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Published 23rd July 2012
ISLE OF WIGHT - The miserable summer weather of 2012 has been brightened considerably on the Isle of Wight following Royal recognition and a Heritage Lottery Fund Grant.
The IOWSR has been busy fundraising for several years to raise the matched funding required to accompany a Heritage Lottery Fund submission to construct a large building and to provide covered accommodation for their wooden bodied carriages.
This will be built in what is currently known as ’Griffin’s Field’ just away from Havenstreet station, where sidings have been laid to store rail vehicles away from the station at the railway’s HQ.
The grant of £970,000 to the IOWSR was made for its ‘Changing Trains’ Project. The grant will help protect and secure the future of their many rare railway vehicles as well as allowing the public to see and enjoy them in the new building. This will contain new interpretative and interactive facilities for visitors.
The IOWSR has one of the World’s most important collections of historic railway rolling stock totalling some 80 items. The collection of locomotives, carriages and wagons dates back to the 1860s. It does not operate any mark one carriages, unlike all other preserved railways.
This award will allow the Steam Railway for the first time to accommodate under cover most of this historic rolling stock, including those items not yet restored. Comprising new floorspace of some 2,000 sq metres, rolling stock will be berthed and displayed on four tracks within the ‘Changing Trains’ building, with a fifth track accommodated under a 500 sq metre lean-to on one side of the building.
Chris Tagart, Lottery Application Director for the IOWSR said, “We are thrilled that the Heritage Lottery Fund has awarded us this grant. It will enable us to much better conserve our historic carriages, wagons and locomotives and to tell their stories to our visitors.
Currently all our rolling stock has little or no protection from the ravages of the British weather, so the year-round combination of rain, wind, frost, sunlight and heat all take their toll on these fine old vehicles”.
“Most of the new Changing Trains building will be accessible to the public with a substantial investment of £100,000 being dedicated to new interpretation facilities,” said Chris. “These will include interactive elements for families and new facilities for school visits.
One unusual display is ‘The Beach Hut Carriage’, which will tell the story of why our historic carriages survived, while another will depict the story of former wartime female railway guard, May Joyce, who met and married an engine driver!” Many of the carriages survived as animal shelters on farms, were used as holiday accommodation or even as beach huts!
Changing Trains has been several years in the planning, and in total will cost £1,200,000. The Heritage Lottery Fund grant represents 81% of the total project costs. Partnership funding for the remaining 19% has been raised by the Steam Railway itself, with £150,000 in cash raised through donations and a public appeal, and £75,000 secured through volunteer labour from IW Steam Railway personnel.
“This is transformational stuff for the Isle of Wight Steam Railway”, said IW Steam Railway Chairman, Steve Oates. “We are hugely indebted to the Heritage Lottery Fund and to all those who gave so generously to our appeal. After 41 years of operating and growing our railway we will soon have a new purpose-built structure which will not only protect and conserve so much of the collection we have built-up, but also provide a wonderful new attraction for our many visitors.
To be awarded a grant of this size is a huge acknowledgment of the skills, effort and dedication of our 300 volunteers and staff who work so hard to keep a little piece of Island railway history alive for future generations to enjoy”.
With full planning consent already in place, construction of Changing Trains will commence in September this year and will take 12 months. The planning and design of the building and associated infrastructure has been overseen by Steam Railway general manager Peter Vail.
It was undertaken in-house by engineering volunteer Pete Jardine and the Railway’s Civil Engineering Manager Dave Walker, together with Island based chartered quantity surveyor Philip Pike, who generously donated his time to the project along with another 40 IOWSR personnel closely involved in planning the overall project.
Stuart McLeod, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund for South East England, said: “This investment is exciting news for the Isle of Wight, as we see this important heritage site celebrate news of HLF funding today. As the guardians of one of the world’s most important collections of historic railway rolling stock, this funding will enable the Isle of Wight Steam Railway to offer exciting opportunities for people of all ages to get involved in the heritage on their doorstep.”
The IOWSR operates eleven vintage wooden carriages and a collection of historic goods vehicles, hauled by equally historic tank locomotives, three of which operated on the Island during the first half of the last century. A further carriage, is being specially adapted for disabled visitors, is nearing completion. Trains run on over 200 days a year with 25 special events each season.
HM The Queen recognised the volunteer efforts of the IOWSR and conferred Royal Recognition by awarding them the ‘Volunteers’ MBE in her Diamond Jubilee Honours list. This is the highest award made to volunteer groups called ‘The Queen's Award for Voluntary Service 2012‘.
The award was conferred in recognition of the work, community involvement and achievements made possible by the IOWSR’s volunteers.
"It is a wonderful honour for our Railway to receive this award," said IW Steam Railway Chairman, Steve Oates. "This award is a very significant and appropriate tribute to the many hundreds of volunteers past and present who, over the past half-century, have each contributed so much to our work in preserving, restoring and bringing back to life an important part of our Island's heritage".
Volunteering has always been at the heart of the Isle of Wight Steam Railway development from the start of dedicated volunteers who saved one locomotive and a few items of railway rolling stock in the mid-1960s. Today over 300 volunteers restore and keep the trains running contributing millions of hours of volunteer activity.