Furness Railway No. 20, the oldest working standard gauge steam locomotive in the UK, is at Locomotion - The National Railway Museum at Shildon as the operating locomotive in residence.
The veteran will be used to haul passenger trains on the running line there on a number of dates in 2014.
Locomotion hosted FR20's 150th birthday party in August 2013. FR 20 was delivered to the Furness Railway on the 21st August 1863, so it is fitting that Wednesday 21st August 2013 was the day chosen for the celebration!
FR20 was in action throughout the day, hauling shuttle services on the Locomotion running line. For the day the normal charge for travelling on such services was waived, so as many people as possible could enjoy a free ride behind the oldest working standard gauge locomotive in Britain.
During speeches, FR20's amazing history was explained, both in her working life, and then her exploits in preservation. Locomotion praised the parternship that has seen FR20 based there since 2009 as principal Operational Locomotive in Residence, apart from the brief periods on tour elsewhere.
A bottle of bubbly was poured over over the locomotive's buffer in a traditional ceremony.
The birthday girl was given a piece of coal "cake" to mark the occasion, consumed in the firebox, and a more conventional cake featuring an image of FR20 during her first steaming in restoration was cut and shared amongst museum visitors and the FRT volunteers who were present.
FR20 spent time away from Locomotion with an extensive tour in the first half of 2012.
It began at the FRT's home base, the Ribble Steam Railway for its Feburary Gala then Easter and April Sunday services. After Vintage Train action at the Midland Railway - Butterley, FR20 went to the Severn Valley Railway to mark 150 years of services there, and clocked up its first Royal Train duty! In June, FR 20 was a must-have visitor to the second National Railway Museum - York - Railfest event, which was centred around record breakers; clearly the oldest working locomotive in the country had to be there! And later in the month, another anniversary, this time 200 years of steam at the Middleton Railway in Leeds saw FR20 in starring action again.
No. 20 first visited Locomotion in County Durham for its steam gala in 2008.
The locomotive spent all of 2009 there (apart from a brief stint at the NRM's headquarters in York) seeing regular use on the 2/3 mile running line at the museum, and the majority of 2010 there too.
2011 saw FR 2o at Shildon for virtually all the year - and was briefly joined by FRT stablemate 5643 for the GWR themed September steam gala weekend. FR20 took a break from running shuttle services with 5643 instead taking these duties, while FR20 was on the apron outside the museum in light steam across the weekend. This was the first time the FRT duo had been together since 2007, when they operated together at a Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway gala, and meant that the event was unofficially dubbed an "FRT gala"! Whether your interest was the FRT pairing or the official GWR theme, it was a winning formula - with record breaking crowds turning up to the County Durham museum, even more than when "Tornado" was the star guest alongside FR20 in 2009.
FR 20 drew the crowds at the Locomotion steam gala in September 2009, appearing alongside "Oliver Cromwell" - the "Britannia" class Pacific that hauled the last steam train on British Railways in 1968. It was the first time that BR's last engine has come face to face with Britain's oldest working locomotive. But even without the "Brit" there on the Saturday, there were queues to ride behind No. 20 when it took its turn on the museum's running line. Visitor numbers to the gala weekend were up by almost 50% on 2008!
Click here for the latest planned steaming dates, though note that these are subject to change.
For the first time since its restoration, you can get your hand on the regulator of the oldest working steam locomotive in the country - contact Locomotion and sign up for the driver experience courses!
Locomotion Curator Anthony Coulls said "we hope that many will come and see it and ride behind it whilst it is here, it is a throwback to one of the most exciting periods of railway history."
Tim Owen, Chairman of the Furness Railway Trust, said "The FRT is honoured to have our flagship locomotive invited once again to part of the National Railway Museum."
İFurness Railway Trust