By Geoff Courtney
A passenger steam train has returned to the Essex town of Halstead 52 years after its line was closed and the track was lifted.
There was, though, no fanfare, no gathering of preservationists and enthusiasts, and very few cameras clicking, for the train is but an image, albeit an innovative one that has attracted considerable interest and favourable comments from residents and visitors alike.
It is the creation of supermarket group Lidl, which recently opened a store on the former site of the station and hit upon the idea of linking the location with Halstead’s railway history.
The tile mosaic features a 2-4-2T, believed to be No. 2 Halstead, which was built for the line by Hawthorn Leslie & Co in 1887 and withdrawn by the LNER as No. 8312 in June 1924.
Malcolm Root, president of the Halstead & District Local History Society who has lived in the town all his life, said: “The mosaic has been very well received – I think Lidl has done a remarkable job.”
Malcolm is a fellow of the Guild of Railway Artists, and has frequently painted scenes of the line in his work as a full-time transport artist. One of those depicts J15 0-6-0 No. 65465 passing Halstead FC’s ground as the town’s team plays Stowmarket, and another is of the station showing the general layout, including a goods shed on the part of the site that is now occupied by the new store.
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