Full Steam Ahead for Samson

January 19th 2016

After 5,000 hours of work, Samson, a narrow gauge steam engine, has been fired up for the first time after being built at Beamish by 78-year-old David Young.

David Young with Samson

Dave, from Fatfield in Washington, has spent three years building the engine from scratch and is following in the footsteps of his ancestor, Thomas Young.

Dave said: “My great, great grandfather worked at Hetton Colliery Engine Works and was involved in the building of Hetton Lyon No.2. The Hetton engine at Beamish incorporates the remains from that engine.”

Work started on Samson in January 2013 after Dave, who volunteers at Beamish, had drawn up plans from just a photograph and an engraving.

All Dave knew for certain was the diameter of the wheels, but “being a draughtsman – the old school type” he was able to work out the ways of the engine with impressive detail.

Paul Jarman, Assistant Director Transport and Industry, said: “To prove the project was feasible, David prepared the drawings and then made the most complicated patterns, for the cylinder block.

“This gave us confidence and so he continued to produce detailed drawings as well as patterns at a furious rate.

“What started as a nice idea turned into reality, I was glad to be able to announce we would be rebuilding Samson.”

When asked what visitors will think when seeing the engine for the first time, Dave said: “I think the originality is going to strike visitors the most.”

Modest as ever, he said: “I’ve worked on several projects, I’ve restored vintage cars, done a steam launch, this is just another project.

“I was never a hands-on mechanic, I was more an engineer sat behind a desk. This is basically a hobby gone mad!

“I’m from a generation where if you wanted things you had to make it.”

The engine is based on the Stephen Lewin locomotive, Samson, which was built in 1874 for the London Lead Company to use on the one mile tramway to Cornish Hush mine in Weardale.

It was used in Weardale for a quarter of a century, replacing horse traction, and was scrapped around 1904.

All being well, Samson will run at the Great War Steam Fair at Beamish this year.

The engine has been built mainly in the Regional Heritage Engineering Centre (RHEC) and the project has been a great way for apprentices, staff and volunteers to learn, train and develop their skills.