BACK in the 1970s boilermakers at Vickers in Barrow gave the Flying Scotsman a new lease of life and a decade later it was the turn of Sellafield apprentices to save a piece of steam railway history.

The trainees were given the task of getting Sea Lion back in running order to be the centrepiece of the Groudle Glen Railway on the Isle of Man.

After 20 years of neglect, the overgrown and disused route from Groudle Glen to the coast at Sea Lion Rocks was brought back into use for railway traffic and officially re-opened on May 23 in 1986.

Passengers were pulled by diesel locomotives Dolphin and Walrus but what the enthusiasts really wanted was a return to the steam days of 1896 when Sea Lion pulled the first trains.

A display at the Sea Lion Rocks station notes: “The volunteers felt that the railway would be enhanced and returned to its former glory by having a steam locomotive running.

“A project was undertaken to restore Sea Lion, the line’s original 1896 steam locomotive, the remains of which had been donated to the project.

“A generous offer was made by British Nuclear Fuels Limited at Sellafield, to rebuild the locomotive as a project at their Apprentice Training Centre in Cumbria.

“Sea Lion was restored and returned to steam in October 1987 some 48 years since she last pulled a train through the glen.”

Sea Lion had been built by W. G. Bagnall, of Stafford, and by the 1980s was in poor order with some parts removed.

It was restored at Sellafield during 1985 and 1986 and the following year was taken for testing at the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway.

A section of two foot (610mm) gauge track had to be specially laid at Ravenglass.

Getting to the Groudle Glen Railway involves a ride on the Manx Electric Railway followed by a walk through woodland and past a vintage waterwheel.

The line was built to get passengers to a coastal zoo – featuring sea lions and polar bears – which never reopened after the Second World War.

Groudle Glen Railway kept going until the 1960s and then the rail route was pretty much reclaimed by nature until the enthusiasts got to work.

Sea Lion can be seen in action at the Groudle Glen Railway on Sundays until September and on Wednesday evenings from the end of June to the end of August.