Grandad on track to help heart fund; Books about train raise cash for Chuf.
THE revival of a grandad's favourite childhood character will give hope to thousands of children needing lifesaving heart surgery.
Ian Morrell, 53, painstakingly built a life-size replica of classic Butlins character Puffing Billy. Now, with help from illustrator Swin Tempest, he has decided to bring the little train to a new generation of fans with a series of books.
His work is proving popular, so Ian is taking Billy down the charitable track ... raising money for the Children's Heart Unit Fund (CHUF) at Newcastle's Freeman Hospital.
The cause is dear to Ian as his youngest grandson Caden James had open-heart surgery when doctors discovered a hole in his heart just days after his birth.
Ian, from South Hetton, County Durham, said: "Just after he was born Caden had to have heart surgery as the hole in his heart was too large for them to leave and see if it would close by itself.
"It was a very worrying time, so I now want to offer continuous support to an invaluable local facility that we should never ever take for granted, particularly in this difficult financial climate.
"It is fantastic to see what the team at the Freeman can do. It is amazing they can operate on someone so small and it's marvellous what they do there.
"I've read Caden the books and he likes them."
Now 50p from the sale of every Puffing Billy book will go to CHUF in recognition of the care Caden, who lives with his parents in Hetton-le-Hole, County Durham, received.
Ian made the replica of Puffing Billy to keep the little train alive in the memories of millions of Brits who spent their holidays at Butlins.
Wanting to relive childhood memories, Ian was saddened to learn the original Billy had been scrapped. Rather than be downbeat he set about building an exact replica purchasing an ex-military airplane tug to form the base, chassis and engine.
A year later his dream was realised.
Wanting a logo for his creation he turned to illustrator Swin Tempest and the images were so good Ian decided to turn it into a children's book which sees a grandad and his grandson go on magical adventures in the little train.
Following the success of Puffing Billy And The Sharks two more books, Puffing Billy and the Aliens and Puffing Billy and the Gold will be on sale soon.
To buy the book see www.puffingbillybooks.com
OP Caden James was helped by the Freeman Hospital children's heart team
CHUFFED Ian Morrell built this replica and is helping charity with the sale of books about Puffing Billy