Clun Castle back in service – steam train named for Shropshire landmark makes triumphant return
A steam train named after a castle in Shropshire is preparing to return to regular service on the railways.
The 7029 Clun Castle has been granted a licence to return to the tracks – half a century after it was decommissioned by British Rail.
The engine, owned by Vintage Trains Ltd, will feature on timetables running the 50 miles between Stratford-upon-Avon and Birmingham's Snow Hill.
Managing director Cath Bellamy said: "I am absolutely delighted that we have now been awarded our licence which represents a major achievement.
"Without fail, steam travel brings a smile to people’s faces and I really can’t wait to introduce it to new passengers of all ages and backgrounds throughout the country."
She said to secure the future of steam travel, new drivers, engineers and crew would need to be trained up.
She added: "Vintage Trains intends to lead the field in developing a pipeline of new and younger steam drivers, footplate crew and engineers, supporting training and apprenticeships and building on the award-winning record of Tyseley Locomotive Works.
"Express Steam travel should be the pride of our industry. We intend to step up to the plate in playing our part and call on volunteers, investors and industry partners to help us in that goal."
Clun Castle was built in the former Great Western Railway works at Swindon in 1950 as part of the last batch of Castle Class locomotives ordered by British Railways.
After touring throughout England to mark the end-of-steam, in 1967 Clun Castle was purchased from British Railways by a group led by Patrick Whitehouse for the scrap value of £3,600.
The loco was placed in trust and subsequently moved to the former steam depot at Tyseley, Birmingham where it has resided for 50 years and become the foundation of the ‘7029 Clun Castle Limited’ charitable trust.
In the not so distant future, Vintage Trains hopes Clun Castle will visit Chester, towns along the North Wales coast, the Cotswolds and more, so everyone can experience the magic of steam travel.
A public share issue has so far raised £850,000 but the aim is to raise £3 million so the age of steam can be brought back around the UK.
The old Pullman carriages have been restored for passengers who want to dine in style, with three-course meals available on board.
As well as Clun Castle, five other locomotives will eventually run around the country at a top speed of 75mph - compared with the 140mph limit of more modern trains.
Michael Whitehouse, chairman of Vintage Trains Community Benefit Society, said: "The successful share issue that has enabled our Train Operating Company status is the start of a very exciting journey to develop Tyseley into a global centre of excellence in the running and ongoing preservation of steam on the main line and in turn, maintain the heritage skills required to do so.
"And of course our very first engine returns from overhaul to lead the charge - 7029 Clun Castle.
"The romance of steam hauled travel is in high demand from the public and we know that businesses are looking for innovative opportunities for corporate hospitality so we believe that a managed and above all, accessible programme to appealing destinations in Pullman comfort will have wide appeal."