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Jazz man Andy Prior is taking the Blackpool Pleasure Beach train for a new career departure

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The singer and bandleader hasn’t put his performing in the sidings, but by day he is the new driver of the Blackpool Pleasure Beach Express!

For a man who has performed in Vegas, packed out the Palladium and won praise from Frank Sinatra, it might seem an odd gear change.

Andy Prior in the cab

Andy Prior in the cab

But Leigh-born Andy is no stranger to things mechanical.

A good friend of the late Fred Dibnah, they worked together on engineering projects, and Andy has ridden and maintained traction engines. He even used to pilot the miniature railway at Leyland’s Worden Park.

And it was through his connections with the Thompson family, who own the famous and historic Pleasure Beach, that the 54-year-old was offered the summer job, interspersing it with big band gigs around the country, the most recent being a sell-out concert at the Ribble Valley International Jazz Festival.

Living in Lymm with his partner and her children, he is revelling in the new experience.

“I’m having a whale of a time,” he said. “I really enjoy turning up for work.

“Loads of people will wonder what it is like driving the Pleasure Beach Express and I’m one of the few people who have found out!

“I am so used to being my own man telling everyone what I want that it’s great to be part of a team.

“The hardest part is dealing with the public.Most people are lovely, of course, but a few can be a bit savoury.”

The beach has just opened its new state-of-the-art Icon ride: £16m and the UK’s first double-launch rollercoaster.

And Andy said: “The express, a pioneer in its own way but 85 years older, weaves its way through the feet of Icon. It’s quite a contrast!”