Victorian steam train returns to her London roots to lead educational events

KESR Terrier Tank Poplar on display at the Docklands Light Railway depot in its namesake borough. Image: Picture: Chris Davey/KESR

Submitted by The Terrier Trust

A Victorian steam locomotive has returned to her roots in London as part of her 150th birthday celebrations.

London Brighton and South Coast Railway Terrier Number 70 ‘Poplar’ has recently been restored to the full glory of her Heyday, including reviving the original ornate livery that she carried when first built in 1872.

The project was undertaken jointly by The Kent and East Sussex Railway (KESR) based in Tenterden, in Kent, and The Terrier Trust. The locomotive was first used to haul trains on the early commuter routes in London, serving areas including the one from which she takes her name.

In 1901, she moved to The Kent and East Sussex Railway where she operated for many years along this rural light railway, including duties such as carrying East End Londoners to their hop-picking holidays in the countryside.

As part of her educational role, Poplar has returned to London for an official re-naming ceremony and to spearhead an immersive national curriculum-based program involving local primary schools.

Project partners, Global Learning London (GLL), are enabling children to learn about history – such as how railways transformed the way people live, science – including sources of energy and changing environmental considerations, while railway-themed stories, poems, music, and drawing will help develop English, music, and art skills.

A lasting legacy of the project will be the provision of the teaching material accompanied by a resource box that will be available through Schools Library Services nationwide.

Today Poplar continues to regularly haul trains of vintage carriages for visitors to the KESR – the country’s first Light Railway, and on her visit to London, the engine will be based at the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) – London’s modern light railway – where she will be visited by hundreds of local school children before returning to her Kent home.

Over the weekend of June 18 – 19, members of the public can pre-book to view the engine at the DLR depot in Poplar.

Tom White, chairman of The Terrier Trust, said: “Thanks to National Lottery players we have been able to create this ground-breaking education project centerd on our newly restored locomotive ‘Poplar’ dating from 1872, the year of the first FA cup final .

“The Heritage Fund grant will allow many local children to have the experience of seeing and touching a real steam locomotive named after the area in which they live.”

Robin White, trustee of The Kent and East Sussex Railway, said: “The Kent and East Sussex Railway is proud to be the custodian of Poplar. The Railway has run Terrier locomotives for a hundred and twenty years and loves to share them with visitors.

“It is a privilege and a pleasure to bring Poplar to the capital and to make a connection with the people of London and young people of Tower Hamlets in particular. Everyone will be very welcome to come out to Kent to see Poplar steaming through the countryside. And new volunteers are always welcome.”

Steve Nyakatawa, director of education, London Borough of Tower Hamlets, said: “Our children in Tower Hamlets, in London, have benefited greatly from this project, which explores the history of steam locomotives in their area and strengthens their sense of place in the community.

“After much work in the classroom, it is both exciting for the children and reinforces their learning to now be able to visit the actual steam train that traveled through their city 150 years ago.”

Tom Page, general manager, Docklands Light Railway, said: “The DLR is all about connecting local communities and we take pride in engaging with local schools, especially as it provides an opportunity to talk about the importance of science, technology, engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) subjects.

“The visit of the locomotive Poplar to our Poplar depot is a thrilling chance to engage school children again and I’m proud of everyone who is helping to make it happen.”

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