Historic steam locomotive returns to Strathspey line after two decades

A locomotive that hasn’t run on the Strathspey Railway line for nearly 20 years has made a welcome return after being restored from the ground up.

A new chapter opened in the history of the oldest surviving Black Five when LMS 5025 recently moved on its own on the Aviemore-Broomhill line for the first time in 18 years.

It follows a major fundraising campaign by the owners – the WEC Watkinson Trust – and one of the most comprehensive overhauls ever undertaken on a preserved locomotive in the UK.

The 5025 engine first entered service on the Highland Main Line shortly after it was built in 1934.

The locomotive is expected to start carrying passenger services again soon.

After being repainted in its original LMS livery, 5025 is due to return to service on the Strathspey Railway later this year.

Most of its working life was spent in the North West of England before the engine was purchased directly from British Railways by Ted Watkinson in 1968 for the then embryonic Strathspey Railway project.

The locomotive was used to run services on the Strathspey Railway after the line opened in 1978 and also ran some special trains on the main line.

But 5025 had to be withdrawn from service in 1993 as it was clear that major work was ultimately needed to save the loco from scrapping.

Strathspey Railway spokesman Graham Sutherland said he was delighted that 5025 was back in operation after so long.

He said: “The WEC Watkinson Trust began raising funds for the overhaul in the mid-2000s and was greatly aided by grants from the Lottery Heritage Fund, Strathspey Railway Company, Strathspey Railway Association, Strathspey Railway Trust and donations from the many individual donors who generously responded to the fundraising appeal.

“Dismantling work on 5025 began in 2010 and it soon became clear that a complete renewal of certain components of the locomotive was necessary. The decision was therefore taken to restore it to its ‘as new’ condition.

“The overhaul included the construction of a new smokebox, front frames and tender tank, a major boiler overhaul and the casting and installation of new cylinders. been taken to restore 5025 to its 1934 condition, including its original chimney height.”

Mr Sutherland continued: “The successful refit is due to the small team of Strathspey Railway staff led by Nathan Lightowler, the railway’s locomotive shed foreman, and volunteers from Strathspey Railway and the WEC Watkinson Trust. “

The Black Five class dominated the operation of the Perth to Inverness line from the mid-1930s until the end of steam on the road.

Meanwhile, the Strathspey Railway is increasing the number of 1st class compartments available on its services from four to 11.

The railway is also adding its officers’ lounge, which has two compartments that can each accommodate a maximum of six people.

The officers’ lounge is independent from the rest of the train and is attended by its own steward on board.

More details on the services run by the railway company can be found here

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Jose P. Rogers