Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Naming a Loco 'Durham Cathedral'

I am one of those clergy who have loved trains since I was in a pushchair.  As a London kid, I used to stand in my anorak on the end of the platform at King's Cross, Ian Allan train-spotter's book in hand, and watch the Gresley Pacifics setting out on their long journeys  towards exotic places like Durham and Newcastle.  I dreamed one day of travelling to this undiscovered country of the North. Far too late in life, I finally made it, as you can see.
 
So it's wonderful to be here to name and bless an East Coast class 91 electric locomotive 91114 Durham Cathedral and to link it with the Lindisfarne Gospels at Durham.  We were always clear that we wanted to bring the Gospels to Durham for the whole of the North East, to bring them back to Northumbria the cradle of English Christianity and the place of northern saints where the Gospels lived for so many centuries. Our being here today in Newcastle the regional capital symbolises that this is a real North Eastern occasion.  Both the Gospel book and our Cathedral were created in honour of St Cuthbert, the saint who belongs to all the people of the North East both north and south of the Tyne.
 
This locomotive will speak about this region everywhere it goes. I hope it will encourage people to discover the wealth and pleasures of the North East, not least by visiting the Gospels exhibition and coming to see the Cathedral, rated last week by Trip Adviser review as the UK’s top landmark destination. And because County Durham was the birthplace of the railways and is as rich in industrial heritage as it is in its Christian past, it’s especially appropriate to have the name Durham on the side of a railway locomotive.
 
The Great Western GWR was affectionately known as ‘God’s Wonderful Railway’.  I don’t see why that quirky broad-gauge line should have the monopoly on divinity or greatness. It was on this East Coast Main Line 75 years ago this very day that Gresley's A4 Mallard achieved the world speed record for a steam locomotive.  East Coast Main Line, ECML, is surely the Excellent, Classic and Most Magnificent Line. We are proud of it in this region, and I take today as meaning that the railway is proud of the region too. As a working cathedral of today and tomorrow, it is good to be linked with the 21st century railway system with all its positive messages about the part public transport plays in environmental responsibility and sustainability.
 
I’d like to end by thanking East Coast for their generosity in mounting this celebration today. A lot of hard work has gone into getting us to this point, and I want to express our deep gratitude to them for their wonderful hospitality this morning. They have been wonderful partners in this project.  I'd now like to ask the girl and boy head choristers, Patrin and Violet, to help me in this hugely enjoyable task of naming this locomotive DURHAM CATHEDRAL.
 

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