A MAJOR milestone has been reached by a dedicated team hoping to bring trains back to the Berkeley area.

The Vale of Berkeley Railway Trust now has its first working locomotive and it has now made its first public appearance.

Volunteers put in the hours to repaint the Rolls-Royce-powered diesel shunter at its Sharpness home to have it ready for the Gloucestershire Vintage and Country Extravaganza at the beginning of the month.

In the summer of 2013 the then small group of dedicated rail enthusiasts formed the Vale of Berkeley Railway Trust with the ultimate goal of restoring services to the area.

Based at the Engine Shed at Sharpness docks, the now 200-strong team has been negotiating with Network Rail whilst getting everything prepared for a return to the tracks.

The branch line is only used for the transportation of nuclear flasks but the group envisages a unique arrangement for a heritage railway where steam trains will mingle with freight trains from the national network.

The group has now reached a huge milestone in having its Thomas Hill Vanguard, which was built in 1967, ready to go.

The shunter spent most of its working life at the British gypsum works in Mountfield, Kent, tipping wagons of gypsum from the mine to the exchange sidings next to the Hastings line.

When no longer required it moved, along with British Gypsum No 1, to Stoke-on-Trent repair facility.

When it arrived at Sharpness its paint work was battered and tired but thanks to the efforts of volunteers is now looking good as new.

Howard Parker, chairman of the Vale of Berkeley Railway Trust, said: "It has been a brilliant project for our volunteers being the first locomotive they have completed.

"They have done a brilliant job, but are only cutting their teeth in preparation for the major job of renovating a steam engine to run on the railway.

"Work is already under way on a Midland Railway 0-6-0 freight engine which is part of the National Railway Museum collection and it is the railway 's major undertaking for some time yet."

It will become the works shunter at Sharpness, where it will allow the railway to move wagons, carriages and locomotives around Sharpness Docks.