Rainham railway man tells story of steam engine in new children’s book

Robert Gillman and his book Isabel

Robert Gillman and his book Isabel - Credit: Archant

For Robert Gillman, 69, of Rainham, trains and railways roll in the family.

His great grand-father built railway bridges in Ceylon before the First World War, and his father worked in the London and North Eastern Railway works in Stratford making boilers for engines.

Mr Gillman, known as Bob to his friends, is one of the last relief signalman working in a signal box in the London tube and has just published his second book about the journey of a 1919 steam locomotive called Isabel Finds a Home.

Talking about his passion for railways, Mr Gillman told the Recorder: “It’s a job but it is also something I really enjoy doing.

“It’s about stepping out in time - it’s a taste of history.”


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Isabel is one of the largest locomotives kept at the Epping Ongar Railway, Essex, which displays, repairs and maintain Victorian trains.

The locomotive was build is a workshop outside Newcastle and was first used by the British chemical company the Imperial Chemical Industries, which had its own railway system for transportation.

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Crashed by workers during the 1926 General Strike, she was later sold into a private home in the 1970s.

Illustrated with nostalgic watercolours by Alan Ward, the book aims to inspire children to develop a passion about railway and highlights the importance of preserving our heritage.

“Children, who have never seen a steam engine working are fascinating by it,” said Mr Gillman.

“Steam engines inspire imagination. This was to encourage children to become interested in saving their heritage, otherwise it will get lost in the mist of time.”

If you would like to have more information about the book visit here.

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