DONORS who have helped the painstaking preservation of a Darlington-built steam locomotive are being invited to inspect their engine when it stars at the steam fair at the Shildon railway museum.

It took the Darlington Railway Preservation Society (DRPS) nearly 35 years and £130,000 to restore No 78018, with the money coming from numerous donors – both private individuals and local companies – over the decades.

The Standard Class 2 loco was built at Darlington's North Road Works in 1953 and in February 1955 famously became stuck in a snowdrift at Bleath Gill, near the Stainmore summit, for five days. Its dramatic rescue was featured in a popular short movie. It was withdrawn from service in 1966 and sent to a scrapyard in Wales where it languished for 11 years before being bought by enthusiasts. However, its restoration was too big a job for them, and so the DRPS was formed to bring it back to life in its hometown.

"We welcomed it back to Darlington in July 1981 when I was mayor," said Barrie Lamb, chairman of the DRPS. "It was the first project we took on, and the last one we've completed because we kept running out of money.

"We thought it would take two or three years but as we took it to pieces, we realised how much was missing and how much had rusted away."

The rare loco was brought back into steam last October, and since then has been running on heritage railways around the country.

On the weekend of September 16 and 17, it will be appearing at the Locomotion steam fair in Shildon, but the DRPS is inviting all who helped get it back on track to a special session from 10am to noon on Friday, September 15.

"Loads of people donated from £10 to £1,000, and anyone who has been involved, or their families, will be most welcome to see the loco," said Mr Lamb.

  • For further information, call 01325-350174.