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Empress could meet the Queen!

PUBLISHED: 09:00 23 December 2001 | UPDATED: 11:04 03 March 2010

MUSEUM chiefs in Stowmarket are hoping that their queen exhibit will be back home in time to meet our very own Queen!

The ageing Empress of Britain steam engine is, well, running out of steam and is now facing a hefty £20,000 repair bill as it undergoes refurbishment in Dereham, Norfolk.

By James Fraser

MUSEUM chiefs in Stowmarket are hoping that their queen exhibit will be back home in time to meet our very own Queen!

The ageing Empress of Britain steam engine is, well, running out of steam and is now facing a hefty £20,000 repair bill as it undergoes refurbishment in Dereham, Norfolk.

But bosses at the at the Museum of East Anglian Life are hoping that experts will be able to put the old girl back on her feet in time for the Queen's Golden Jubilee visit to Stowmarket in July.

Curators have written to organisations asking for contributions to help pay for urgent repairs to the Empress of Britain, a historic agricultural steam engine that is nearly 80 years old.

Stowmarket Town Council has already pledged a £10,000 interest free loan to the museum, which is anxious to safeguard the future of one of the centrepieces of the exhibition.

The state-of-the-art engine was built in 1912 at the Charles Burrell works in Thetford and supplied by George Thurlow & Sons, a Stowmarket firm, to a farmer in Mattishall at a cost of more than £500. The museum bought the machine in 1983.

It was used to power farm machinery for jobs such as threshing – and is still used in demonstrations at the museum but is now running out of puff as vital parts begin to rust and require replacement.

John Thurlow, the great-grandson of George Thurlow, is heading the appeal to refurbish the machine as the museum seeks to maintain the engine as a cornerstone of the museum's treasure trove of exhibits from East Anglia's rich rural history.

"Along with Remus, the Suffolk punch, the Empress is an ambassador for the museum at key events such as the Suffolk Show," said Harry Barnet, the museum's operations manager. "It's a flagship for us to a lot of people in the town.

"It will be a major job and it can be done by only a few people in the country," he said as he promised its repair would "totally authentic".

"It will be rebuilt to be just as it was in 1912 – or as close as we can to its original state. It is a question of doing this to keep it as a working piece or just putting in a museum display case."


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