The first guest for the forthcoming 25th Anniversary Gala has arrived on the Churnet Valley Railway, ahead of its high profile visit to Staffordshire’s Premier Heritage Railway. As part of the line’s Silver Jubilee celebrations, marking 25 Years since the operating company was first formed, an agreement has been reached with the Dartmouth Steam Railway that will see their former GWR 42XX locomotive no. 4277 “Hercules” star in the show stopping event, before remaining in Staffordshire until the end of its current boiler certificate in February 2018. This will see the locomotive haul a number of the popular Santa & Steam specials, along with the post-Christmas Winter Warmer programme before one final weekend of operation prior to her withdrawal for overhaul and return to Devon.
4277 arrived behind a low loader at Froghall station on 4th October after travelling up from Devon overnight, and following all the necessary examinations underwent a successful steam test along the Churnet Valley’s line. It will now enter the Carriage works, for as part of the hire agreement the locomotive is to be repainted into its 1950s livery – the first time it will have been seen in this condition in over a decade! Its first public appearance in black will then be on the morning of the 3-day Anniversary Gala on Friday 20th October, where it will operate alongside four other locomotives for the duration of the weekend.