A train emblazoned with one of the region’s most well-loved views aims to boost tourism to the North East.
The train, hauled by a locomotive newly named Durham Cathedral, made its debut on Newcastle Central Station’s platform two at 9.30am yesterday .
The Class 91 electric loco made its grand entrance as the voices of Durham Cathedral choristers echoed around the station.
Painted with the cathedral’s name and image, the train will promote the world heritage site to millions of passengers boarding along the East Coast main line between Newcastle and London.
Overseeing the ceremony was Dean of Durham, the Very Reverend Michael Sadgrove, who said he has loved railways since he was a child. After the ceremony he was handed his own Durham Cathedral name plate.
He said: “I think the North East is very proud of its main line and this is a real partnership between the cathedral and East Coast. It is fantastic promotion for the Cathedral and we really hope it encourages people here to discover what the region can offer.
Receiving the name plate, he said it was “one of the highlights of my career” adding, “you have never seen a happier dean.”
The train’s purple and grey livery, created by Paul Gentleman, has been designed to highlight the return of the Lindisfarne Gospels to Durham for the first time in 26 years.
Its new name plate is inspired by a view of the impressive cathedral yesterday dubbed “one of the most the most famous vistas in the world” by East Coast managing director Karen Boswell.
Just last week, internet review site Trip Advisor named Durham Cathedral as the top UK landmark as voted for by tourists.
Mr Gentleman, who researched the Lindisfarne Gospels before creating his design, said: “The best part of the livery for me is the nameplate. When I first saw it I thought it was stunning.
“It uses an outline of the cathedral which is the sight passengers see from the train as they cross the viaduct into Durham.”
Currently housed at Durham University’s Palace Green library the historically important Lindisfarne Gospels sit alongside artefacts of St Cuthbert for the first time in 500 years, in an exhibition which opened to the public earlier this week.
Durham University vice chancellor Christopher Higgins said: “In just two days the response to the exhibition has gone fantastically well. Everyone is overwhelmed the people’s excitement and the fact the gospels are back in Durham this time alongside artefacts of St Cuthbert himself.”
The Durham Cathedral now joins a handful of locomotives given official names by East Coast in recent years, alongside the Bobby Robson, the Blaydon Races and the Battle of Britain.
It is one of only a few to be blessed by Railway Chaplain the Reverend Dr Stephen Sorby.
With the official ceremony over choristers boarded the train where they sang for passengers as it made its maiden journey to Durham, before continuing on to London Kings Cross.
A spokesman for East Coast said: “The main line has around 19 million passengers a year and four in five of those travel to and from London. This is one of our busiest routes so a good number of people will see the train and what the region has to offer.”