Former MP Michael Portillo trains spotlight on Whitehead for new BBC rail series

BBC presenter Michael Portillo paid a visit to Whitehead Railway Museum yesterday (Wednesday) as part of his forthcoming BBC2 series on Britain’s Coastal Railways.

Thursday, 14th October 2021, 1:17 pm
Michael Portillo learning more about the RPSI from James Friel, technical operations engineer. Photos courtesy of RPSI.

The former MP was at the museum with his film crew and interviewed a number of RPSI volunteers and staff.

The society’s locomotive No. 131 was in steam for the occasion and Mr Portillo interviewed James Friel, the RPSI’s technical operations engineer, on the footplate.

He then interviewed Rebecca Laverty, the society’s education and outreach manager, before visiting the workshops to meet Peter Scott from the locomotive department.

Rebecca Laverty, education and outreach manager, is interviewed by Michael Portillo.

Clad in full safety gear, Mr Portillo had a go at operating an overhead crane and inspected the frames of No. 105, a locomotive currently under construction.

During his visit, the TV personality also chatted with Dr Joan Smyth, RPSI president and John McKegney, chairman, before enjoying a cup of coffee at the museum’s Platform 3 cafe.

Lisa Adair, the RPSI general manager, said: “We were delighted to be able to welcome Michael and his team to Whitehead Railway Museum and to show them a little of what we do.

“He expressed a genuine interest in what we are doing and clearly enjoyed his visit. We hope that when it is transmitted in the spring, the programme will attract even more visitors to Whitehead.”

The presenter meets members of the electrical squad.

The RPSI steam train is back in business at Halloween with special trains from Belfast to Whitehead on Saturday, October 30 and Sunday, October 31.

Details are available on the RPSI website at while tickets can be booked through Visit Belfast.


Click here to read: RPSI volunteers praised as restored Guinness Grain Van 504 launched at Whitehead Railway Museum

RPSI chairman John McKegney with Michael Portillo at Whitehead.


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Filming in the workshop.