They evoke romantic memories of Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson in Brief Encounter and Jenny Agutter in The Railway Children.
But it was a lot of hard work from volunteers which propelled the arrival of the first steam train at Ferryhill in Aberdeen yesterday for nearly 20 years.
Tornado tooted its whistle and passengers enjoyed being taken back to the past on the first of seven charter services to the Granite City in 2019.
And the applause from the myriad aficionados who go loco about trains and the steam variety in particular told its own story about the success of the venture.
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The Ferryhill Railway Heritage Trust members had worked closely with Network Rail to investigate the viability of launching ‘steam specials’ from as far afield as the south of England to the Granite City.
They were instrumental in the installation of an £86,000 turntable at the site, which they have refurbished during the last two years, and that was the catalyst for the launch of what trust members regard as a valuable new tourist attraction in the north east.
Yesterday’s activities highlighted the precision required to bring these projects to fruition. Andrew Meff, one of the volunteers, said later: “We carried out a simulation in advance to test the turntable, but it was actually easier to move it today, and we are all positively delighted at how things have gone.
“It was back in 1995 that a steam train – Blue Peter – was last turned here and it’s the best part of 20 years since any vehicle was turned, so you can imagine how we feel now that we know all our efforts have been worthwhile.
“When we took over this site a decade ago, it was overgrown, it was muddy, and an awful lot of work needed done. But although it has been a long and arduous task, it has been a great opportunity for us as well.”
His colleague, Peter Thompson, watched on as massive bags of coal were loaded onto the engine, following the arrival of Tornado at Aberdeen Railway Station in the afternoon.
He said: “This is the biggest seesaw in the city” and explained the mechanics required to turn such a massive piece of machinery. But he was smiling at the end.
And he added: “We’ve put Aberdeen back on the map when it comes to steam trains. That is something the volunteers can feel very proud about.”
The next services will be on May 1 and 3 when the Union of South Africa makes the journey north.