Brave boy battling cancer has wish to drive Tornado steam train come true

BEING a steam train driver may be every little boy’s dream … but for brave Ernie Brown it was a wish that actually came true.

The four-year-old was diagnosed with a rare form of childhood eye cancer when he was a baby and during months of chemotherapy the only thing he was interested in was trains.

So when he started getting better, Ernie’s wish was granted during a ‘magical’ family trip aboard the Tornado steam train at Barrow Hill Roundhouse in Chesterfield.

He and his brother Stanley, 6, spent a couple of hours driving the train up and down the track, shovelling coal into the firebox and pulling the whistle. Ernie, a pupil at Katherine Semar, was even given the head train driver’s hat to wear.

“I choked up a bit when I thanked the driver for the way he looked after both the boys because he was absolutely brilliant,” Ernie’s father Andy told the Reporter.

“It was a very emotional trip because everyone was so lovely to Ernie and it really brought home why we were there.

“Being able to get away for the three days made us think about everything and it was just good to be able to celebrate that we have got this far and Ernie is OK.”

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The trip was organised by the Make-A-Wish Foundation – a charity that grants wishes to children and young people fighting life-threatening conditions.

Mr Brown, from Saffron Walden, had written to the charity and told them of his son’s fascination with the steam engine.

“When Ernie was ill, the only thing he would watch was an episode of Top Gear where the presenters raced a Tornado steam train against a Jaguar and a motorbike,” Mr Brown said.

“He is absolutely fascinated by trains so when he was asked what his wish was by the Make-A-Wish Foundation, it was no surprise that Ernie said he wanted to be a train driver.”

When Ernie was just three months old, doctors diagnosed him with Bilateral Retinoblastoma – a condition so rare there are only about 40 new cases reported in the UK every year.

The youngster endured months of chemotherapy and underwent operations every three weeks during the first three years of his life.

Although he is currently in remission, the cancer has left Ernie severely visually impaired and he continues to be closely monitored with frequent hospital appointments and operations.

Ernie’s mum, Lisa, said the best part of the trip was seeing Ernie well enough to really enjoy his wish alongside his brother and father.

“I asked Ernie if he felt special on his trip and he said ‘No, I just felt like an ordinary train driver’. I think that says it all.”