A new diesel engine is to be unveiled by Heatherslaw Light Railway during the school half-term holidays.
The bright yellow locomotive takes over from long-serving steam-powered Lady Augusta which was retired at the end of last year.
“It’s been a two-year project to have it finished and ready to take over the role of second locomotive to replace Lady Augusta,” said managing director Paul Smith.
It is due to be named and officially launched on Easter Sunday but, weather permitting, visitors will be able to take a leisurely tour on it along the banks of the River Till during next week’s school holidays.
It is one of several attractions on Ford and Etal Estates, including the nearby Heatherslaw Mill, opening up early for the 2015 season.
“I have always thought of trying to open during February half-term, but up until now both our steam engines have always been stripped down ready for the yearly boiler inspections at this time,” said Paul.
“The new diesel now gives us the opportunity to run during the winter months. It will depend on the weather on the 17th, 18th and 19th whether anybody comes along for a winter train ride but if it is successful we may run other service trains during February half term in the future.”
The diesel will work alongside Bunty, the bright blue steam engine that goes down so well with Thomas the Tank Engine fans.
It will help ease some of the workload for Paul and his small team. When Lady Augusta and Bunty were on duty it would take three hours to steam up the pair.
That’s not to say Lady Augusta won’t be missed, however.
She is believed to have clocked up more than 100,000 miles chugging up and down the line from Heatherslaw to Etal since the light railway opened in 1989.
“She was a fine servant,” said Paul. She even survived the worst floods of 2008 when she was submerged in nearly three feet of water.”
The diesel will also be better equipped to pull the eight carriages employed on the 2.25 mile route.
“The diesel was built on an existing chassis we had on site,” said Paul. “It was fitted with new wheel sets, suspension, cranks and connecting rods.
“The power unit is a Perkins engine with a Linde hydraulic pump and motor. The power unit was supplied by loco builders Alan Keef Ltd, who are experts in the field.
“The rest of the work has been undertaken by the Heatherslaw Railway in our workshops with many bespoke components made on site. Many of the components are ‘off the shelf’ and have been gathered from the marine, car and agricultural industry.”
For more information, visit ford-and-etal.co.uk