by Phil Marsh

Mid-Hants Railway wins Heritage Lottery Fund support for Bulleid train project

Published: 7th July 2014

Stage one pass for Merchant Navy restoration project at the Mid-Hants Railway

Bulleid project passes first round

The Mid-Hants Railway has secured stage one approval for its £894,700 application (90% of total eligible project costs) for HLF funds towards the restoration to steam of ‘Merchant Navy’ No. 35005 Canadian Pacific and two Bulleid coaches. This decision brings with it the award of a £44,700 grant to assist development of the scheme.

The first-round pass means the project meets HLF criteria for funding and represents an endorsement of the outline proposals. The MHR now has up to two years to submit fully developed proposals to compete for a firm award. Mid-Hants Railway Ltd and Mid-Hants Railway Preservation Society Ltd aim to submit the full application later this year. If approved, work should commence early in 2015 aimed at completion by the end of 2017.

The ‘Canadian Pacific - engineering a future from the past’ project will be undertaken at the MHR’s Ropley MPD and at Eastleigh Railway Works, where No. 35005 Canadian Pacific was built in 1941.

The loco was purchased by the MHR in 2002, withdrawn in 2008 and taken to Eastleigh in 2011 to be stored under cover. Stripping to evaluate the scope and cost of an overhaul commenced early last year. The project also includes restoration of two wood-framed Bulleid-designed ex-Southern Railway carriages built just after the war. They are the oldest carriages on the Watercress Line and when restored will run with a similar vehicle presently nearing the end of an extensive overhaul at Ropley.

The project will provide employment for 11 new members of staff, including 6 apprentices undertaking two years of training in engineering skills. The scheme also provides work experience opportunities for local unemployed youngsters and engineering students at Eastleigh and a range of community outreach activities offering education and information benefits.

They said:

“We are absolutely delighted that the Heritage Lottery Fund has given this huge vote of confidence in the record of the Watercress Line’s staff and volunteers to complete projects on time and on budget. We now have to work hard to submit a successful second round application and that will eventually lead to some major new attractions on the Watercress Line,” said Mrs Steve Crowther, chair of Mid-Hants Railway

Preservation Society Ltd. “We have run a number of projects part funded by HLF over recent years. The principal ones have been the development of the new workshops at Ropley between 2010 and 2012, plus the training of 16 apprentices between 2009 and the present time.

The railway is very appreciative of the help given by HLF without which so many excellent developments would not have been possible,” she added.

“This project provides an excellent opportunity to secure the long-term future of Hampshire’s railway heritage. Our initial support for plans to restore Canadian Pacific and the Bulleid coaches to their former glory will help conserve this important heritage for generations to come, and through the enhanced visitor experience and extensive volunteering and training opportunities, more people will be able to learn about the social, political and economic significance of our historic railways,” commented Stuart McLeod, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund South East.

Further guests boost GWR theme for MHR autumn gala

While the Mid-Hants Railway is a bastion of Southern steam amid a genuine Southern scene, gala events are an opportunity to present something a little different to attract enthusiast(ic) visitors. Very different in the case of the Watercress Line’s October 24-26 Autumn Steam Gala, which will present a strongly Great Western feel to the Alresford to Alton line.

Making full use of its main line connection at Alton (with easy access to the heritage line from the national network) the star-studded line-up of guest motive power will be lead by ‘Britannia’ No. 70000 Britannia and ‘Castle’ No. 5029 Nunney Castle. Other visiting locos will comprise ‘Hall’ No. 6960 Raveningham Hall, newly overhauled GWR 2-8-0T No. 4270 and No. 7812 Erlestoke Manor.

Talks are in progress which could see this fleet joined by 0-4-2T No. 1450. Of the home fleet, 9F No. 92212 should also feature to reinforce this three-day Western ‘takeover’ of the Hampshire line!

Although a main line loco, No. 70000 Britannia is currently at Ropley having arrived by road in March. The leading wheelset was removed on the wheel drop and a new axle is being made by South Devon Railway Engineering in Buckfastleigh.

The tender has been delivered (by road) to the MHR preparatory to joining the locomotive when it is ready to resume operation. Britannia is expected to adopt a different number/name identity during the gala, although a final decision (it will not necessarily be the provisional thought which has appeared on some advance publicity) as to exactly what this will be awaits confirmation.

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