Blind Man Successfully Takes Control of Steam Locomotive!
A blind man who has already driven a passenger hovercraft and a catamaran, and piloted a glider, a plane and a lifeboat, has now driven a steam locomotive over a five-mile track.
Colin McArthur, 59, from Sandown, Isle of Wight, took the controls of the 1891-built Isle of Wight locomotive No. 24 ‘Calbourne’ at the Isle of Wight Steam Railway at Havenstreet, yesterday (Wednesday 11th August). Under the expert guidance of loco driver Alan Brindley, Colin drove the 9.30am Havenstreet to Smallbrook Junction train, handling the regulator with great ease! “What a terrific experience”, said Colin. “To add driving a steam locomotive to my tally of challenges has been really enjoyable, particularly as each of these challenges has been a great way to raise funds and awareness for ‘RP Fighting Blindness’. I’m very grateful to the IW Steam Railway for allowing me to take part in this challenge.”
Colin, who is a trustee of the charity ‘RP Fighting Blindness’, went blind through retinitis pigmentosa some twenty years ago.
Joining Colin on the day at Havenstreet Station was actress Louisa Lytton, who has appeared in Eastenders, the Bill and Strictly Come Dancing. Louisa is very aware of RP, and has a keen interest in the charity, as there is RP within her family. On what was also a very busy day with hundreds of visitors to the Railway, Louisa joined Colin on the footplate of ‘Calbourne’ and locomotive No.8 ‘Freshwater’ and happily chatted to numerous members of the public and posed for photos!
The IW Steam Railway waived the usual £3 entrance fee to enable visitors to donate to the Eye Love Sight Appeal of ‘RP Fighting Blindness’, which is using the beauty of the Isle of Wight to ram home to the public that by donating to this cause, (www.justgiving.com/eyelovesight), those who are blind or partially sighted due to retinitis pigmentosa will one day be able to share and appreciate the views around the Island and beyond. A project at Southampton Hospital will benefit from cash raised through this appeal, to look at using adult stem cells from the iris to re-grow photoreceptor cells which have been wiped out by defective genes.
Commenting on the challenge, Steam Railway General Manager Peter Vail said, “It’s a real pleasure to support Colin and the ‘RP Fighting Blindness’ charity in this unusual way. It was great to see so many visitors showing their support and donating to this very worthwhile cause … And I’m pleased the train came back intact!”