By Cedric Norman

What do the Flying Scotsman and LBSC's Ayesha have in common? Both were built over 90 years ago, both are significant locomotives and both are now back in steam. The major difference is that Flying Scotsman has had a major overhaul costing millions, whereas Ayesha has had a little TLC and a new pressure gauge. Ayesha was built around the same time as the Scotsman, and this is a fantastic achievement for model engineering.

The National 2.5” Gauge Association bought LBSC’s original Ayesha in 2012, which came about through the good relations of Tony Weale with Mavis Harriott, the then owner, and it has been on static show ever since, but that is no place for it to rest so, after a few bits of minor maintenance and an inspection of the boiler, it was tested and passed off ready to fire.

There was an air of anticipation as the members watched on while the fire was lit and the pressure gradually rose causing the safety valve to pop open as can be seen in the above picture. Ayesha was gently rolled down the rails and out onto the circuit at the Rugby MES and a driving trolley attached.

John Baguley now seated as driver opened the regulator and the steady familiar beat of steam passing through the cylinders to escape into the ether could be heard. The wheels began to turn and this 90+ year old showed that she could still do the job. John took her around the 1126 foot raised track several times before handing her over to Steve Eaton, who drove her around, but unfortunately a blocked blower valve forced an early retirement before other members could drive her, so she was returned to the steaming bay where she attracted many an admiring glance.

For the association this will be a day to remember, but this will not be the beginning of retirement for Ayesha; this is one locomotive that should get a telegram from the palace as she will still be going under her own steam well past her hundredth year! What next? Well the paint may be showing her age, but while we are in favour of running repairs, we are against a total rebuild that would leave little of the original; her value is in her originality. The first of many replicas; often copied, the Ayesha II design has brought a new life to this icon.