Huge crowd flocks to King’s Lynn train station to see locomotive Sir Nigel Gresley

The unmistakable sound of hissing steam delighted crowds of people who came out to catch a glimpse of a mechanical marvel yesterday.

There was a buzz of excitement as the Gresley Pacific Sir Nigel Gresley 60007 locomotive was hauled into King's Lynn train station just before 10am.

Families and train enthusiasts then cheered as the locomotive sent plumes of steam into the cold, overcast sky before chugging its way out of the station.

The special service to London King's Cross was organised by Lynn-based Railway Touring Company and some passengers paid up to �139 to travel in style to the capital.

Sandy and Mick Woodbridge, who live in Gaywood, near King's Lynn, were two of the premier dining passengers who enjoyed a full English breakfast on their way to London.

The couple also tucked into a three-course Christmas dinner on their return journey to Norfolk last night.

Speaking on the platform yesterday morning, Mrs Woodbridge said: 'We have both been really looking forward to travelling down to London on this steam train.

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'It might take a bit longer to get to London but it is so much more relaxing and it will be great to be able to sit back and enjoy the views.

'We haven't even decided what we will do in London because we have been just so excited to travel by steam train from King's Lynn.'

Mr Woodbridge added: 'This takes me right back to when I joined the RAF as a young man.

'I travelled on the Fenman from Downham Market to get to King's Cross and also got it coming home so this will be like a trip down memory lane.'

Paul and Madeline Oakley, from Terrington St Clement, near King's Lynn, also took their grandsons three-year-old Harrison Towell and his brother Daniel, seven, to London the old fashioned way.

Mr Oakley said: 'The two of them are really interested in steam trains - mainly because their other grandfather lives and breathes trains as a curator of the National Railway Museum in York.

'This is a great early Christmas present for them and it is also great to see so many people have come out to see the train.'

Andrew Steele, who took his two-year-old daughter Eliza to see the train, added: 'This is the sort of thing you don't get the chance to see very often and these trains do have a lot of character.'

After leaving King's Lynn, people gathered at various crossing points in the Fens to wave at the 300 passengers on board as the train glided through Downham Market, Ely and Cambridge.

The steam train then joined the East Coast Main Line at Hitchin and arrived at London King's Cross just before 1pm.

The steam train left the London train station at 6.33pm to return to Norfolk and pulled in at Downham Market at 8.20pm, Watlington at 8.28pm and finally King's Lynn at 8.44pm.

The Sir Nigel Gresley locomotive was built in 1937 by the London and North Eastern Railway and is named after its designer.

It was based mainly in London working express trains to the North East of England and Scotland.

In 1959 it set the official post war speed record for steam of 112mph.