Norman Payne has wanted his own railway engine ever since he was a 16-year-old engineering apprentice with British Railways.

Almost 50 years later he has finally fulfilled his dream by building a fully working model of a diesel locomotive.

His 6ft Class 47 will pull passengers around Beech Hurst Park in Haywards Heath from next spring.

Mr Payne, 65, of Sharrow Close, Haywards Heath, said: "I was a boilermaker on BR in the days of steam. It amazed a lot of people when I went on to build a diesel engine."

While he was at work, Mr Payne'e expertise with full-sized engines was put to good use in helping combat hunger and poverty in Africa.

He explained: "I went to Sudan in 1985, when Bob Geldof was doing his aid work and helped repair six steam locomotives.

"We repaired them in Wales and then they were shipped back to Sudan. I went over there about four times to check they were working properly."

His retirement project is based on a real engine named Lady Diana Spencer.

He recalled: "A driver gave me a cab ride on it from Redhill to Reading many years ago and I enjoyed it so much I thought, 'One day I am going to build this'."

Class 47s, introduced in 1962, were capable of almost 100mph. Mr Payne's model can reach a more modest 20mph.

One reason he chose to build a diesel instead of a steam engine was time.

He explained: "A steam train takes anything from ten to 20 years to build. It is more involved because you have to get boilers and build cylinders.

"This took a year to build. I saw a diesel belonging to another chap and I was so impressed with the way it pulled passengers I thought I would build a Class 47.

"It was more or less a five-days-a-week, eight-hours-a-day job. A lot of research went into it. My ex-governor allowed me to use his workshop and I bought the body shell from a firm in Kidderminster."

His next project? He said: "I have two steam engines to finish building, one a Britannia Class and the other a West Country Class."