A special steam train will chug into Melton station on Sunday to honour a man who nurtured a love for the railways while growing up in the town before going on to become a leading figure in the industry.
Nigel Dobbing, who passed away in October aged 66, established The Railway Touring Company, which organises mainline steam trips in the UK and across the world and has done so for more than 20 years.
And this weekend a poignant memorial steam train will set off from King’s Lynn, where the business is based, and head for his home town, Melton, with an expected arrival time of 1.48pm.
The private train will carry around 80 members of Nigel’s family, his friends, colleagues and people who supported him over the years, for a steam journey to celebrate his life and achievements.
In a rare appearance so far south, the 1945-built steam loco 35018 British India Line will haul the train in what will be an emotional tribute to Nigel.
A memorial plaque will be unveiled in the station waiting room, by kind permission of Network Rail and East Midlands Trains with the help of their stakeholder and community rail manager Donna Adams.
Kelly Osborne, who is now managing director of The Railway Touring Company, said: “Nigel had been eagerly waiting for the completion of British India Line’s restoration and had arranged for this historic locomotive to haul a leg of The Railway Touring Company’s annual Great Britain steam tour in April 2018, on which he planned to travel.
“Unfortunately, due to ill health he was unable to take that journey, so we are very pleased that number 35018 is to haul this train in memory of Nigel and we thank David Smith of West Coast Railways for making this loco available and enabling this journey to happen.
“Nigel’s passion and determination has given so many people the opportunity to experience steam travel through the steam charters he devised, so Sunday’s train is one of the best ways for us all at company to say goodbye and pay our respects to him.”
Nigel grew up in a farming family and his love of steam, inspired by the locomotives which operated close to his childhood home in Melton, drove his entrepreneurial vision to set up the touring business at a time when steam on the mainline was almost a thing of the past.
John Holwell was a childhood friend of Nigel’s in Melton and shared his enthusiasm, watching steam-hauled freight trains in action, train-spotting and visiting loco sheds together.
He said: “The development of the Great Britain steam rail tours was Nigel’s idea and only someone of his vision and calibre could have carried that forward. “Nigel is sorely missed but his legacy will survive and generations to come will be grateful for his pioneering work in running steam hauled rail services.”
Ray Mason, another friend, said: “Nigel built up The Railway Touring Company to be the world’s leading tour operator using mainly steam locomotives.
“Often pioneering, Nigel ran tours where others didn’t.
“They were successful, incredibly interesting and often historic events – either a first for 30 to 50 years or a final visit before a system closed, dieselised or was destroyed in a civil war.”
The company’s train manager, David Hughes, added: “We salute you Nigel for bringing so much pleasure from your vision and forethought in the world of steam hauled mainline trains.”
The Railway Touring Company urges anyone who plans to come out to see the train to follow safety guidelines and to do so from a safe viewing point.
The Nigel Dobbing memorial train will spend around 90 minutes at Melton station and is due to depart at 3.16pm