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Two Countries, Two Trains, Five Schools

Charity event links schools in Zambia and the North East.

Five local schools are supporting a school in Zambia with the help of a North East charity and Locomotion museum in Shildon.

Cramlington Village Primary School, Durham School (and its junior school Bow), Hesleden Primary School and Stobhillgate First School (Morpeth) have been supporting Linda Community School in Zambia by fundraising, donating educational materials and through letter exchanges.

The links between these schools were established through the work of the Zambezi Sunrise Trust, based in County Durham. The charity works to support the education of disadvantaged children in Zambia. Linda Community School is a school for 500 vulnerable children that the Zambezi Sunrise Trust has been constructing over the past three years in Livingstone.

The Covid-19 pandemic has drastically affected tourism in Zambia and the Royal Livingstone Express, a prestigious steam train that ordinarily takes tourists to see the Victoria Falls, is no longer able to operate in its usual capacity. Since March, there have been no customers. However, the now empty train still needs to run every month to maintain it.

John Gillette, a Zambezi Sunrise Trust trustee, contacted Bushtracks Africa, which operates the service to see if they would take some of the disadvantaged children from Linda Community School on its next outing. They immediately agreed and 80 children and teachers from the school travelled on the train for a special steam safari on 27 November.

In a stroke of coincidence, Locomotion in Shildon is home to a historic steam engine that ran on the same line in Zambia. To connect the schools from Zambia and the North East, the charity and the museum arranged with Bushtracks Africa to have a live video link session for the supporting local schools. This showed the train’s journey and gave the schools in the North East a chance to learn about the story of Zambia’s railways and animals, as well as see their friends in Zambia.

John Gillette explains “When I saw the news that the Royal Livingstone Express was, sadly, having to run empty it was too good an opportunity to miss. The children for whom Zambezi Sunrise Trust have built a school in Livingstone know of the train, everyone in Livingstone does, but in normal circumstances they would not have a chance to go on it. We are extremely grateful to Bushtracks Africa for so enthusiastically embracing the idea and offering the children a steam safari: it will be something they never forget.

"Likewise Locomotion were immediately open to hosting a simultaneous event at the museum for our local supporting schools, focused on their ‘sister’ Zambian train. Unfortunately, the present Covid restrictions meant that it could not be held at the museum, but we were so happy to have everyone linked on the day by video. It has been such a memorable day for everyone concerned, with something good coming out of a difficult situation”.

The Royal Livingstone Express set off with children and teachers at 13.00 GMT on Friday 27 November, with Bushtracks Africa providing a live stream back to children in the UK to watch.


For more information, please contact:

John Gillette, Zambezi Sunrise Trust trustee (01913 772304 /
Pam Porter, Duty Officer Events at Locomotion (01904 685784 /

About the Zambezi Sunrise Trust

  • The Zambezi Sunrise Trust is dedicated to the advancement of education and the relief of poverty, sickness and distress in Zambia.
  • The trust provides ongoing support to projects through the provision of buildings, teaching materials, sport equipment, hygiene products and nutritional support.
  • The trust has facilitated school twinning between schools in Zambia and those in the United Kingdom.
  • For more information, about the Zambezi Sunrise Trust and their work with Linda Community School please visit:

About Locomotion

  • Locomotion offers visitors the chance to see highlights of the national collection of railway vehicles in Shildon, the world’s first railway town
  • Locomotion forms part of the Science Museum Group, along with the Science Museum in London, the Science and Industry Museum in Manchester, the National Science and Media Museum in Bradford and the National Railway Museum in York
  • Locomotion is a partnership between the Science Museum Group and Durham County Council, which is a major funder of the museum
  • Admission to Locomotion is free
  • For more information visit
  • Based at Locomotion, Cape Government Railway 390, was built in 1896 by Sharp Stewart & Co in Glasgow for the Cape Government Railway. In 1971 it was purchased by Zambesi Sawmills Railway where it operated until they ceased operations when it returned to the United Kingdom.

About the Royal Livingstone Express

Part of the Science Museum Group