, and we thank David Smith of West Coast Railways for making the loco available and enabling the journey to happen.

“We would also like to thank Graeme Pratt from Govia Thames Railway, who has secured our departure from King’s Lynn.”

Kelly added: “Nigel’s passion and determination has given so many people the opportunity to experience steam travel through the charters he devised, so Sunday’s train is one of the best ways for us all at The Railway Touring Company to say goodbye and pay our respects to him.”

Friends and rail enthusiasts have also paid tribute to Nigel.

John Holwell knew him from their childhood in Melton Mowbray, and shared his enthusiasm, watching steam-hauled freight trains in action, train-spotting and visiting loco sheds together. 

He said: “The Railway Touring Company has operated ground-breaking tours in the UK and worldwide. The development of the ‘Great Britain’ steam rail tours was Nigel’s idea, and only someone of his vision and calibre could have carried that forward.

“Nigel will be sorely missed, but his legacy will survive, and generations to come will be grateful for his pioneering work in running steam-hauled rail services.”

Ray Mason added: “Nigel built up The Railway Touring Company to be the world’s leading tour operator, using mainly steam locomotives. Often pioneering, Nigel ran tours where others didn’t. 

“They were successful, incredibly interesting and often historic events – either a ‘first’ for 30 to 50 years or a ‘final’ visit before a system closed, was dieselised or destroyed in a civil war.

“Thank you Nigel for establishing The Railway Touring Company and safely conveying thousands of travellers, enthusiasts and adventurers to countries far and wide. The ambitious and extensive Railway Touring Company programme for 2019 is a fitting memorial to Nigel.”

Train manager David Hughes said: “We salute you Nigel for bringing so much pleasure from your vision and forethought in the world of steam-hauled mainline trains.”

The Railway Touring Company urges anyone who plans to come out to see the train to follow safety guidelines and to do so from a safe viewing point.

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