The Churnet Valley Railway is delighted to announce that the locomotive, which signaled the start of railway preservation of former Knotty lines back in 1977, has now returned to its spiritual home.
Following an approach from the locomotive's current owners to the CVR, a deal has been struck that will see Hunslet no. 3777 take up residence at the railway ahead of a planned overhaul - after which the locomotive will then be based on the CVR for the next 5 years.
More recently known as no. 68030 following an identity change into a LNER J94, 3777 gained iconic status when it ran the first preservation trains at the Cheddleton Railway Centre which was to later develop into what is now the CVR. Rescued from the nearby Wolstanton Colliery at Newcastle-under-Lyme where it was numbered as NCB no. 9, the locomotive was restored onsite at Cheddleton by the early volunteers of the North Staffordshire Railway Company who then painted it into a replica Madder Lake Livery and named it "Josiah Wedgwood" after the local potter. Once restored Josiah operated the NSRC shuttles trains along the demonstration line that was laid along the former Goods Yard.
With the developments at Cheddleton and the expansion into the Churnet Valley Railway, the locomotive subsequently saw service along the now preserved line through the 90s and early 00s until the locomotive left to go on the hire circuit visiting numerous railways across the UK in 2006.
Affection for the NSRC's first steam locomotive remained strong amongst many of the CVR's long-standing members however, for it was originally a sign of hope that what many at the time only dreamed of would one day become reality - as eventually happened with the transfer of ownership of the Churnet Valley line from British Railways to CVR and the operation of steam services through Staffordshire's Little Switzerland.
To see the locomotive return will bring back many happy memories for a many number of volunteers and visitors, and the CVR looks forward to announcing further developments as the overhaul commences and the locomotive is returned to operation once again.