VIDEO: Full steam ahead for railway’s next 25 years

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Bright sunshine and blue skies were the perfect backdrop for steam puffing from trains as a popular attraction celebrated its silver anniversary.

Heatherslaw Light Railway marked 25 years since it first opened on land at Ford and Etal Estates this week.

Lord James Joicey and railway director Paul Smith celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Heatherslaw Light Railway.

Lord James Joicey and railway director Paul Smith celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Heatherslaw Light Railway.

On Tuesday there was an extra 10am train ride for special guests before both steam locomotives ran alternatively throughout the day. It was one of the last journeys for steam engine Lady Augusta, which will retire from service at the end of the summer.

Bunty will continue to work next season, along with a new diesel, yet to be named.

Lord Joicey of Ford and Etal Estates, said: “It started on a bit of a wing and a prayer, but 25 years on we are astonished at its success and the people it has brought into this area.

“It’s absolutely magnificent and I take my hat off to the team here at Heatherslaw Light Railway for all that they have done in 25 years they have been here.”

The Heatherslaw Light Railway was the brainchild of Neville Smith, an engineer who harboured the ambition of building a passenger-carrying railway in 15-inch narrow gauge, which coincided with the late Lord Joicey looking for a project to enhance tourism.

Lady Augusta was commissioned from the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway, while the diesel locomotive Clive and six original coaches were manufactured on site by Neville and his business partner Sid Ford.

The station at Heatherslaw is built on the site of the old Ford and Etal sawmill, which was damaged by fire in the mid 1980s. The site was cleared and the team worked every weekend for six months to enable the railway to start running in the summer of 1989.

The original track was one-and-a-quarter miles long and cut directly across the Letham Haugh to Etal village. It was later lengthened to two-and-a-quarter miles and now follows the course of the River Till.

Neville’s son Paul took over in a temporary management position in late August 2008. On September 1, the railway was struck by the biggest flood on record, devastating the site and only the turntable at Etal Station wasn’t submerged.

The efforts of all the team got the railway back on track and Paul took over as railway director on a permanent basis in February 2009 after his father passed away.

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