Steve Wakeland

Senior Principal and Trustee

Why are you interested in steam engines generally, and the Duke specifically? When did your interest begin?

I was lucky enough to live close to a railway line in Nottinghamshire until I was 18. I could see and hear the engines working hard on the coal trains, a memory that was enhanced through a neighbour who was a driver at the local Kirkby-in-Ashfield shed. I can recall being on the footplate of an 8F at Kirkby-in-Ashfield shed and also being pulled by a Standard class 4 tank from Sutton into Nottingham. During my school years I joined the Railway Society and during 1967 and ‘68 was lucky enough to visit a number of sheds where steam continued to work. I have always been fond of Stanier engines, but I can also recall going to see the ‘fish train’ come through Sutton-in-Ashfield on summer evenings, which was usually pulled by a Brit. The BR Standards and particularly the Britannias became my favourite engines, both for their looks and sounds. More recently when I read of the travails of the Duke I felt very sad that such a magnificent engine appeared to be in trouble. I therefore offered my assistance to help the new Duke Trust in whatever capacity the committee felt would be useful for them. After a few weeks I was offered the position of Media Principal to fill in for Nicola Warwick, who was going to be busy on another work initiative.

How long have you been involved in the Trust, and what is your role? What does the role involve?

I joined the Trust in June 2014, and in August received an appeal to help out at the Great Central Railway Autumn Gala to meet the Trustees and Company Directors. I helped on the Duke’s stand on Loughborough Central station on 4th October and chatted to the Trustees and Directors that evening. Soon afterwards I was asked to pick up the reigns of looking after the Trust’s website when Nicola Warwick (the previous Media Principal) needed to allocate all of her time to another business initiative. At the Trust’s committee meeting on 30 October I was invited to assume the role of Media Principal, which I was very happy to accept.

As Media Principal I maintained the Trust’s website and the e-mail distribution list. That work involved ensuring that postings are suitably articulated with relevant graphical details where appropriate. The role involves some technical details, and it was a challenge for me to climb the learning curve, but this is something that I am reasonably familiar with and that I enjoy.

Subsequently I also picked up the responsibility for the finances of the Duke Trust, which also sees me keeping accounts for all of the income and expenditure. Whilst this is something that I enjoy less than the technology side, my time in business roles in accounting and auditing means that this is a natural extension for me. In 2016 my role was re-titled as Senior Principal to take account of my increased responsibilities.

What kind of work have you performed during your lifetime, what kind of person are you, and what values do you bring to the Trust?

I have spent most of my working career working as a technical auditor in medium to large organisations. My work has spanned many aspects of corporate governance from accounting controls through to deeply technical areas. I am equally at home preparing or examining a set of accounts through to understanding deeply technical aspects of information systems (and particularly how to secure them). Having spent a number of years looking at how to secure banking and financial systems I am now Executive Chairman for ITSO Limited (a company that looks after the specification and security for a UK-wide smart-card system for public transport).

Describe the passion that you feel for the Duke, and explain why you think that others should help to get the locomotive back in to working order.

There aren’t too many class 8 steam locomotives available for mainline use. As the pathing options for steam locos get squeezed by an ever busier railway the more powerful steam locos will be the ones most sought after to provide motive power for the specials that we like to see and travel behind. The Duke’s records set when it was last in operation prove that it is amongst the best steam locomotives that this country has ever seen. I am very keen to see the Duke back where it belongs; with a fully loaded train racing up any incline with ease. The guys building the P2 claim that they are building the most powerful steam locomotive for the UK. I firmly believe that the most powerful steam locomotive is already built, and we simply need to complete the major overhaul to get it back into reliable operation.

There were clearly issues that resulted in disagreements between the Duke’s owners and the old Trust in the past. Can you explain why you believe that those old issues are now in the past, and why you believe that history will not be repeated?

I have the utmost respect for my fellow trustees, who are all accomplished professionals from different fields. Collectively we are all intent on running the Trust as a professional outfit. It’s also important that we maintain a family feel to the trust for the broader membership. I know from talking to the trusts members that we are all committed to the common cause, so it’s difficult to see how the ‘old problems’ could ever return.

Do you believe that there are now sufficient members of the new Trust, and do you think that the officers and trustee have sufficient breadth of experience to see the locomotive through an overhaul and then to manage it when it is back on the mainline?
Whilst the membership of the ‘Duke Trust’ continues to grow, we are still short of funds to complete the overhaul within the timescale that we have declared. We need more trust members, more sales from our online shop and possibly funds from other sources to get the overhaul completed. We’re making great progress with our fund raising efforts, but more members are going to help us to get across the finishing line earlier.

How long do you think it will take to get the Duke back ‘up-and-running’ again, and why do you believe this?
I’m not an engineer, and so I can only rely on the information provide by my colleagues who are more suitably qualified. It appears that the overhaul can be completed by Summer 2021, but the restricting factor is going to be the funds that we have available to get the job done.

What do you think is the most important next step towards getting the Duke back on the mainline, and why do you say that?
More members and more income are the only restrictions. The overhaul at Tyseley is progressing well, but we need more funds to be able to complete the work.

When the Duke is operational again, where would you like to see it running first, and why?
I really don’t mind, but I can guarantee wherever it goes I’ll be there to see it or ride behind it.

What do your family and friends think about your involvement in the Trust? How do you manage your Duke-Life Balance?!?
My friends and family know that I’m passionate about steam engines and about the Duke in particular. So far I have managed to maintain a balance that has kept my colleagues in the Trust happy with my performance whilst not upsetting my wife and family too much. I can see that it’s going to be a challenge to maintain the balance, but I’ll continue to do the best that I can for the Duke’s Trust within the time that I can make available.

30 January 2016 (updated March 2020)