A RETIRED train driver from Leigh was reunited with the steam train he used to take through Tyldesley.

Jim Carter, 63, of Sandringham Drive, Higher Fold, had tears in his eyes as he again stood on the footplate of The Duchess of Hamilton.

Mr Carter, who was a train driver at the the end of the "glory" days of steam, said he was thrilled to be back with the engine.

He said: "It was lovely when I got back on. It brought it all back. Driving the Duchess back in those days was magic.

"They were the best engines in the world. It is something I'll never forget for the rest of my life."

The Duchesses -- the Hamilton was one of a number of similar engines built -- could reach speeds of up to 112 miles per hour and easily pull 15 coaches.

Mr Carter drove the train from Wigan to Manchester -- via the Tyldesley line -- while the West Coast Line was being electrified at the end of the 1960s.

And he has driven a wide variety of steam engines until he had to convert his skills to diesel engines. British Rail eventually scrapped steam engines in Britain in 1968.

He said: "When I think back it was a very hard job. It was dirty. It was cold. Your legs could be burning with the fire and your back soaking wet in the rain. It was a very, very unpleasant job.

"You had to love it. All little boys wanted to be an engine driver but I never grew out of it. I still love it now."

His infectious enthusiasm has even spread down the generations -- his son David, 33, is also an engine driver.

He drives Virgin Intercity trains between Manchester and London.

Mr Carter, who had to retire at 42 because he developed diabetes, has even written four books on steam engines. He used photographs he took while at work to illustrate the books.

And he added he would now like to see the Duchess of Hamilton -- currently displayed at the National Railway Museum in York - brought back to its former glory.

"It would cost £250,000 to put it back in working order. It's amazing when you think it only cost £8,000 to build in 1936."