A MILLION-pound lottery winner from Hereford is one step closer to owning a steam train thanks to an ‘accidental’ win when he took top prize on the Cash Bolt Christmas Millionaire instant win game from the National Lottery.
Part-time assistant general manager, and full-time admirer of trains, Neil Leighton, 24, isn’t rushing into anything since discovering his millionaire status but is confident that trains will feature heavily.
“If someone had told me two weeks ago I would be in a position to own a steam train I’d have laughed, but then if someone had told me I’d be a millionaire I’d also have laughed – just goes to show, magic can happen," he said.
“Ever since my grandad took me to see my first steam train when I was three, I have been fascinated. It started with Thomas the Tank Engine and to be honest, I never grew out of it."
Mr Leighton now divides his spare time between visiting railways, writing and filming his own take on Thomas the Tank Engine storylines, and collaborating with other Thomas fans around the world.
Top of his purchase list is buying his own home where he can have a train room and another room for filming and editing his Thomas content.
“Maybe one day, if I’m wise with this win, I’ll swap the train room for my very own steam train," he said.
His millionaire adventure all started when he was catching up with friends, and fellow Thomas fans, on a group call one Monday evening while sat in his garden shed.
Mr Leighton said he had downloaded the National Lottery app just two days earlier and was aimlessly playing the Cash Bolt Christmas Millionaire game when he got the message telling him he had won £1 million.
"I said to my friends ‘I’ve won a million’ and left the chat," he said.
Leaving his friends totally bemused, Neil tried to call The National Lottery to confirm his win but with the phone lines not open at that time of night, decided to hop back onto his earlier call, announcing that he thought he had won the lottery by accident.
“They were so happy for me although there was plenty of joking that only I could have won £1M by accident," he said.
"We stayed up into the early hours discussing the crazy turn of events and having a little browse on the internet looking at houses and holidays I could now afford.
“I didn’t tell my family the news until I was able to confirm the win for definite the following day. I walked into the house and my mum and dad both jokingly said I looked far too happy, what had I been buying. When I told them I’d bought something, a National Lottery Instant Win Game, and I’d won £1m, mum screamed, used some colourful language and then was convinced it was a scam.”
Aside from plans for his own home, Mr Leighton will be treating his family with a few surprises in the run-up to Christmas and hopes to enjoy a holiday with friends in the new year.
“There are a few ‘once in a lifetime’ experiences I’m thinking of for my family, and I’m also aiming to travel a bit too," he said.
"I’m currently tempted by Canada, it’s just crazy to think that I can do that now without saving for years. The same goes for driving lessons. I’ve always put it off due to the cost but now I can finally get behind the wheel, and once passed, actually buy a car.
“I’m not giving up work, I think for now I will continue to enjoy my job, keep making my films and mull over the exciting next steps.”