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Ashes of steam train driver, 94, to be scattered on railway tracks as Oliver Cromwell returns to Norwich

PUBLISHED: 13:29 14 February 2018 | UPDATED: 13:42 14 February 2018

Frank Fawcett has died at the age of 94. Picture: Hannah Colbourn

Frank Fawcett has died at the age of 94. Picture: Hannah Colbourn

Archant

Ashes of one of the last remaining steam engine drivers in Norwich will be scattered on the railway tracks at Eaton the same day one of the region’s most famous locomotives - the Oliver Cromwell - returns to the city.

Frank Fawcett pictured at his home on George Borrow road in 2005. Photo: Nick ButcherFrank Fawcett pictured at his home on George Borrow road in 2005. Photo: Nick Butcher

Frank Fawcett passed away on January 30 aged 94, and by a remarkable coincidence his funeral will be held on the same day the Oliver Cromwell passes through Norwich.

Mr Fawcett had worked on steam engines in Norwich all his life until retirement in 1988, following in the footsteps of his father Philip into the profession as a fireman and later a driver.

He was a widower, having lost his wife Molly in 1971. He never remarried.

His funeral will be held on February 22, the same day the British Railways pacific locomotive is to haul a special train from Liverpool Street to Norwich and back.

Frank Fawcett with four of his five great grandchildren Bella, Rosie, Nell and Mollie. Picture: Hannah ColbournFrank Fawcett with four of his five great grandchildren Bella, Rosie, Nell and Mollie. Picture: Hannah Colbourn

Pat Rowley, Mr Fawcett’s eldest child, said: “It is almost like it was meant to be - like it was coming to say goodbye to him.”

The much loved family man lived in Norwich his whole life after moving into a council home at George Burrow Road in the 1930s.

“The family have been talking about the Oliver Cromwell because it was quite a well-known locomotive which had this connection to my dad and grandad,” added Mrs Rowley.

“It is such a coincidence it is making its farewell trip on that day. Dad spent most of his life on the trains and it was a pretty hard life.

Oliver Cromwell passes through Bentley in 2011. Picture: MARTYN CLARKEOliver Cromwell passes through Bentley in 2011. Picture: MARTYN CLARKE

“He was based in Lowestoft during the war and the trains were regularly strafed by the German air force. Because they had this great fire blazing in the engine they couldn’t observe any kind of black out.

“He was full of stories, like when they would pass certain station masters houses they would lop off lumps of coal for them, and coming back there would be a brace of pheasants waiting for them. We have got lots of memories from his days on the steam trains.

“He was quite a sentimental, easy going, quiet kind of man. I think he would have been very moved to see the engine again and it would have been a great memory for him.

“His remaining brother lives in Eaton by the crossing on the marsh, and that is where dad wants his ashes scattered - on the train line.”

Final journey of the Oliver Cromwell

The Oliver Cromwell entered service in 1951 and spent its first 10 years hauling express trains on the Great Eastern Main Line between London, Norwich, Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth.

It was then transferred to the north west of England where it hauled the last ever British Railways steam service in August 1968.

It was saved by the National Railway Museum which loaned it to the Bressingham Steam Museum near Diss where it was the star exhibit for 36 years until it was decided to restore it to working order in 2004.

After four years’ work, Oliver Cromwell steamed again in 2008 – allowing to mark the 40th anniversary of the end of BR steam in August of that year.

Its 10-year certificate for the main line expires in April – there has been no decision made on whether it will be overhauled to main line condition again.

Marcus Robertson, Chairman of The Cathedrals Express, said, “It seems appropriate that 50 years after it ran the last steam hauled BR train in August 1968, we will be using Britannia Class Oliver Cromwell on this special express route, on which it excelled in its former BR days.”

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