IT had been lying in a scrap yard for decades.

But now Hampshire rail enthusiasts have witnessed the historic journey of a locomotive back on the main railway network for the first time in nearly 50 years.

The steam locomotive No. 34046 Braunton attracted a crowd of railway lovers as it stopped off at Southampton Central station on its debut journey from London to Weymouth.

It also passed through Winchester and Eastleigh on its route, hauling The Dorset Coast Express and retracing the routes it used to do all those years ago.

Built in 1946, the locomotive put in 700,000 miles of service on the Southern Region railways back in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s.

A “Bulleid Pacific” design express passenger locomotive, Braunton is a member of the “West Country” class of locomotives, many of which were named in honour of towns along the Southern Railway. The locomotive was built at the Brighton Works, but also has a connection with Eastleigh, where its air smoothed casing was removed in a redesign at the town’s railway works in 1959.

No. 34046 Braunton worked on the Barnstaple to Ilfracombe line passing through Braunton, also seeing service between London, Brighton, Salisbury, Exeter and Plymouth and on Bournemouth to Brighton services.

But it was withdrawn from service in 1965 then lay in a scrapyard rotting for years.

Owned by Locomotive 34046 Ltd, it was restored by West Somerset Restoration.

Brian Southon, committee member of the Eastleigh Railway Preservation Society, said the locomotive was well known.

He said there were many West Country class locomotives produced, but only a few were still running.

“It’s a good addition to the few that are left running,” he added.

“Old railway enthusiasts will still remember it because they were such a popular class of locomotive, the West Country class, and they were good workhorses, they were very versatile.

“It’s a blast from the past,” he added.

The locomotive has been running on the West Somerset Railway, but has now got the necessary certification for mainline operation.

It is working for the summer as one of a pair of historic steam locomotives on The Dorset Coast Express seaside steam service from London Victoria through to Weymouth, run by heritage rail operator The Railway Touring Company.

The other is the No. 34067 Tangmere, a Battle of Britain class Pacific built in 1947 that also worked the Southern Railway.

The train will run each Wednesday until September 11.

“This is a classic pairing which will delight alike both steam rail enthusiasts and passengers looking for a special seaside day out,” said Nigel Dobbing, managing director of The Railway Touring Company.

For tickets call 01553 661500.