Oh cock! James May visits Darlington to build a slacking cock flange

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James May took a break from The Grand Tour this week to do a spot of cocking about in Darlington – literally. He was helping a bunch of men build a slacking cock flange for a new steam engine.

Specifically, a slacking cock flange for a P2 steam engine, to be called Prince of Wales, which is being made by the organisation which owns the Tornado locomotive.

“They gave me this job because the name is funny,” May said. “They sent me the drawings and the metals for it more than a year ago but then my life became quite complicated. My machines at home aren’t really big enough for it so I came up to make it.”

For those wondering, a slacking cock flange allegedly connects a hose to wash out the cabin of a steam engine.

May said he enjoyed the detail of engineering which his Grand Tour co-stars, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond, knew nothing about, and that he plans to make more parts at his home. “I don’t know how many other parts of a steam engine there are with vaguely sexual or comical names,” he said, “although there is a drain cock.”

May became acquainted with Tornado when it was filmed for Top Gear racing a 1940s car and motorbike, and he came to the Hopetown Carriageworks three years ago to make the first part – the smoke box dart – for Tornado’s sister P2 engine.

Mark Allatt, chairman of the A1 Steam Locomotive Trust, said: “It is wonderful to have someone on board who is enthusiastic about engineering and what we can do in this country.”

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