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West Sussex man qualifies as one of youngest steam train drivers

A steam train driver has become the youngest to qualify on the mainline for almost half a century.

Jim Clarke pulled out of Victoria in London today in the Belmond British Pullman. He "passed out" as a qualified steam engine driver at the end of a journey to Guildford, Surrey.

It is believed he is the youngest person to achieve the feat since 1968. Before setting off, Mr Clarke, of Haywards Heath, West Sussex, said: "A good few years of work has gone into it. Before you have to be passed out as a fire man, work your time, be put forward for driving, go through the training and then hopefully today pass the driver's exam. I am confident as I can be."

He was following in the footsteps of his father Don Clarke, who started driving steam engines in the 1960s and spent 49 years working on the railways. Mr Clarke Snr said: "We are very proud of him. It's something he's always wanted to do. I think he'll find it very interesting. I did 49 years on the railway and enjoyed my time. You feel part of the machine and it's the sheer physical effort of what you put in to get the power out of the loco. It's quite satisfying if you've had a good run."

Dozens of passengers were on-board for the trip. The train, which made its first trip in 1982, features carriages dating back to 1925.

It is hauled by the Clan Line engine, which is owned by the Merchant Navy Locomotive Preservation Society.