Last hurrah for old Lady

Paul Smith aboard Lady Augusta at Heatherslaw light railway
Paul Smith aboard Lady Augusta at Heatherslaw light railway

She is a light railway’s original steam engine and has chugged up and down its line for the past 25 years, clocking up thousands of miles in the process.

But this year signals the end of an era for Lady Augusta, who retires from service at the Heatherslaw Light Railway at the close of the summer season.

To honour this, the Ford and Etal attraction is holding a series of ‘last-chance-to-see’ events, starting this weekend.

Managing director Paul Smith admits the decision to let Lady Augusta go wasn’t an easy one, but a number of commercial practicalities won the day.

“It comes to the end of its lease at the end of this year and she will return to her owner,” explained Paul.

“At the moment we’re running two steam engines, Lady Augusta and Bunty. They take three hours to steam up which isn’t very practical if you have a mechanical problem so we’re currently building a new diesel hydraulic which will take over Lady Augusta’s work later this season.

“She’s nowhere near as powerful as Bunty. She was designed to pull six coaches – the original specification – but we now pull eight coaches so it’s hard work for her.

“In 2008 she even survived the River Till’s worst flood in living memory when she was submerged in three feet of water and left covered in silt.”

Paul admits it will be a sad day when Lady Augusta leaves, especially for Sid Ford, who has driven her over the years and was responsible for setting up the railway with Paul’s father, Neville.

Paul added: “A lot of people will have memories of Lady Augusta and we would like to hear their stories.”

To do so, leave a comment on the attraction’s Facebook page or email info@heathers lawlight

This weekend’s ‘last-chance’ event is on Saturday and Sunday from 11am to 3pm. Lady Augusta will be steamed up and hauling the train on both days. More ‘last-chance’ events are planned for throughout the summer season, with a possible final farewell in October.