Published: 27th March 2015
The Colne Valley Railway has announced that this will be its final year of operating the mile-long line on the trackbed of the old Colne Valley & Halstead Railway centred at Castle Hedingham station.
Announcement that the line’s landlords had given notice that the railway no longer formed part of his plans for the site came as a shock to the society and the heritage railway world at large. Although there have been concerns over the line’s long-term security for a decade, it had been thought these issues were being overcome.
Although the present railway operation will close at the end of 2015, The Colne Valley Railway Preservation Society says it will look for another site with the objective of relocating in 2016. “The Charity’s aim remains to develop a museum complete with demonstration railway portraying the history of the original Colne Valley & Halstead Railway and its effect on the communities of the upper Colne Valley,” a statement confirmed. “The Charity would like to hear from anyone that can assist in the search for a new site or offer any other assistance at this time.”
“We are extremely disappointed at this turn of events but fully understand the landowners position,” commented Paul Lemon, Chairman of the Colne Valley Railway Preservation Society. “We have the equipment, artefacts and skills to develop a first class attraction and we are optimistic we can find a site as good as or better than the site at Castle Hedingham in as short a time as possible. We trust all our customers will bear with us during this transition.”
The society stresses the railway will operate normally throughout the coming year, with the first operating days being over the Easter Holiday.
The CVR was founded on a literally green field site in 1973 by Dick and Jane Hymas. When they decided to retire all seemed set for the railway to be purchased by the Colne Valley and Halstead Railway Trust. The Trust had been formed by volunteers for the purpose of taking over the railway to ensure its future and had secured a £999,500 HLF grant for this same purpose. In early 2006 this deal collapsed and the line and land was sold to Australian purchasers. The society, first formed in 1974 and recently converted into a registered charity, has since continued to operate the railway on a leasehold basis.
Four years ago the society agreed a new five year lease with the landlord which was understood to include an option to purchase. A £1.5million bid for HLF funds to help buy the land and railway was turned down in 2012 but the CVRPS submitted a revised application, emphasising the benefits to the community of the CVR, last August. In late November this bid passed the Stage One HLF application process. It seems this route towards a new future is at an end with the railway now continuing through to the conclusion of the present lease then closing in its current form.
The society has been contracted by the landlord to handle disposal of railway assets owned by him. This will be undertaken by a series of competitive tenders over the coming year, although most items will not be available for release until early 2016. To register for the tenders, email Sally Halls, Colne Valley Railway Office Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Locomotives and stock owned by the society would form the nucleus of a new operation at an alternative site. Several other organisations owning locomotives and other equipment are based at the Colne Valley Railway.