Following completion of Heavy and General Repairs, Locomotives were given trial runs, with Works inspectors,before release from Main Works and return to traffic.
This was certainly the case with Darlington North Road Locomotive Works which continued work on Steam Engines until closure in 1965/6.
Freight Locomotives were trialled on the Darlington to Middleton-in Teesdale line, Main Line Passenger Locomotives had a much longer trial, going from Darlington round by Bishop Auckland before joining the East Coast Main line just south of Durham, then to Newcastle before returning on the coast line through Sunderland and Hartlepool.
Having commenced my training at Darlington Works in 1962, I soon heard about these trial runs and made myself known to the Inspector who accompanied the runs.
I was invited to go on the next run on the understanding that I did the oiling and checking of axle boxes and running gear during the trial. 'Oh, and by the way', said the Inspector, 'as the weather is hot I should bring a towel, swimming trunks and sandwiches'.
We departed the works about 10am. on a J27 steam engine and proceeded up the beautiful line through Piercebridge and Barnard Castle, where we stopped for a check around the engine, then onto the Middleton branch near Lartington, arriving in Middleton-in-Teesdale about 12 o'clock. After checking around the engine I was informed by the Inspector that it was now 'swim time'. The Driver, Fireman, Inspector and myself proceeded to the Water Tower, changed into our swimming gear in the area beneath the water tower, up the external iron ladder ( not easy in bare feet) and into the Tank; a bit sludgy but quite warm!. What an experience!!
I am certain this was a regular experience during summer months but I only had the joy of doing it once
I did however accompany a V2 Passenger Engine on its longer trial run, but that is another story.
I don't think we would be doing this today but never mind, it is one of my many memories of an amazing career.
Read about Friends contributions to the National Railway Museum here