A NORTHUMBERLAND tourist railway is to launch a new steam locomotive which was part built by its late creator.
The Heatherslaw Light Railway, on the Ford and Etal Estates near Berwick, is set to unveil Bunty, which was the brainchild of the attraction’s founder Neville Smith.
In 1989, train enthusiast Neville and Sidney Ford opened the railway, a two-and-a-half mile riverside line linking Heatherslaw Corn Mill and Etal.
In recent years, Neville decided that the attraction needed a new steam locomotive to operate with its original engine Lady Augusta.
That locomotive is now 21 years old and a new engine would guarantee the railway always having a steam train in use in the event of any mechanical problems.
In addition, the attraction uses two locomotives in peak visitor season, and had been operating a diesel machine alongside Lady Augusta. Neville recognised that visitors – of which there have been 600,000 in the last 21 years – prefer a ride powered by steam. He began work on the new £85,000 engine around three years ago but died last year, aged 68.
Neville’s sons Paul and Darrell, who took over the running of the railway with Sidney, six months before their father’s death, decided to have the engine completed by a specialist company.
They obtained £42,500 from the Northumberland Uplands Local Action Group, Defra and the European Union, and matched that from their own funds.
Steam locomotive building and restoration company Alan Keef Ltd was given the job of completing the engine and it was delivered earlier this month.
The railway bosses built two new 12-seater coaches to go with it.
It is hoped the introduction of Bunty will create a new driver job, in addition to the existing six full and part-time staff.
The new loco is to be launched at a special ceremony at the Heatherslaw station on July 2.
Paul, 46, managing director of the railway, said his father was immensely enthusiastic about the whole project.
“I think he would be very proud to see it all finished and on track. We have got it testing at the moment and it is really quite beautiful. He would have been delighted to see it.”