Owen and I love trains. He was thrilled when I dug out my 1970s and 1980s model engines from their hiding place in the loft last month. Every weekend, I put together a short length of track so he can enjoy seeing them run. I quite like it too...
Today, on a visit to London, I spent a happy quarter hour admiring more modern model locomotives in ModelZone in Holborn. I was just browsing, but suddenly I spotted a fine Hornby OO gauge version of 56 032 Sir De Morgannwg/County of South Glamorgan. This was a powerful class 56 engine built for heavy freight work. Minutes later, I was heading for my next meeting having bought the engine, despite having nowhere to run it other than our weekend track.
It was an impulse buy, but there was a reason for it. My father Bob Skinner was public relations manager for the county of South Glamorgan from the authority's birth in 1974 until 1982, when he retired. He must have been delighted to have seen the county's name immortalised on an impressive railway engine. I can't wait to show him the model when we stay with Mum and Dad in Penarth this weekend. (Owen will be thrilled too!)
The class 56 engines played an important role in the South Wales economy, double-heading Britain's heaviest trains from Port Talbot docks to Llanwern steelworks in the 1980s. Dad's friend, Western Mail editor Duncan Gardiner, officially named one of 56 032's sister engines after Wales's national morning paper at Cardiff Central in 1981. Bizarrely, the first 30 engines in the class (but not 56 032) were built in Ceaușescu's Romania as Brush at Loughborough didn't have capacity to build them. That proved a disastrous mistake.
Ironically, 56 032 outlived the county whose name it carried. In 1996, South Glamorgan was abolished and Cardiff became master of its own destiny again. But Owen and I will enjoy the engine - and when he's older I'll explain its link with his grandfather. Meanwhile, here a YouTube clip of the engine going through Cardiff Central in 1996.