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One of the UK’s most important and rare steam locomotives, No. 925 Cheltenham, has been shown off to the media following extensive engineering work to return to it to steam after 32 years.
The major restoration project, which began in October 2010 at Eastleigh Rail Works and was undertaken by a team of volunteers from the Mid Hants Railway and specialist contractors, celebrates reaching this important milestone ahead of its debut appearance at Railfest – Britain’s biggest rail celebration at the National Railway Museum.
On Friday May the 11th it was showed off to the media and run up and down the tracks at the Eastleigh Rail Works.
Famous for being the most powerful steam locomotive of its type to run in the UK, and one of the last members of its class to be withdrawn from service in 1962, No. 925 Cheltenham, successfully passed its steam test on Thursday 10th May at the Eastleigh Rail Works where the restoration work has been undertaken – the very same locomotive workshop where the engine was originally built in 1934.
This is the first time in 50 years that a Schools Class locomotive has been in steam at Eastleigh Works.
Finishing touches and paintwork will be carried out on the locomotive before it is transported to the National Railway Museum in York, which owns the engine, to be displayed at Railfest from 2 – 10 June 2012.
Helen Ashby, Head of Knowledge & Collections at the National Railway Museum, said:
“Because of the dedication and engineering excellence of the restoration team at Mid Hants Railway, people for many generations will now experience the sheer power of this magnificent engine firsthand.
"There were 40 Schools Class locomotives built at the Eastleigh Works in 1934, Cheltenham being among them, however, only three were saved for preservation, making them somewhat of a rarity.
"Visitors to Railfest in June will get the first glimpse of Cheltenham in light steam following the completion of this extensive restoration project.”
Railfest will bring together over 30 record-breaking locomotives that have made their mark on rail history for being the fastest, strongest, first, last and oldest – making it the largest gathering of railway record breakers ever brought together in one place. Among the confirmed record-breaking attendees is holder of the record for the fastest steam locomotive at 126mph, Mallard, the newest mainline steam locomotive in operation, Tornado, and the most powerful industrial tank engine to run in the UK, Mardy Monster.
The first locomotive to reach 100mph, Flying Scotsman, is also set to attend the event. The locomotive is currently undergoing major restoration work and will be on display to the public during Railfest with further work being carried out on Flying Scotsman after the event.
After Railfest, where Cheltenham will be on display and in light steam, Cheltenham will be put to good use on a preserved railway line, the Mid Hants Railway ‘Watercress Line’, just a stone’s throw from where it was built nearly 80 years ago.