TOURISM chiefs were celebrating last night after succeeding in a campaign to raise the profile of the birthplace of the railways.

It has been confirmed that the Blue Peter, one of the country's most famous locomotives, will visit Darlington to form a showpiece exhibition which could bring thousands of additional visitors to the town's railway museum.

Haulage company GCS Johnson, of Barton, near Darlington, agreed to transport the engine - a true giant of the golden age of the railways - to the museum in the town's North Road.

The firm responded to an appeal launched in The Northern Echo last month to bring the Blue Peter from its present home on the North York Moors Railway.

It will be transported from Grosmont on a low-loader, and could be on show in Darlington by the middle of next month.

GCS Johnson is working with Darlington Borough Council officials on the logistics of the move, which will include removing four exhibits at the museum to make way for the locomotive.

John Wilkes, the museum's acting heritage manager, said: "The arrival in Darlington of one of the most famous steam locomotives in the country is wonderful news for Darlington and for rail enthusiasts throughout the region.

"We have worked with the North Eastern Locomotive Preservation Group (NELPG) and a team of willing volunteers at the museum to help make this dream a reality.

"We are delighted to welcome GCS Johnson aboard what should prove to be a wonderful and nostalgic railway event for everyone."

Blue Peter, which is owned by NELPG, will be on loan to the museum for two years.

The museum has high hopes of becoming a premier heritage site during the next five years and a bid for a substantial Heritage Lottery Fund grant is being put together.

Support from the local business community is still welcome and Mr Wilkes can be contacted on (01325) 460532.