THE WORLD'S oldest working beam engines roared into life once more as hundreds of people descended upon the Crofton pumping station for the traditional Easter steaming weekend.

The famous Crofton beam engines were back up and running after being out of action since September while crucial repair works were carried out by specialists HA McEwen Ltd and volunteers.

Those who went along from Saturday to Monday saw the steam billowing out of the coal-fired, 22-tonne Lancashire boiler, were told about how the 205-year-old engines pump water from Crofton Water up to the Kennet and Avon Canal's highest point and were shown around the site in what was a very successful reopening.

"It was a superb weekend and for everyone involved in making this famous old machine come alive again was a wonderful feeling," said Peter Turvey, chairman of the Crofton branch of the Kennet and Avon Canal Trust.

"I have to say it really was touch and go to see if we were going to make it in time but somehow we got over the line in the nick of time. The feedback we have received from those who went along was so positive.

"People got a chance to explore the place, learn about it and see all the hard work that goes into making everything run smoothly. One of the engines was a little bit slow in starting, which is expected when it has been out of action after six months but thankfully it was working fine in no time at all.

"There are fascinated by the huge size of the pumping station, how it all works and its place in history as the world's oldest working beam engine - that in itself is truly remarkable.

"I want to thank everyone who made this possible. It has taken a monumental effort to get to where we are and now we have done it, it is a brilliant feeling.

All of this was made possible after more than £45,000 was raised which meant that the specialists could repair the machine's corroded rivets, have its mechanical fastener cut out and replaced and the volunteers carried out a great deal of brickwork, painting and ironwork too.

It was touch and go whether or not the machine would be ready for the Easter steaming weekend but it passed its safety inspection the weekend before last.