A STEAM locomotive has returned to the North-East after more than 40 years away.

Enthusiasts will be able to see Mech Navvies No. 71515, which left Tyneside in 1974, at a special event at Tanfield Railway, near Stanley, this weekend.

The locomotive was built at Robert Stephenson and Hawthorn's famous Forth Banks workshops in Newcastle in 1944 with austerity in mind to help with the war effort.

It was almost immediately dispatched to the Ashington Coal Company by the War Department to help handle the demand for coal.

When the Second World War ended in 1945 it spent time at Horton Grange opencast disposal point, also in Northumberland, before ending up at Swalwell opencast disposal point where the Metrocentre now stand stands in Gateshead.

The site was operated for the National Coal Board by local firm Mechanical Navvies Ltd, who emblazoned their name on the side of the smart maroon liveried locomotive.

It became well known by steam enthusiasts of the day, but was finally retired in 1974 when it was saved from the scrap man and went on to a new life in Somerset.

Since then Mech Navvies No. 71515 has found a home in South Wales at the Pontypool and Blaenavon Railway and has never returned to its former haunts.

During the Tanfield Railway’s steam gala this weekend, it will be working alongside Consett Iron Company locomotive A No. 5 visiting from the North Tyneside Railway plus a trio of Tyneside built steam locomotives based at Tanfield.

Tanfield Railway trustee Derek Smith said: “The opportunity to bring Mech. Navvies back to Tyneside, where it was built and worked for so many years, was too good to miss.

“We’re looking forward to seeing the gleaming red paintwork at the head of a rake of coal hoppers again.”