Railway enthusiasts gathered at Leyland station and other stops along the route to see one of Britain’s most celebrated salvaged steam locomotives race through on Tuesday morning.
Over a 19 year working life with British Railways, the Braunton locomotive covered some 779,000 miles on services between London Waterloo and Brighton, Salisbury, Exeter, Ilfracombe, and Weymouth, plus the Somerset and Dorset line between Bath and Bournemouth.
The Southern Railway West Country Class locomotive No. 34046 hauled many prestigious named trains, such as the Atlantic Coast Express, the Pines Express and a Royal Train to Weymouth.
Built in 1946 and named Braunton in 1949 after the North Devon coastal town, in 1965 the engine was decommissioned and left to rot in a Barry scrapyard for more than 40 years.
Things looked up in 1996 when Braunton was purchased by the West Somerset Railway Association (WSRA), who then sold it on to City financier Jeremy Hosking.
Millionaire railway enthusiast Hosking ploughed six-figures into the restoration, 76,800 hours of hard work carried out over a period of 12 years by around 100 dedicated volunteers, many members of the of WSRA.
In 2008 Braunton again carried passengers on the West Somerset Railway – now Britain’s longest heritage steam line – and, restored to full main line network standards, has since become a regular, albeit rare, sight elsewhere on the national network.