PASSENGERS travelled back in time to the golden age of transport when a heritage railway line welcomed passengers onto its new steam engine.

Weardale Railway, in County Durham, ran the first of its festive services at the weekend, using a recently-acquired steam engine.

Dozens of families enjoyed the five-mile journey between Wolsingham and Stanhope, where children visited Santa Claus in his grotto.

The romantic image of a steam locomotion rolling through the dale was a dream come true for volunteers who restored the track.

Thousands of visitors witnessed the reopening of the line in July 2004, but it collapsed only six months later, owing £900,000 to 104 creditors.

It is now run by a partnership led by social enterprise group Ealing Community Transport, from London, the volunteer-run Weardale Railway Trust, Wear Valley District Council and Durham County Council.

Two Santa Special services will run each Saturday and Sunday in the run-up to Christmas, apart from Christmas Eve, with the first leaving Wolsingham at 10am and 1.15pm.

On Christmas Eve, there will be one service, departing from Wolsingham at 10am.

Tickets, which include a gift for children, refreshments and entertainment, are priced £10 for adults and children aged three or over. Younger children ride for £5.

To book, call 01388-526203 or 0845-6001348.