THE magic of steam is drawing thousands of visitors to a top tourist attraction.

People were queuing to get in to Beamish Museum, near Stanley, County Durham, on Thursday morning as its annual four-day Steam Fair got under way.

Last year’s event, blessed by sunshine, attracted 14,000 people from across the region and beyond, and museum bosses hope the fair, the first big event of the season, will be equally successful despite the poorer conditions.

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Steam railway locomotives are in action, including Coffee Pot,, Baxter from the famous Bluebell Railway and Y7, from the North Norfolk Railway.

There are also narrow guage engines, traction engines and steamrollers and steam lorries .

The Friends of Beamish are displaying old bicycles, motorcycles and cars and will do circuits of the site in them.

A new tram, an open-roofed Blackpool Boat Tram, is in action.

The tram, which ran circular tours in the resort in the 1930s, is on two years’ loan from the Lancastrian Transport Trust.

"It is a very, very popular event," said a museum spokeswoman.

"We had a great turnout last year so hopefully we’ll have as good a turnout this year.

"Steam is so evocative, people love the smell of steam and to see vehicles moving around. Ut is a well-supported event.’’ The event runs until Sunday (April 16) and the museum is open between 10am and 5pm.

Normal admission charges apply. For details call 0191-370 4000 or visit