A real piece of heritage, steam railway history was made in the summer when newly-restored Black Five 5025 emerged from Aviemore loco shed.
Newly-restored Black Five 5025 emerged into bright, Highland sunshine in fine fettle back in July, sporting the original-style, London Midland & Scottish Railway livery. This engine, which is the the oldest surviving LMS Black Five, was celebrating its return to steam after a £520,000 restoration project, launched nearly 20 years ago, in 2002. Designed by Sir William Stanier, and built by the Vulcan Foundry as the sixth loco of a class of 842, 5025 was allocated to Perth shed when new, back in 1934.
The engine would have passed though Aviemore frequently on the Highland mainline between Perth and Inverness, before moving to the north-west of England. At the end of BR’s steam period, it was was bought by pioneering Scottish railway preservationist, Ted Watkinson, in 1968, for the then-fledgling Strathspey Railway.
A regular performer on the line after it opened in 1978, 5025 was withdrawn from service in 1993, as heavy repairs were required. At this point the engine was put aside to await restoration. That work has been funded by a combination of a £50,000 lottery grant, generous bequests and donations, plus the results of sustained fundraising through the WEC Watkinson Trust – the 4-6-0’s owners. This has seen the project through to completion, and the engine’s triumphant return to service on the Strathspey Railway.
Paul Blount, who heads the engineering project, said: “This is a story of endeavour, dedication, enthusiasm and sheer determination. It’s a story of engineering skill and, although its perhaps a bit of a cliché to say it, but we’re putting the ‘Great’ back into Great Britain here at Aviemore, despite much additional work making new parts as well as refurbishing or restoring original components.
“The locomotive’s roll out to press and public, and her hauling of a special celebratory train over the Strathspey Railway today, represents a very proud moment for all of us, especially for those who put have put so much time, money and effort into the project.”
Number 5025 will now go into regular service on the Strathspey, taking the pressure off Caledonian Railway 0-6-0 number 828, which has been heading all the service trains since the line re-opened for business earlier this year. It also means that the line’s most powerful steam locomotive has returned to service after what the Strathspey Railway claims is one of the most extensive and best-value restorations on the country’s heritage railways. Volunteers at Aviemore did the bulk of the work, while specific jobs, such as boiler overhaul and tender tank reconstruction, were passed to specialist heritage engineering company, Riley’s.
Neil Sinclair, WEC Watkinson Trust chairman, said: “We’re delighted with the successful completion of the 5025 project, the oldest survivor of a famous and successful class of locomotive which has close associations with our area. Once again the engine will be hauling trains on the Strathspey Railway. It’s a major event in railway history.”
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