A pensioner who has painstakingly built a steam locomotive from scratch has received County Durham’s highest honour.

David Young has devoted more than 6,000 hours to recreating the working replica of a 19th Century narrow gauge engine based on a single surviving photograph of the original locomotive, known as Samson.

The engine is now on display at Beamish, The Living Museum of the North, where it was built over a period of three years by 80-year-old David from Fatfield, Washington.

Building Samson was part of David’s contribution to society after recovering from a blood disease which required a liver transplant in 2001.

Now the Chairman of Durham County Council, Cllr Bill Kellett, has recognised David’s dedication to preserving the past by awarding him the Chairman’s Medal. He has also honoured the thousands of people past and present who have given up their spare time to volunteer at Beamish Museum’s since its launch in 1970s with a separate award.

Cllr Kellett said: “David’s reconstruction of an 1874 steam locomotive is a marvel of engineering expertise, especially given that he drew up his own plans and only had one original photograph from which to work. A fantastic achievement indeed – it would be very difficult in this day and age to find anyone else with his ability and technical expertise.

“The museum’s volunteers have built Beamish up into the amazing, world renowned attraction it has now become. I am well aware of the very large number who have contributed their time, knowledge and enthusiasm over the years.”

Richard Evans, director of Beamish, said: “This award is a fantastic tribute to all our volunteers who make it possible for Beamish to continue to prosper. We are so proud of the recognition and grateful for everything they do.

“Beamish is supported by more than 500 active volunteers working in a wide range of roles right across the museum, from managing our collections behind the scenes to baking in our pit cottages. Volunteers work closely alongside our 430 staff – bringing the region’s past alive for all our visitors. We simply couldn’t do what we do without their help.

“The special award for David is particularly worthy of note. From an old photograph of a narrow gauge locomotive called ‘Samson’ that once worked in Weardale but was scrapped many years ago, David has single-handedly made a beautiful working replica.

“This took many thousands of hours – a real labour of love – creating the drawings by hand from the original photograph and then constructing every single part of the engine. Samson now has pride of place in our colliery at Beamish – a working tribute to David’s incredible skill and passion for North East engineering.”