The first steam train journey for almost 50 years on a historic Northumberland railway line is set to take place in the autumn after a regional employer donated local coal to fuel the locomotive.
The volunteer-led Aln Valley Railway Trust has been focused on the restoration of the former Alnmouth to Alnwick railway line for almost two decades, with a view to reopening it first as a tourist attraction, followed by additional commuter services for people living in the area.
Over the last three years, the group has built Lionheart Station on Lloyd’s Field, alongside Alnwick’s Lionheart Business Park, after being granted the lease for the land in 2011 by the Duke of Northumberland.
A four-month project to overhaul and refurbish the boiler of the steam locomotive Richboro is nearing completion and if essential repairs run to schedule, the Trust is hoping to take the train on its first run on the station track as early as the end of October.
To provide the fuel required to undertake the testing work, Durham-headquartered Banks Mining is donating coal from its Shotton surface mine near Cramlington. It has also reached an agreement with the Trust to provide further coal supplies in the future.
The initial trial runs on the line will be undertaken by the locomotive alone, but presuming all goes well, the Trust will be looking to use it as a tourist attraction, with the added bonus of providing a commuter service between Alnwick and the East Coast Main Line at Alnmouth in the future.
Chris Freeman, from the Trust, said: “After so many years of work, it’s very exciting to be reaching this point.
“It’ll mean everything to everyone associated with the project to see our locomotive steaming out of the station after planning these journeys for so many years and it’ll no doubt be a very emotional moment for many of us.
“Being able to run the locomotive on North-East coal adds an extra dimension and Banks’ support not only means we’ll be able to create the steam power needed to make our inaugural journeys, but we’ll be able to use the funds we would have had to spend on coal from elsewhere on other parts of the project.”