THOUSANDS  of rail enthusiasts are expected to visit a North-East railway museum to see six historic locomotives line-up together for possibly the last ever time.

Staff at Locomotion: The National Railway Museum at Shildon hope to attract about 72,000 visitors for The Great Goodbye display’s nine day run.

The show is part of a series of events to honour Mallard becoming the world’s fastest steam engine with a speed of 125.88mph on July 3, 1938.

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The A4 class locomotive is joined by its sister engines - Bittern, Dwight D Eisenhower, Sir Nigel Gresley, Dominion of Canada and Union of South Africa.

Anthony Coulls, senior curator of railway vehicles at Locomotion, said: “There were hundreds of people at the museum earlier today (Friday, February 14) when we were preparing for the show.

“We think that visitor numbers for the event will easily reach several thousand as this is probably the last time the engines will be together.

“The locomotives make personal connections with people and you don’t have to be a train fan to enjoy them.”

The Shildon-based museum usually attracts 200,000 visitors a year on average but, as the A4s are so popular, it expects to entice a large proportion of that amount over the next nine days alone.

A series of events are being held during The Great Goodbye exhibition such as several railway themed talks and visitors can access the cabs of some of the engines.

The museum is also running several early morning photographic shoots of the engine which all sold-out in advance.

Sir Nigel Gresley is to carry visitors for a small charge along a short stretch of track tomorrow (Saturday, February 15) and Bittern will do likewise on Sunday.

Visitors can also enjoy steam rides on trains pulled by two of the engines on Saturday, February 22 and Sunday, February 23.

Most of the engines will disperse within days of the event ending but Dominion of Canada and Dwight D Eisenhower will be on show for a short while after the exhibition.

They will then return to their museums in Canada and America respectively.

The Great Goodbye runs between Saturday, February 15 and Sunday, February 23 with doors open from 9.30am to 5pm with free entry.