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Thursday, 11 July, 2002, 14:41 GMT 15:41 UK
Trains lost at sea reach dry land
The sea bed around the wreck
The salvage operation started in 1977
Two trains which lay at the bottom of the ocean for more than 140 years, have gone on display in York.

The National Railway Museum (NRM) is exhibiting items recovered from the wreck of a cargo ship which sank in Scottish waters in 1857.

The 'Thomas' was transporting locomotives to Canada when it hit rocks off the Isle of Islay just two days into its journey.

It has taken divers a total of 23 years to bring the cargo to the surface.

Dr Michael Bailey
Dr Michael Bailey: "The find is a real prize"
The crew of the Thomas were rescued but among the items lost were two broad gauge tender train engines custom-built for the Canadian railroad.

In 1977 a team of Royal Air Force divers, headed by Squadron Leader Mike Cameron, started to investigate the ship after hearing local tales about its sinking.

Mr Cameron, who is now retired and lives in Garelochhead, Scotland, said: "An elderly resident remembered trawling the site for scrap with his grandfather, but was very infirm.

'Detective work'

"We literally carried him down to the shore and he was able to show us exactly where the ship went down.

"Because the dive site was relatively shallow at 15m and the currents very strong, conditions were quite treacherous.

"It is very difficult to dig artefacts out of the ocean bed when you are being thrown against the rocks."

The cargo is brought to the surface
Strong currents made the salvage difficult

The RAF team was joined by railway historian Dr Michael Bailey and civilian divers from the British Sub Aqua Club.

Dr Bailey said: "To discover two huge tender engines, among the biggest ever made for export, is a real prize."

Surviving parts of the engines were recovered and have given rail historians an insight into the early manufacture and export of British-built railway equipment.

Andrew Scott, head of the NRM, said: "This must be one of the most unusual exhibitions ever staged at the museum.

"It is not only a fascinating story of detective work and determination, but also provides valuable research material for industrial archaeologists."

The last dive on the wreck of the Thomas took place in 2000, making the project one of the longest in diving history.


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03 Jul 02 | Scotland
25 Feb 02 | Europe
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