EVEN the fact that it arrived ten minutes late didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of passengers who boarded the first steam train to stop at Bradford on Avon railway station in more than 50 years.

Excited excursion trippers waited on the platform for the resplendent Lord Dowding to make the first scheduled stop for a steam train at the station since the mid-1960s.

The historic arrival took place just after 8.45am on Sunday and attracted scores of steam train enthusiasts and photographers.

The train, run by new steam charter company Saphos Trains, was travelling from Bristol Temple Meads to Kingswear but had left Bath ten minutes later than planned.

It was on its way via Bath, Bradford on Avon, Westbury, Frome and Taunton to Kingswear in South Devon so that passengers could cross over to Dartmouth for a few hours before returning later in the day.

John Potter, of the Bradford on Avon Preservation Trust, and a railway enthusiast, was not going on the trip but was on the platform to see the Lord Dowding arrive.

He said: “I’m really excited. I’m a great railway enthusiast and it’s great to see a steam train coming through again.”

About 20 passengers boarded the excursion charter train at Bradford on Avon, including a party of six. In all, about 280 passengers had paid up to £170 to make the trip, including a cooked breakfast and supper.

The ten-carriage train carries up to 20 staff, including the driver, fireman and two other people on the footplate, as well as kitchen staff and stewards for every carriage. For safety reasons, it is not allowed to travel at more than 75mph.

Jamie and Pauline Dean, of Trowbridge, had booked their trip to Kingswear in February and said: “This our first time on a steam train and we’re really excited. We’ve been counting down the weeks to this trip.”

Father and son Peter and Andy Jarvis, from Monmouth and Bradford on Avon respectively, were going on the trip to celebrate Peter’s 80th birthday last year.

Andy said: “I booked it back at the beginning of the year. It was dad’s 80th birthday last year and I could not book it then so here we are a year later.

“Dad’s father was born in Kingsbridge in South Devon and was a signalman on the railway in Herefordshire and South Wales so it’s in his blood.”

Peter added: “I’m definitely excited. The last time I travelled on the Dawlish coast line was back in the late 1940s when I used to do some train spotting.”

John and Ann Pemberton, from Melksham, had booked their trip on the train about three months ago. John said: “We have done Saphos tours before up to Scotland and Fort William.”

Ann added: “We’re looking forward to the trip. It’s warm and sunny and South Devon is a beautiful place. It’s a lovely way to travel. It’s slower and calmer and we have been on a trip from Paignton to Kingswear before.”

Clifford and Marion Evans, from Highworth in Swindon, said: “We’ve been on a steam train before, we did a Scottish run last year.

“Marion loves steam trains. She was born and bred in Swindon, which is a steam train heritage centre.

“It’s just something that Marion really fancied so we did it. We booked a few months ago now. We’re really looking forward to the trip.”

Saphos Trains spokesman Harriet Feilding said: "Our research shows that this is the first time that this has happened since the 1960s, before steam came to an end on the mainline.

"This is Saphos Trains’ first year of operations, and it is part of a larger group that owns a number of steam engines.

"Passengers will be travelling in style in a combination of beautifully restored Mark 1 and Mark 2 carriages."

The engine, which is actually West Country Class no. 34046 Braunton, was specially re-named as Battle of Britain Class no. 34052 Lord Dowding.

The re-naming took place to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain, in honour of Air Chief Marshal Dowding, who led Fighter Command during the battle.

Braunton was originally built in 1946. Two years later in 1948, under nationalisation, she became British Railways number 34046, and was officially named Braunton in January 1949.

The first 48 members of the class were named after places in the West Country served by its trains or close to its lines.

Braunton was then withdrawn from service in late 1965, two years before the end of steam on the Southern Region, after accumulating 779,210 miles.

In 1996 the engine was saved from further deterioration, and in July 2007, the locomotive was steamed for the first time since 1965.