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The Steam Room

Vintage Steam Rallies, Events  & People from the Past

All money raised from streaming films on this website is re-invested to help preserve Fred Dibnah's legacy and archive.  The Fred Dibnah Foundation is a non-profit organisation.

R.I.P. Jim Sarney, Legend of the Steam World

The heritage world has lost a giant of the steam world . Heavy Haulage legend Jim Sarney from High Wycombe has sadly passed away at the age of 81. He was a friend of steeplejack Fred Dibnah.

Jim Sarney died on February 14th 2022 aged 81.

Jim was born in 1941 in Flackwell Heath, where he lived for most of his life. He developed a love for steam engines aged 10, when he was invited onto the footplate of a Burrell 9nhp showman’s locomotive at a fair in Flackwell Heath. He would visit steam rallies with his father, and joined the National Traction Engine Club in 1958, remaining a lifelong member.


In 1960, aged only 19, Jim bought his first steam engine, a Burrell single-crank compound traction engine. He had to keep it at a nearby farm however, as he did not yet have a driving licence.  Jim spent his working life on the railways. He retired in the Eighties, choosing to focus on painting and renovating steam engines. In 1984, one of his steam engines, ‘Lord Roberts’, was displayed at the Black Country Museum in Dudley. He was president of Chiltern Traction Engine Club for more than 30 years and helped to organise many steam rallies.

He was destined to be an engineer from a very young age. He built a model railway in his back garden when he was 10, and then a model engine in his bedroom when he was 14. His mum wasn’t too happy about the latter. "He was a very private character, but he loved his engines and he loved his music. He used to play the accordion along with his friend Dr Busker." Jim could take apart any steam engine and put it all back together again, give it a repaint and line it with gold leaf. It would end up looking better than it did before.


Jim was exceedingly popular at the Great Dorset Steam Fair where he played a role in making sure the Heavy Haulage displays were spectacular and all the engines present played a part in entertaining the public.


He was an absolute gentleman, an incredibly polite man, and a brilliant engineer.


R.I.P. James Sarney. Man of Steam.

The Fred Dibnah Foundation are proud to offer an opportunity to remember Jim, as we re-release 2 films featuring his passion for steam: 'Heavy Haulage at the Great Dorset Steam Fair' and 'Steam: Heavy Haulage - A Tribute to Jim Sarney'.

Heavy Haulage at the Great Dorset Steam Fair

Heavy Haulage at the Great Dorset Steam Fair

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