FORMER Top Gear star James May was in Darlington on Monday to make a slacking cock flange for a new steam engine.

He was working on the P2 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,” he 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.”

A slacking cock flange connects a hose to wash out the cab 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.”

He said 45 per cent of the £5m for the new engine has been pledged and 20 per cent of the engineering completed.