1054 coal tank at Loughborough gala. Courtesy of  Phil Marsh

Heritage Lottery Fund makes huge awards to rail projects

Published 29th April 2013

Railway museum, infrastructure, carriages and a locomotive benefit from HLF awards.


Whitehead, Northern Ireland, Keighley, Yorkshire, Sheringham, Norfolk

£2.4million towards making Whitehead ‘The Irish NRM’

The Railway Preservation Society of Ireland (RPSI) has secured a £1.6million HLF grant, together with £800,000 from GROW South Antrim (Generating Rural Opportunities Within South Antrim) thus securing a £2.4million funding package towards the major redevelopment of its Whitehead site in Northern Ireland. The GROW money comes via the Northern Ireland Rural Development Programme.

RPSI has been developing the ‘Whitehead 2020’ project for several years as part of plans for its long term future. The RPSI’s total package of plans cover developments north and south of the border with a projected cost of some £5million. Of this, the Whitehead element would account for between £3million to £4million.

Whitehead, not far from Belfast, is presently an engineering works and storage facility with a short running line from a platform, upon which a new station building is presently approaching completion. This £269,000 building was also largely funded by GROW in a separate grant package, which plainly complements the latest announcements. The major investments at Whitehead aim to develop the site into a national railway museum and major tourist attraction.

They said

“This project will secure the railway heritage in Ireland for generations by enhancing the conservation and engineering facilities at the RPSI’s accredited Museum in Whitehead,” commented Paul Mullan, Head of HLF Northern Ireland, on announcing the HLF’s £1.6million grant offer.

"We are tremendously grateful for the commitment that HLF and GROW are making to this landmark project, responded RPSI vice-chairman, Denis Grimshaw. "We are in the final stages of negotiations to secure a further major grant to complete our funding requirements and we hope to have everything in place within the next few weeks.”

The development of Whitehead includes enhanced visitor facilities, a small exhibits museum, workshop viewing gallery, historic carriage exhibition building, interactive displays, extended workshops and a turntable. “We are delighted that the plans have received such an enthusiastic welcome from people in Whitehead and the surrounding community and we hope that in time our expansion will create more job opportunities at our steam train centre,” added Denis Grimshaw.

The RPSI hopes to commence work early next year with the aim of completion by the end of 2014 – in time for the landmark project to be the focal point of celebrations marking the 50th anniversary of the RPSI being established.

The RPSI collection includes 10 steam locomotives together with historic carriages and wagons formerly used on railway systems throughout Ireland from the 1880s to the 1980s.

RPSIO Steam to look out for this year

Forthcoming RPSI main line operations include a busy programme of steam operations including the Bangor Belle on May 5, the Steam & Jazz season on Friday evenings in June and in the summer a 40th anniversary celebration of the ‘Portrush Flyer’ with trains from Whitehead, Carrickfergus and Belfast to the north coast. All trains are open to the public and tickets are on sale at the Belfast Welcome Centre. Full details of the Society's activities are available at wwww.steamtrainsireland.com.

Bahamas goes Bananas as they get £775,800 to help overhaul

The Bahamas Locomotive Society (BLS) has landed a £775,800 grant from the HLF towards overhauling ‘Jubilee’ No. 45596 Bahamas. In addition to returning Bahamas to steam, the award encompasses restoration of the BLS’s LMS ‘Riding Van’ DM395470 and its conversion into an Educational Resource and Exhibition Centre to be positioned in the dock between the BLS HQ and Ingrow Station to provide a new visitor attraction. The grant also covers employment of an Audience Development Co-ordinator.

Following a period displayed at the NRM in York, Bahamas was returned to the BLS base at Ingrow (Keighley & Worth Valley Railway) in mid-April preparatory to commencement of the overhaul. BLS hopes Bahamas will be operational again by early 2017. “The project will provide employment, training and skill development opportunities at our contractors and at our Keighley & Worth Valley Railway base,” commented BLS spokesman, John Hillier.

BLS will contribute £130,000 to the restoration project. Fundraising therefore continues in the form of BLS’s ‘Steam’s Last Blast’ appeal, the title being based on the May 1961 fitting of a unique double chimney and blast-pipe by BR as an experiment aimed at improving steam locomotive performance. See www.bahamas45596.co.uk for details of how to contribute to the appeal.

The Bahamas Locomotive Society will celebrate the 10th anniversary of opening its ‘Ingrow Loco’ centre (BLS relocated to Ingrow after its previous Dinting base was closed) on May 18. This will probably be the last opportunity to see ‘Jubilee’ No. 45596 complete before stripping for overhaul commences. The day’s event is tagged ‘Words, Song & Sound at Ingrow’ and will feature railway-related poems, readings and live music.

Battle of Britain Bahamas

Weather permitting, at 14.45 a Spitfire and Hurricane from the RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight will perform a flypast and at 15.00 Fiona Spiers, the HLF Manager for Leeds and the Humber, will present an HLF plaque to the BLS for the Society’s recent overhaul of National Trust-owned LNWR ‘Coal Tank’ No. 1054 which is in the care of the BLS. The day will be rounded off with night illumination of No. 45596 Bahamas.

£99,500 grant for North Norfolk Suburban Set project

The North Norfolk Railway has secured a £99,500 HLF grant towards a project tagged ‘The Railways and the Suburbs’. This includes completing the restoration of the Poppy Line’s four-coach post-war King's Cross suburban set.

‘The Railways and the Suburbs’ focuses on the impact of the railways on the development of London’s suburbs. It will include an exhibition to show visitors how railways influenced the growth of the suburbs together with explaining the technologies involved in designing locomotives and carriages specifically for suburban commuting.

The project includes restoration of two carriages which were introduced for suburban travel and which complement vehicles already on the railway, enabling visitors to travel aboard three generations of suburban trains dating from the 1920s to the 1960s.

They said

“We are thrilled to have received the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund and are confident that the project will further the public’s understanding of a vital aspect of everyday life for millions,” commented North Norfolk Railway chairman, Clive Morris.

But not everybody is a winner

Unfortunately, the recent round of Heritage Lottery Fund decisions did not bring good news for every hopeful applicant.

‘Kent’s Community Rail Restoration Project’ aimed at returning steam operation to the East Kent Railway was turned down by the March meeting of the HLF’s Committee for the South East of England. Also, the Committee for Wales gave a ‘reject’ decision to the Ffestiniog Railway Trust’s ‘Taith I'n Treftadaeth: Our Heritage Journey’ project, an application which had received a first round pass for £332,200 with £16,700 development grant.

Written by Cliff Thomas

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