THE finishing touches are being put to the long-running restoration of a Victorian steam locomotive.

Volunteers at the Tanfield Railway, near Stanley, County Durham, are tweaking and fettling the 1891 built Twizell.

The engine was made by Robert Stephenson and Company, in Newcastle, and the work will make it ready to haul its first train in more than 30 years.

Tanfield Railway engineering manager Ian Cowan said: “We’re down to the final finishing touches now before we can get to some serious testing, and then, hopefully, pull its first train not long after.

“She should be a fine sight and I’m sure there’ll be a lot of people who remember her working coal trains or who have been following the restoration who can’t wait to ride behind her.”

Twizell was built at the famous Forth Street works for James Joicey and Company’s Beamish Railway, in County Durham.

As the line’s locomotive No.

3, Twizell pulled coal trains for more than 80 years, finishing its career at Morrison Busty Colliery, near Stanley, in 1972.

The engine was then bought by Beamish Museum, from where the engine is now on long-term loan to the Tanfield Railway.

It is approaching the end of a protracted and difficult restoration project at the railway’s Marley Hill engine shed.

The last major job, just completed, was the replacement of the engine’s main pipe which takes steam from the engine’s regulator, the equivalent of a car’s accelerator, to the cylinders.

An original casting at the end of the pipe had worn and required a new casting to be produced at a local foundry and machined on site by the railway’s volunteer engineers.

Because it is many years since the engine last worked regularly and there are many new or repaired components, comprehensive testing is taking place.

Mr Cowan said: “As with any piece of machinery this old, Twizell has been a real challenge and the volunteers have put in countless hours to get her running again.”

If test runs go successfully, Twizell should soon be hauling passenger trains on a sixmile route through countryside between Sunniside and East Tanfield.

Originally built in 1725 with wooden rails, the Tanfield Railway is the world’s oldest railway and was saved by volunteers in the Seventies, who have since painstakingly rebuilt the railway and now operate trains every Sunday.