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"Peter Scott MBE.
For services to the Railway Preservation Society in Northern Ireland."
(Quote From Queen's Birthday Honours list, June 2006)
Peter Scott MBE with No.186 on Friday 16th June 2006

"My name has appeared in the Queen's Birthday Honours list as being appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire, "for services to the Railway Preservation Society in Northern Ireland".

"I am delighted with this appointment, which as well as being a personal honour, confers public recognition on the work and achievements of the RPSI.

"In accepting this honour I must acknowledge the vital contribution made by the members of the RPSI over the years since its formation in 1964, and also the Society's full time staff. As well as that, the co-operation and encouragement of many other organisations and individuals must be acknowledged, principally Northern Ireland Railways without whom the running of steam trains on the main lines in Northern Ireland would be impossible.

"With this encouragement I am confident that the Society will continue to flourish in the coming years.

Peter Scott, MBE
18th June 2006

Peter Scott MBE with No.186 on Friday 16th June 2006

Mr Scott, from Finaghy in Belfast, has been a railway enthusiast since his days at the Royal Belfast Academical Institution and now works as a mechanical engineer with Northern Ireland Railways. But much of his free time is devoted to the work of the Railway Preservation Society, which owns and operates the last surviving mainline steam engines in Ireland. 

RPSI chairman Johnny Glendinning said: "We are delighted that Peter has received this well-deserved acknowledgment of all his efforts over so many years. He was a founder member of the Society and has served on council and in the key role of locomotive maintenance officer for more than 35 years. 

"It is thanks in large measure to his expertise that the Society's locomotives are able to continue to operate in a safe and efficient manner, bringing pleasure to the thousands of people who travel on and watch our special steam trains every year. 

"Peter is an outstanding and resourceful engineer who has built up a team of volunteer and full-time workers at Whitehead who have literally kept the Society's wheels turning. He has put countless hours of his free time into restoring steam engines and rolling stock to full working order." 

Steam locomotives are key to the RPSI's existence and operations, and when the society was formed even the most fundamental maintenance operations were beyond the young members. To begin with, professional help was sought from Northern Ireland Railways and Córas Iompair Éireann, but it was not long before railway workshops re-equipped for modern traction.

Peter Scott MBE remetalling 461's axleboxes on 8th January 2006, photo by B McDonald
Peter Scott MBE with C P Friel on 6th March 2004, photo by P J Lockett
In the engine shed at Whitehead, by C P Friel
Peter Scott working on one of No.461's axleboxes in Whitehead's well equipped Locomotive Workshop.
Peter Scott demonstrating to C P Friel the use of a milling machine.
Peter Scott working on a lathe in the engine shed at Whitehead in the early years of the society.

The role of Locomotive Maintenance Officer was created by the RPSI, and the bold move of taking maintenance "in house" was taken. Peter Scott has occupied this position for over 35 of the society's 42 years. He led the team of volunteers who undertook the work on the locomotives, and in the early years this was accomplished in primitive facilities at Whitehead, with only basic machine and hand tools available.

Peter’s knowledge and leadership skills soon created an expertise and enthusiasm amongst the small number of regular volunteer workers, and much was achieved within restricted resources and budgets. Maintaining a steam locomotive is a skilled job, made even more difficult by the locomotives having reached the end of their useful lives. However, it is safe to say that nowadays when a locomotive is given a full overhaul at Whitehead it emerges almost as good as new! 

Peter can take much credit for the development of the impressive Locomotive Workshop at Whitehead, which can overhaul almost every part of a steam locomotive. This was accomplished in a methodical way with his usual understated modesty.  The climax of three decades of development is now a fully equipped workshop in enlarged premises adjacent to the original (and now nearly 100 years old) locomotive shed.  The design and layout of the workshop emulates the railway works of old and enables virtually any engineering restoration task to be undertaken. 

Peter Scott MBE with No.85 on 14th April 2004, photo by P J Lockett
Peter Scott MBE working on No.4 in 1974, by C P Friel
Peter Scott MBE with friends and colleagues on 27th March 2004, by C P Friel

Peter Scott with NIR drivers Noel and Gary on the footplate of one of the locomotives he restored to working order.
Peter Scott  working on No.4's axleboxes in the primitive conditions of the engine shed at Whitehead. Behind him John waits to help with the next lift. Peter Scott with some of the other volunteers at Whitehead. From left to right, Irwin, Mark, Peter, Thomas, Philip, Robin and Sullivan.

To achieve this has, of course, been no simple task, and Peter has devoted all his spare time, outside a demanding professional career, to the workshops at Whitehead.  Virtually all work is undertaken by members in a voluntary capacity, with some limited opportunities for full-time staff to be engaged.  Indeed, Peter has overseen ‘apprentice schemes’ for full time staff; ensuring valuable traditional skills are not lost.  One such apprentice is now permanently employed in the workshop.  These activities have been supplemented for some time by organised attendance at the appropriate skills courses at Technical/Further Education Colleges.  Peter has trained, coached and supported many members with a quiet ‘hands-on’ style, and a flair for innovation and problem-solving that would have been a credit to any Chief Mechanical Engineer of a major railway company.  Impressive technical knowledge, coupled with ‘people-skills’ has ensured the processes from the steam locomotive workshop era have stayed alive, in a most practical form.  Indeed, these skills have provided benefits in the wider community, with contract work using facilities, such as the unique foundry, producing vital income.

Peter’s role in ensuring the availability of locomotives, for the Portrush Flyers and the other 50+ trains run every year, was formally recognised by the presentation to the Society of the Heritage Railway Association 2004 ‘John Coiley’ Award for Locomotive Preservation.  The Citation reads ‘for the restoration, during a challenging period, of the oldest operating mainline locomotive in the British Isles, Class J15 0-6-0 locomotive No. 186 built in 1879 by Sharp Stewart & Co for the Great Southern & Western Railway’.  This was national recognition of the remarkable standards achieved by Peter and his team in the complete rebuilding of a locomotive which had been out of use for over 25 years.
No.4's piston, by C P Friel
No.461's pony wheels, by B McDonald.
Peter Scott MBE driving No.90, Photo by G Moore
No.4 receives some in depth attention in the old engine shed at Whitehead. Irwin, to the right of the photograph, has also been involved with the society's locomotives since the earliest days.
Brian works on No.461's front wheels in Whitehead's locomotive workshop.
Peter Scott testing No.90, the latest engine to be attended to by Whitehead RPSI Engineering. Acting as fireman is fellow volunteer Nelson.

Peter’s reputation and skills as a Professional Engineer have been important factors in the close professional and commercial relationship enjoyed with Northern Ireland Railways and Irish Rail.  The recent transfer of ownership of three remaining steam locomotives (No.131, No.184 and No.461) to the Society by Irish Rail is a further testimony to his achievements and reputation. 

Check out our locomotives page for details of locomotives overhauled at Whitehead.

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