Durham Cathedral train unveiled to mark return of Lindisfarne Gospels

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RAIL operator East Coast has named one of its trains “Durham Cathedral” to mark the Lindisfarne Gospels’ return to the North East.

Thousands of visitors will make their way to the historic city in the coming months to see the Lindisfarne Gospels in the shadow of the iconic Norman cathedral.

The locomotive, number 91114, was unveiled by the Dean of Durham, the Very Reverend Michael Sadgrove, accompanied by the Vice Chancellor of Durham University, Professor Chris Higgins, and East Coast’s Managing Director Karen Boswell, on Platform 2 at Newcastle Central Station today.

The University’s Chancellor, world-famous baritone Sir Thomas Allen, joined invited guests watching today’s ceremony.

East Coast Managing Director Karen Boswell said: “The view of Durham Cathedral from an East Coast train crossing the city’s Victorian viaduct is one of the greatest railway vistas in the world.

“It’s especially fitting that at this special time, with the Lindisfarne Gospels attracting thousands of visitors, that we name the train in honour of this iconic building.

“We’re expecting to bring thousands of visitors to Durham during the three months when the Gospels are displayed. This eye-catching train will promote the city, Cathedral and Gospels along the East Coast Main Line all the way from London to Edinburgh.”

The Durham Cathedral Choir provided musical accompaniment to the ceremony, and also sang for passengers on-board the train’s inaugural journey from Newcastle to Durham. The East Coast Railway Chaplain, the Reverend Stephen Sorby, blessed the newly-named train prior to its inaugural departure for Durham, and on to London King’s Cross.

The locomotive ‘Durham Cathedral’ features specially-commissioned cast-iron nameplates, and a unique livery depicting the intricate visual designs of the Lindisfarne Gospels, alongside one of Durham’s other well-loved landmarks – the towering Victorian railway viaduct which carries the East Coast Main Line high above the city, which gives passengers one of the world’s finest cityscape views from a train.

The Lindisfarne Gospels book is one of the greatest landmarks of human cultural achievement. Created by the community of St Cuthbert on Lindisfarne, it is one of the world’s finest surviving examples of Medieval creativity and craftsmanship.

Today’s journey took a similar route to the monks of Lindisfarne, who in 875 AD fled the island and carried the Lindisfarne Gospels book and St Cuthbert’s remains from Northumberland to his final resting place in Durham.

Dean “delighted” with train

The Dean of Durham, the Very Reverend Michael Sadgrove, said: “I am delighted that Durham Cathedral will once again have its name on a Class 91 electric locomotive running on the East Coast Main Line.

“On the east side of England, we are proud of this historic line. Perhaps this is especially true in County Durham, the cradle of the world’s railways. But Durham’s heritage also includes the religious dimension of life that laid the foundations of North East England in Saxon times, and is symbolised by St Cuthbert and Durham Cathedral.

“Many people who travel north up the East Coast line know they have arrived in the North East when they see the wonderful view of Durham Castle and Cathedral from the viaduct. It is one of the most famous sights in the world.

“Naming locomotives is a way of connecting a railway with the places it passes through. I think this is something passengers value.

“The Durham World Heritage Site is proud to be welcoming the Lindisfarne Gospel Book to its historic home; imagery from the Gospels will add a wonderful splash of colour to the train during these three months of the exhibition.

“I am one of those clergy who love railways. When I came to Durham 10 years ago, I was told that because this line was originally built across land that belonged to the Cathedral Chapter, Deans had the right to flag down any train they wished at Durham station. Sadly, we have not found any such clause written into the 19th century covenants, so I have not taken my life into my hands to test it out. But it is a nice urban myth, and whether or not 91114 is stopping at Durham, I shall always be proud to see the locomotive that bears our name.”

The Gospels are the centrepiece of a unique exhibition recounting the story of the St Cuthbert community, and how the book and Cuthbert’s relics came to arrive in the city.

The exhibition, which is open each day until Monday 30 September 2013 at Durham University’s Palace Green Library, is at the heart of a programme of concerts and activities across the North East.

Professor Chris Higgins, Vice-Chancellor of Durham University and chair of the Lindisfarne Gospels Programme Board, said: “The Lindisfarne Gospels has a uniquely important place in the art, scholarship, culture and Christian Heritage of the North East and Durham University is extremely proud to have led the return of the Gospels to its scholarly and cultural home in Durham, partnering the British Library, Durham County Council and Durham Cathedral.

“Already more than 23,000 people have booked their tickets to visit the exhibition and we hope that’s just the start, as we believe this is one of the best exhibitions in the UK this year.”

City of Durham MP Roberta Blackman-Woods said: “It is fantastic news that East Coast has named a train ‘Durham Cathedral’ in honour of the Lindisfarne Gospels coming back to the North East for the first time in 12 years.

“The 1,300 year old, world-renowned Gospels are a great source of pride for the North East, and a significant part of our cultural heritage. I hope that many people visit the Gospels, and that East Coast are able to bring many visitors to our fantastic region on-board the newly named Durham Cathedral train.”