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Ghost Train - Jenny Lind steam locomotive

Originally posted on November 12,2010 by Jon Mills AKA "Mr Watt", the designer of the the sculpture. We love this project at QED. The lighting is all signed off and having walked past it at night recently and observing it appear we thought you might be interested in the story of why there is a "ghost train" above New England Road, Brighton. Below is Jon's earlier blog. More information on Jon, Mr Watt and his other works can be found at


"And now, I shall be making a life size “2-dimensional” replica of an 1847 steam locomotive,
the Jenny Lind….

In 1847 the London, Brighton & South Coast Railway commissioned a new locomotive from
the E.B.Wilson works in Leeds. Named the Jenny Lind (after the famous Swedish opera
singer of the period), it became the most popular locomotive used on the line.

It was so successful that the name stuck for a whole class and more than 70 were built,
including 24 for the Midland railway; at one per week it could be said to be the first locomotive
to be mass-produced to a consistent pattern.

This 1:1 scale ‘sculpture’ is going to be cantilevered on a steel beam over a disused railway
bridge in Brighton’s New England Quarter. Commissioned by Quoin Estates &
Developments Ltd, it will be one of the public art features in Brighton’s soon to be opened
green corridor walk.

Where to start? Oh I know.. at the bottom -the wheels; I know the main driving wheel was
6′ diameter, so I can scale everything up from there.

Here are the wheels suspended in their respective chassis sections, ready to be bolted
together. At 8 metres long, this is going to fit from wall to wall in my workshop.

Next step – get the wheels & chassis sections all bolted together and standing on a jig.

The train will be mounted on a square steel beam measuring 400x400x10mm thick, so this jig
will stand in for this.

I want to evoke the atmosphere of  a Victorian etching/engraving, whilst giving the impression
of a Ghost Train from the past. The train will be lit up at night, and the lights will slowly fade
up and down, so the train seems to appear and disappear.

I’m thinking I need to get the undercarriage etc all done to scale first, before I start getting all arty
on the rest of it; in the meantime I will start adding some of the nice details, such as that lovely
fretwork ‘mudguard’, the firebox, all the drive linkages….and that leaf spring on the front will make
a nice little feature….

Time for a bit of something arty.

I’ve always been worried about how  I’m going to treat the boiler and top half in general. I don’t
want it looking too flat, but by necessity it will; it’s the most visible half from a distance; I want it to
look like an etching, but not too insubstantial, and I want to convey an impression of
shading/hatchmarks etc etc. I’ve done a couple of experiments and cut them off, but now here’s
the dome, and it feels like it’s what I’ve got in  my head.

I’ve used a mixture of plasma cut sheet and forged 6mm bar, in order to give an impression of
shading on the one side; mixing the negative and positive shapes of shadows on the fluted surface
of the dome. Forged bar is more akin to the bleeding ink lines of a drawing, and wibbly-wobbly is
my style anyway….

Thanks to Mike for these pictures of an early & a later Jenny Lind class:

Same technique for the safety valve chimney, but with a 3D top:

…and now – scale up & print the name plate, stick it to a sheet of steel, and use a centre-punch to
mark out all around the letters, before plasma-cutting it out and welding it in:

Making the boiler is the tricky bit now – so far it’s all been big chunky stuff, scaled off an old drawing. Now an artistic ‘interpretation’ is called for. I want to emulate hatch-marks & drawn
lines – like a etchers ink marks etc.

For the boiler, this means horizontal lines in order to to represent a rotund cylindrical form;
they would be close together at the top and bottom and getting wider apart towards the
midway line. This presents problems….The wider apart they get, the more space there is
between them, the more trees and background clutter will show through them and possibly detract/complicate visually. Just using open spaces to look like the background paper of a
drawing isn’t going to work. And there’s a danger the whole thing starts to look like a giant flat venetian blind, or a louvred ventilation panel on a diesel loco. The horizontal bands can’t be
too thin, otherwise when (not if) vandals etc climb on the train they will get bent; thin and transparent might be what’s needed visually, but it wont last long.

I have resolved to use colour to achieve some of the effect required, which entails making
these boiler sections in bits and pieces, so that individual sections can be separately
powder-coated – top sections a lighter grey, bottom sections darker. Annoyingly it wont be
easy to imagine exactly how it’s going to look until I erect on site.

I have welded bits on and cut them off again so many times I have lost count. I know it’s not right
until I walk into the workshop the next day and mutter ‘great’ under my breath when I see it afresh.
And I muttered it this morning, so, progress!

I like the way a ‘shadow’ can emphasise rotundity:

…and I like the way these little details break up the otherwise slightly monotonous flat areas:

The back-end is my favourite part at the moment – there’s a real feeling of weight sitting on its back wheel, and it contrasts with the delicate little bit of forged handrail above:

Unfortunately, the Brighton Isetta works were not operating in 1847, else I could have put some
bubble cars on the back end…..

time to start adding a few minor details – e.g. drivers levers and whistle:

front buffer (with ‘negative’ hook):

some ironmongery at the back end:

and one chimney……

Time to consider lighting arrangements so I can make bespoke housings integrated into the work
itself; here’s a drawing I’ve been using to scale everything off from, with some initial thoughts for
positions of LED colour change units, following discussions with a lighting engineer:

Everything will go on the back burner for a few weeks now; jobs remaining include: make &
incorporate housings for the lights, once they have been decided on; dismantle and fettle all pieces
as they are removed; ‘flat-pack’ all bits into relevant piles depending on what shade of
black/grey/white they are to be powder-coated- (all work will be shot-blast and zinc-sprayed prior to powder-coating); preparation of the site, to include installing the mounting beam; check electricity
supply from existing street light supply and get an electrician to prepare etc. I will update this blog occasionally – my next project is an exhibition at Hove Museum of “Mr Watt, Grumpy Man of Metal” including a new (Arts Council funded) book ~ “Mr Watt goes to the Museum” ……what could go
wrong? I hope to get a couple more extra stories as well, including one involving an old knitting
machine & a witch.

More Mr Watt info at

There’s been a lot of head scratching over the lighting of the train; Network Rail have finally lifted
their objection to the train occupying their air-space over the bridge and are now conducting a
‘technical approval’; in anticipation of movement (and a desire to reclaim my workshop), the train
is now flat-packed and catalogued ready to go the finishers for shot-blasting/zinc-spraying & powder-coating in 4 different shades of grey."

Happy New Year from all at QED!
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