History of Little David

Cyril Swain introduced the steam trains to Hall Leys Park in 1947. During my research into our business it is quite evident that Cyril is remembered fondly by all who were lucky enough to know him.

In January 2019 I managed to track down Cyril’s son Hubert. He has told me many stories of his father’s life in the park and I have taken great delight in hearing them.

Cyril Swain with the original train from Hall Leys Park, Matlock

Denzil Smith used to run a small petrol station just on Knowleston Place opposite the park. He was another very popular figure in Matlock and used to ring Cyril when he saw a coach load of children arrive for a visit to the park. Cyril would hot foot it to the park from his home round the corner and fire up the steam engines.

Cyril would at times feel very deflated because by the time he had got the engines ready for use, the children had already spent their time and had got on the coach to go home.

His son Hubert suggested that he look into a diesel locomotive train which he could utilise for these kind of visits. An engine he could get going much quicker and offer to the children in a much more timely manner.

Hubert was sent away by Cyril to 'look into it'

Hubert did look into it and later designed the locomotive. He purchased an engine and other parts and sent these together with the plans to a company called Coleby & Simpkins in Melton Mowbray. They made the train in just two weeks and it was safely delivered to Hall Leys Park in 1974.

The steam trains continued to venture out, but the locomotive was a much easier option for flying visits from visiting children.

Today, Little David the Diesel Engine can be seen in a beautiful green colour with red carriages in Matlock's Hall Leys Park Certainly, on bank holidays both steam trains would still grace the tracks and it is reported that people would come from all over to see them and have a ride.

At the time the locomotive came to Hall Leys Park, Cyril had developed a fondness for a young boy called David. David would come to the park as a sunday treat with his parents.

He obviously thought a lot about this young man and saw his sheer joy for the trains.

Cyril decided to name the locomotive after him and he was officially known as ‘Little David’.

After what feels like a very long time of searching, I finally managed to make contact with the real David's family. I met with them and they shared the lovely story with me.

Sadly, the real Little David passed away in 1981 but he has been and always will be a very important part of our history. He was clearly special to Cyril and is special to us and I am very pleased that his name remains proudly on our little train.

After bringing many years of joy and happiness and creating many many memories for families far and wide Cyril decided to retire in 1980.

Cyril passed away in 1984, aged 71 years and only 4 years into his retirement.

Hubert tells me that Cyril lived and breathed for his trains. He absolutely loved running them in Hall Leys Park and in my opinion we have much to be thankful to him for.