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Nellie with her driver, Ollie

Nellie is the name of the locomotive which appears most frequently in Rowland Emett illustrations. Predictably she is drawn somewhat differently each time.

This version of Nellie is contrived as if she is a working steam locomotive rather than a 'cartoon' loco. The boiler is rather small – but not impossibly so – while the firebox is considerably bigger than the pot-bellied wood-burning stoves of Emett's drawings. And the cab contains sufficient valves and gauges – something almost entirely absent from Emett's sketches.

Unlike the pastel colours of previous manifestations of Nellie, the management of the Whittlecreek and Eaton St Torpid Heritage Railway opted to paint her in Great Eastern blue. Which promoted endless discussion about what shade of blue this really was

Nellie's driver joined Whittlecreek and Eaton St Torpid Heritage Railway early in 2019. He has been nicknamed Ollie. It's something to do with 'Nellie the Elephant' and 'oliphant', the Middle English (originally Anglo-Norman) name for elephants – and perhaps a little too much brandy.


The chassis, wheels and motion are from an LGB 'Rio Grande' loco. The rest was scratchbuilt from thin ply, wood, steel tube, cardboard, a plastic food container (for the cab roof), welding rod and various oddments. M2 nuts and bolts actually hold together key parts. The firebox and cab controls were adapted from an assortment of diecastings supplied by Garden Railway Specialists Ltd. The working headlight was adapted from an LGB headlight. Flickering yellow and red LEDs bring the firebox to life.

Emett illustration

One of several illustrations of Nellie by Rowland Emett

Nellie early 1950s

Nellie as created in 1951 for the Festival of Britain

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Images and text copyright Bob Trubshaw 2018–2021