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Full steam ahead on local tracks for vintage engine

Number 186 takes on water at Lisburn before heading back to Bangor. US36-601JCA VINTAGE steam engine which has just undergone an �85,000 overhaul was unveiled to the public when it pulled special trains from Lisburn to Bangor on Saturday.

No. 186, which dates from 1879 and is one of the oldest mainline steam engines still in operation anywhere in the world, was in charge of the 'Bangor Belle' train.

The historic locomotive, which has been out of operation for 25 years, pulled three round trips between Lisburn, Belfast and Bangor during the day.

Passengers wait for the steam engine to take on water at Lisburn Station before heading off to 'Bangor by the sea'. US36-603JC

The trains were organised by the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland in conjunction with Translink, and provided an opportunity for members of the public to enjoy train travel as it was in a bygone era.

No. 186 was restored to working order by the RPSI at its base in Whitehead over the past four years and was officially launched in July.

But the Bangor Belle represented the locomotive's return to full service, and gave people their first chance to see her in action.

Passengers on board the RPSI special at Lisburn Station. US36-604JC

RPSIsecretary Paul McCann said they were delighted to have the engine 'back in traffic' and described last Saturday as a 'red letter day' for the Society.

"An added attraction was that the train ticket included free admission to the Ulster Folk & Transport Museum at Cultra, where we called to set down passengers and pick up, he added.

People stop on the bridge to watch the steam engine at Lisburn Station as she took on water before heading back to Bangor. US36-602JC"The Museum was holding its Crafts and Skills Day to coincide with the Bangor Belle, so there was plenty for people to see and do.

"No. 186 is in better order than ever, but the Bangor line with its steep gradients provided a stiff test for our engine

All of the return trips meant people living beside the line at Lambeg, Dunmurry and Finaghy were able to see number 186 at full steam as she would have looked at the height of her career in1880s and 90s.