STEAM train The Cumbrian Mountain express is set to stop at St Helens Central on its way to Carlisle as restrictions ease due to the pandemic.

Britain’s finest surviving historic locos have largely been idle, but now heritage rail operator The Railway Touring Company has announced three steam dates from stations in the North West.

On Saturday, July 17, The Railway Touring Company’s ‘Cumbrian Mountain Express’ will depart from Liverpool’s Lime Street station, from there this steam special will head to Broad Green, St Helen’s Central, Wigan North Western and then to Hellifield to join the challenging Settle & Carlisle Railway.

The world famous Settle & Carlisle Railway includes the iconic Ribblehead Viaduct and it is a favourite with rail travellers due to the dramatic Yorkshire Dales scenery along the route, which includes the majestic Three Peaks.

The highpoint of the journey is as the train travels through Dent, England’s highest railway station.

However, for many, the real highlight is as the steam trains cross the Ribblehead Viaduct.

On Sunday, July 18, ‘The North Wales Coast Express’ will also leave Liverpool Lime Street steam hauled, picking up at Broad Green, Warrington Bank Quay, Frodsham and Chester before heading into Wales and alongside the Dee Estuary with views across to the Wirral peninsula.

Steaming through Prestatyn, Rhyl and Colwyn Bay on the Irish Sea coast, the train will stop at Llandudno Junction for passengers who wish to spend the afternoon at the seaside resort, before continuing on to the historic city of Bangor and across the Menai Strait onto Anglesey to visit the seaport of Holyhead.

Wales is also the destination of ‘The Welsh Mountaineer’ steam train which departs on Tuesday, July 20, from Preston, Warrington, Frodsham and Chester and travels up into Snowdonia to visit Blaenau Ffestiniog.

Locomotives for these dates are to be confirmed, but will be drawn from the Carnforth pool, which includes 46115 Scots Guardsman, 6201 Princess Elizabeth, 35018 British India Line and 45690 Leander.

The Railway Touring Company has been organising steam specials for 24 years.

Passengers travel on vintage rail coaches and can enjoy a full English breakfast and a four-course dinner on board, a first class service with drinks and lighter food options or take their own picnic.

Demand for the experience of travelling by steam train is high as people appear keen to venture out after so many months of restrictions.

Kelly Osborne, managing director of The Railway Touring Company, comments: “Already a number of our steam excursions for this summer are full. After a very tough 15 months for the heritage rail industry, it’s tremendous to see such enthusiasm and support from people."

“These magnificent steam locomotives need to be seen in action to be fully appreciated,” said Kelly Osborne. “Let’s hope there will be plenty of opportunities in 2021, and for many more years to come, to climb on board, hear their distinctive sounds, catch a whiff of coal smoke and see heads turn and faces light up as these fine feats of British engineering build up steam in our stations and take to our railways once more.”