HERITAGE rail bosses are giving visitors a chance to bid a final farewell to an iconic steam engine before it is withdrawn from service.

The Union of South Africa (60009) will, once again, return to the tracks at East Lancashire Railway for a number of visits between now and the end of the year.

The first of its 'farewell' tours will be this weekend.

This renowned locomotive is just one of six surviving LNER Class A4’s.

Built at Doncaster Rail Works in June 1937, originally named Osprey, it features a distinctive springbok plaque on its side.

The South African name was put on the locomotive after World War II in recognition of the contribution of that country to the UK in the war. 

It will be placed on permanent static display, but until then, it will b running on the ELR on four special occasions - with August 11-15, September 1-2 and October 15-17also pencilled in, before a final farewell gala, of which details will be revealed soon.

Mike Kelly, ELR Chairman said: “It’s a privilege to have the Union of South Africa based at ELR for her final year in steam, and it promises to be a truly magnificent finale to a fantastic career.

“This stunning looking locomotive with so much power, beauty and graceful lines has become part of the family at the ELR and so waving farewell be emotional.

“At the very least we get this unique opportunity to offer our visitors a host of exciting opportunities to create lasting memories with a ride on this impressive locomotive over the remainder of the year - it’s an experience not to be missed so we’d advise people to book early to avoid disappointment.”

On September 9 2015, the locomotive carried The Queen, Prince Phillip and Scottish First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon to officially reopen the Borders Railway between Edinburgh Waverley and Tweedbank.