Railway plaque found on Ebay!

Credit: Network Rail

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A missing piece of railway history is being returned to its rightful place, all thanks to the detective work of a retired train driver and his pal. The Manchester & Birmingham Railway plaque, a replica of the 1839 original, was erected at the new Manchester Piccadilly station in the mid-1960s. The plaque was removed in 1998 when an upgrade began on the station.

Sadly, it never reappeared when the work ended in 2002. Eagle-eyed railway enthusiast Mel Thorley, 72, then a train driver, immediately noticed the sign was missing. Mel, from Stockport, never gave up hope and in August 2019, 17 years after his pursuit began, he spotted a curious eBay listing.

The missing plaque was up for sale for GBP3,700. The sales blurb recommended a forklift to load it on to a truck on collection from a location in Nottinghamshire.

What did the officials say?

Mel said:

“When I spotted it on eBay I couldn’t believe my eyes. I checked with Dave, my ex-copper friend, who said ‘I know that plaque.

It’s the missing one!’ “I hoped nobody else recognised the artefact’s significance because I didn’t want it to go missing for another 20 years, or for eBay to remove it.” “I’m chuffed.

My mission is now complete.”

Lord Faulkner said:

“Recovery of this precious artefact is terrific news and casts tremendous credit on the BTP, Mel Thorley and Network Rail chairman Sir Peter Hendy. I will now recommend to the RHDAB that the plaque be designated and protected by law.”

Detective Sergeant Gemma Jones, of BTP, said:

“This historic plaque went missing 20 years ago, so retrieving evidence and knowledge of the incident was no easy task. The team, alongside Network Rail, secured the plaque and we now look forward to seeing it displayed at Manchester Piccadilly.”

Tim Shoveller, managing director of Network Rail’s North West and Central region, said:

“Thank you to Mel, Dave and others for hunting down our missing plaque.

We will get it cleaned up, painted and put back up where it belongs, at Manchester Piccadilly, as soon as possible.”

Sir Peter Hendy added:

“The railway family, including persistent and knowledgeable people like Mel and Dave, has eyes and ears everywhere.”

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