PASSENGER trains have returned to the Epping Ongar Railway after an absence of more than four years.
Crowds swarmed across the platform at Ongar railway station on Friday to greet the first steam service since 1957.
Marie Chant, 67, from Ilford, was the first person to buy a ticket at Ongar station at 8.45am, with the first train due at 11am.
"It's amazing, I am thrilled the volunteers have got this far, I have got goose pimples, I'm that excited," she said.
The first train was delayed by one hour as the engine's driver was held up in traffic resulting from a crash on the M25, but that did not dampen the mood on a sweltering day.
Alan Axcell, 65, from Brentwood, also boarded the train at Ongar.
"I go past here regularly and see the work that has been going on," he said.
"They have done a marvellous job.
"It's the dedication of a small band of people and what they have managed to achieve is really great."
There were also a number of families with young children present on Friday to witness the special occasion.
The distant sound of a whistle signalled the approaching train and the unique smells and sounds of a steam engine hung in the air.
As it pulled in the delighted passengers moved forward as one to welcome a new era of steam to Essex's longest heritage railway.
For timetable and ticket information see eorailway.co.uk