A train which helped the War Effort after D-Day and was later re-named in honour of “Forces Sweetheart” Dame Vera Lynn is the focus of a new £750,000 restoration campaign.
Volunteers and staff at the North Yorkshire Moors Railway have launched the Fight for Vera Fund to pay for the overhaul of the locomotive which, like the Allied invasion of Normandy in June, 1944, is commemorating its 70th anniversary this year.
Their hope is to have it back on the tracks in time for Dame Vera’s 100th birthday in 2017 or two years later when it celebrates its 75th birthday.
Support for the appeal has come from Dame Vera herself, who is once again enjoying the limelight after entering the Top 20 of the UK Album Charts this week.
“She has wished us luck with the fundraising appeal and said she is thrilled to bits that we were looking to restore it,” said Jon Roberston, a member of the Fight for Vera Fund. “There are a lot of people involved in this fund who are desperate to get it back into steam.”
The War Department Austerity No 3672 was built in Glasgow in 1944 and then shipped off to help the War Effort in Europe and the Middle East. It returned to Great Britain in the 1980s where Dame Vera re-named it in her honour in August, 1986.
Shortly afterwards, the locomotive was brought to Pickering where it remained until it left service at the end of the 1990s.
Jon said: “A lot of us were kids when it was the main train on the railways. There are many of us who have fond memories of the Dame Vera Lynn. In those days it was the main engine and that’s what people came to see.”
He added: “A group of us were sat in the pub when we literally said ‘shall we look at organising a group to overhaul the locomotive?’ and then another one of us came up with the name, Fight for Vera Fund, and the slogan, ‘We’ll Steam Again.’
“We just thought if no one does anything, its just going to rot until there is nothing left.”
Since then, around £5,000 has been donated to the fund, and members are now ploughing ahead with their drive to raise the £750,000 they estimate is needed to get the locomotive back onto the tracks.
This includes a raffle, which includes a prize of first class tickets on the Eurostar train, and support from The Great Yorkshire Brewery who have made a Dame Vera beer which they will be selling at Pickering Station during the town’s 60s Festival on Saturday and at later dates.
Anyone who would like to support the appeal or become involved in fundraising should visit the Facebook page at www.dameveralynn.co.uk or visit www.justgiving.com/dvl3672