A COAL mining relic named in honour of Jackie Milburn is making a special visit to the North East football legend’s home town.
The impressive steam locomotive began its working life at Ashington Colliery in 1939 – a year before local lad Jackie started work at the same pit aged 16.
He went on to achieve footballing immortality as an ace goalscorer with Newcastle United and England, while the Ashington No 5 loco served the local coal company for more than 30 years.
In 1991 the train was acquired by the Stephenson Railway Museum in North Tyneside, and named the Jackie Milburn loco as a lasting legacy for the Ashington-born hero.
Now the 40-tonne machine has been transported from its North Shields home to the Woodhorn Museum and Archives Centre at Ashington, where it is on show to visitors as part of this weekend’s annual Northumberland Miners’ Picnic.
Yesterday it was placed on display at the former pit – which hosts a full day of activities tomorrow – watched by Jackie’s son, Jack Milburn, and volunteers from the North Tyneside Steam Railway Association (NTSRA).
The volunteers spent four years and 4,678 hours of work restoring the loco in a project which was completed last November.
It followed a £138,000 fundraising appeal launched by Jack Milburn Jnr in 2006.
Tyne and Wear Museums and The Journal’s sister paper the Evening Chronicle worked together to raise the money to fund the repairs, £38,000 of which came from the public and £100,000 through grants and funding bodies. During its working life the loco was used by the Ashington Coal Company to haul coal wagons in its local pits and passenger trains for the miners.
Yesterday Jack Milburn Jnr, 59, who lives in Bamburgh, Northumberland, said he was delighted to see the loco as the centrepiece of a coal mining celebration.
He said: “This loco started work in 1939 and my dad started at Ashington Colliery the following year. He knew all the train drivers’ names, and I seem to remember about three of them were also called Jack.
“It is a beautiful machine and it is fabulous to have it back here at one of the pits where it used to operate. If it wasn’t for the fantastic work of the steam railway volunteers it would probably be in a scrapyard now.”
The Northumberland miners’ picnic starts tonight with an NUM lecture, with speakers Denis Skinner MP and Wansbeck MP Ian Lavery, at Ashington Football Club.
Tomorrow there will be a miners’ memorial service at 10.30am at Holy Sepulchre Church, Ashington followed by a full day of activities at Woodhorn from 10am to 5pm.
It will include brass bands, clog dancing, folk music, the Hexham Morris dance teams, a craft fair and children’s fairground rides. Full details and timings are available on the website: www.experiencewoodhorn.com
Woodhorn director, Keith Merrin, said: “Many men and boys have a special affection for trains, and steam engines in particular. Although Jackie Milburn won’t actually be fired up, there will still be crowds gathered around this great piece of engineering and history, reminiscing about days gone by and childhood dreams.
“It is certainly adding something very special to our traditional event.”
The Jackie Milburn loco is on display at Woodhorn until Sunday.