STEAM locomotives from the four corners of Britain have begun converging on the superbly-scenic Llangollen Railway on the Shropshire/Cheshire/Denbighshire borders, arriving in convoys by heavy road transporters, in readiness for 'Steel, Steam and Stars III' - the biggest and most spectacular event in the national railway calendar.
Witnessed by an expected 10,000+ visitors from throughout the Wales/England border counties, the Midlands, the Wirral and the North-West, the nine-day steam 'megagala' will see the Eisteddfod town transformed into something more akin to Crewe during the summer Saturdays of the 1950s, with steam locomotives everywhere - almost 300 trains, both passenger and goods, running for more than 14 hours a day on the busiest days and covering more than 2,500 miles between 'day one' on Saturday April 21st, and the grand finale on Sunday April 29th.
Leading the charge will be two great British engineering icons: Tornado - the first express steam locomotive to be built in Britain for nearly 50 years, and Britannia, the first express steam locomotive to be built by the nationalised British Railways regime back in 1951. The country's best-known steam buff - pop producer Pete Waterman - gets proceedings under way on Saturday, rediscovering his roots as a locomotive fireman, on the footplate of Britannia, which works the first train out of Llangollen at 9am.
The event is being run in support of the £1 million project to build a new GWR 'Grange' class locomotive, in the workshops of the Llangollen Railway, by the 6880 Betton Grange Society. The partly-completed locomotive, expected to run in 2016, will be on public display throughout the nine days of 'SSS III'.
Some idea of the spectacle in store can be gained from this image from SSSI, held in 2009