County Durham has honoured an 80-year-old volunteer who constructed a steam engine from scratch for Beamish Museum.

David Young devoted more than 6,000 hours to building a working replica of a 19th-century narrow-gauge steam engine. All Mr Young had to work with was a single photograph of a steam engine of this type known as Samson.

It took Mr Young, from Fatfield, Washington, more than three years to construct the locomotive. Even more incredibly, Mr Young began the project while recovering from a liver transplant, which he had to undergo because of a blood disease.

The engine built by Mr Young is now on display at Beamish Museum.

Because of his contribution to the museum, Mr Young has been awarded The Chairman’s Medal by Durham County Council. The Chairman’s Medal is a rare honour given to those who have made exceptional contributions to improving life for the people of County Durham.

As well as presenting the medal to Mr Young, the chairman of Durham County Council, Cllr Bill Kellett, also dedicated a separate award to all the volunteers who have given up their time to work at Beamish since the museum opened in the 1970s.

Cllr Kellett said, “David’s reconstruction of an 1874 steam locomotive is a marvel of engineering expertise, especially given that he drew up his own plans and only had one original photograph from which to work. A fantastic achievement indeed – it would be very difficult in this day and age to find anyone else with his ability and technical expertise.”

“The museum’s volunteers have built Beamish up into the amazing, world-renowned attraction it has now become. I am well-aware of the very large number who have contributed their time, knowledge and enthusiasm over the years.”

Pic 2 - Beamish volunteers
Cllr Bill Kellett with Beamish volunteers

The director of Beamish Museum, Richard Evans, said, “This award is a fantastic tribute to all our volunteers, who make it possible for Beamish to continue to prosper. We are so proud of the recognition and grateful for everything they do.”

“Beamish is supported by more than 500 active volunteers working in a wide range of roles right across the museum, from managing our collections behind the scenes to baking in our pit cottages.”

“Volunteers work closely alongside our 430 staff – bringing the region’s past alive for all our visitors. We simply couldn’t do what we do without their help.”

“The special award for David is particularly worthy of note. From an old photograph of a narrow-gauge locomotive called Samson that once worked in Weardale but was scrapped many years ago, David has single-handedly made a beautiful working replica.”

“This took many thousands of hours – a real labour of love – creating the drawings by hand from the original photograph and then constructing every single part of the engine.”

“Samson now has pride of place in our colliery at Beamish – a working tribute to David’s skill and passion for north-east engineering.”

You can find out more about Beamish Museum by visiting  

(The featured image shows David Young receiving The Chairman’s Medal, with Samson in the background.)

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