Model steam trains have always been a favourite of the younger generation with nearly every child owning a miniature train set.

Now, what were once seen as toys could be inspiring the next generation of engineers as a site in Newcastle is offering free train rides to children. Model steam engines have been a feature at Exhibition Park for over 60 years where talented engineers have been creating scale models of some of the most famous engines ever to grace the rails, The Journal reports.

Everything from the Flying Scotsman to the Mallard have been developed at the Newcastle park and officials hope that by engaging more youngsters into the profession they may be able to nurture the next generation.

Linda Nicholls, secretary of the Tyneside Society of Model and Experimental Engineers, explained to The Journal that some of the models had taken 25 years to build. She added that they display the rich railway heritage the north-east holds and that all the replica trains that are put together are fully functional.

Speaking about the new initiative, Ms Nicholls told the news provider: "We’re going to be doing free rides for children from now on. Children love Thomas the Tank Engine, so it gives them a fun ride, but also it’s the heritage of something that’s a dying art and the knowledge of how to make the engines.

“If we can help some budding engineers learn more from the experts we have here, then that would be brilliant.”

The north-east of England was, and still is, one of the most prominent places for British railways. Today, the region is a main part of the East Coast mainline with key stops at Newcastle and Alnmouth connecting the area to London and Edinburgh.

The North Eastern Railway (NER) started in the 17th to 18th century where the route was used to serve the numerous collieries in the area branching out to other parts including Stockton and Darlington.