Locomotive back on track thanks to restoration work

A steam locomotive has re-entered passenger service following a six-year restoration project.

Friday, 24th May 2019, 11:00 am
The 401 steam locomotive is now back in use at Stephenson Railway Museum.

The 401, one of a class of three locomotives built by W G Bagnall for the Port Talbot Steelworks in 1951, was one of the most technically advanced steam locomotives of its time.

It can now be seen at Stephenson Railway Museum in North Shields.

Built to compete with diesel engines, the three locomotives – named Victor, Vulcan and Valiant – performed above and beyond the requirements of their original design specification. But by 1957 all three were replaced by Brush Bagnall diesel locomotives.

Valiant was acquired by the National Coal Board for its collieries in South Wales until it was scrapped in 1967, whereas Vulcan and Victor were sold to the Austin Motor Company Ltd for use at its Longbridge plant in Birmingham.

In 1973, they were transferred to the West Somerset Railway, a heritage branch line of the old Great Western Railway.

In 1986, Stephenson Railway Museum acquired Vulcan where it remained in regular use until December 2008 when problems with its firebox caused the locomotive to be placed on static display to await restoration.

Arts Council England capital funding was used by Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums to cover the major repair costs.

Volunteers of the North Tyneside Steam Railway Association (NTSRA) fully stripped the locomotive down, and the boiler was sent away to the North Norfolk Railway for installation of a new inner firebox, as well as repairs to the barrel.

New tyres were fitted after the NTSRA raised more than £4,000 and the locomotive was then gradually rebuilt over the past 15 months. It finally re-entered service last month, hauling the museum’s vintage 1950s passenger carriages.

Geoff Woodward, Museum Manager for Stephenson Railway Museum, said: “401 is an extremely popular engine and it’s wonderful to have it back pulling passenger trains, thanks to Arts Council England funding and the phenomenal hard work of the Museum’s volunteers.”

Michael Darling, Chairman of the North Tyneside Steam Railway Association, said: “The volunteers of the NTSRA have worked tirelessly to bring 401 back in to traffic. We consider ourselves very lucky to be able to operate what is arguably one of the most advanced industrial steam locomotives built in Britain.”

SRM is open every weekend from until November 3, and every day during school holidays. Heritage train rides are available on Sundays, Bank Holidays and Thursdays during school holidays.

Entry to the Museum is free (donations welcome), charges for heritage train rides apply. For full details, please visit www.stephensonrailwaymuseum.org.uk