The youngest ever steam train driver has taken to the tracks after more than 12 years of work.

Ben Gray became the youngest driver to be able to drive steam locomotives at the Bluebell Railway in its 64 year history. 

The 21-year-old completed his almost 12 year journey to becoming a driver on his birthday, working a service along the full line behind locomotive 6989 Wightwick Hall.

The Argus: Ben in front of the train he passed out onBen in front of the train he passed out on (Image: Andrew Blowers / Bluebell Railway)

But his first ever drive of a steam locomotive was long before that, at five years old, on the Evesham Vale light railway once all the passengers had left.

The rail enthusiast is the son of the Bluebell's locomotive engineering director Tim Gray and joined the railway's youth group the 9F Club.

He joined as a cleaner at 16 years old and passed out as a fireman, loading coal and making sure the engine had enough fuel to run in 2020.

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In that time, he worked on a number of different locomotives including the Flying Scotsman and Clan Line.

Ben was then recommended to be added to the Bluebell Railway’s driver training programme in early 2023, with an assessment later in the year - where he is judged on his handling and knowledge.

The final exam was on December 30, his 21st birthday, on a regular passenger service from Horsted Keynes to Sheffield Park.

At the end of the exam, he was officially passed out by Bluebell Railway inspector Chris Suitters.

The Argus: Ben receiving his steam train license from ChrisBen receiving his steam train license from Chris (Image: Tim Gray)

A spokesman for the Bluebell Railway said: "This shows The Bluebell Railway’s vision and drive to encourage more younger volunteers to follow in his footsteps so that they too can reach their full potential like Ben has in becoming the railway's youngest ever passed driver.

"The railway is extremely lucky to have a range of younger volunteers who like Ben, wish to keep steam alive. To ensure that The Bluebell Railway continues to bring enjoyment for future generations to pass on.

"Everyone at the railway congratulates Ben on passing his exams and we wish him the very best driving on The Bluebell Railway for many years to come."