Published: 10th March 2015
Bedfordshire’s Leighton Buzzard Railway (LBR) launched a ‘Double The Money’ campaign on March 8. Thanks to a generous benefactor, every £1 raised by June 7 will be matched by another £1 up to a total of £50,000 – if the 2ft gauge line can achieve its target the donations will be worth £100,000.
In launching the ‘Double The Money’ campaign at LBR’s March 7 Annual General Meeting, railway chairman Terry Bendall confirmed that a number of members had already pledged £37,000 towards the appeal.
With over £100,000 already in the coffers, if the railway can take full advantage of the £1 for £1 offer it will be well on its way to realising its dream of providing a new station building at its Page’s Park terminus worthy of the line’s status as an accredited museum. However, money will still be needed to fully complete the interior of the new station so every donation is crucially important.
The existing station building at Page’s Park was already third-hand when it was erected in the early years of the preservation project at LBR. LBR freely admits that while it might charitably be said to be in keeping with the industrial roots of the railway, which was built to carry sand, the corrugated iron clad building is increasingly showing its age and presents a poor first impression of the railway.
The planned new building will echo the designs of London & North Western Railway (the company which built the town’s original main line station) platform buildings. It will provide new facilities for the railway and its passengers while also having space available for community use.
The Leighton Buzzard Railway first launched ‘The Museum Gateway Project’ at Page’s Park terminus in October 2011 shortly after agreeing leases which provided long-term security at Page’s Park. Then, as now, it represented the biggest project in the line’s history and aimed to provide a fitting gateway to one of the most important working museums (the actual railway is an accredited museum) of its kind in the country.
To emphasise the importance of the railway, guests for the launch led by LBNGRS president, Sir William McAlpine and Andrew Selous MP (South-West Bedfordshire) walked under a symbolic gateway formed with two canopy brackets salvaged in 1989 from Leighton Buzzard’s old main line station to view an astonishing six steam and 18 internal combustion locomotives in the station platforms, representing LBR’s historic collection of over 50 locomotives.
In addition to equipment from its sand industry roots, the railway is home to a significant collection of WW1 vintage locomotives and stock. The latter includes The National Railway Museum’s ‘protected’ Simplex No. 3098 (MR1377/1918) on loan to the railway and it is the base of The Greensand Railway Museum Trust’s locomotives, led by Baldwin 4-6-0T WDLR No. 778.
A subsequent £516,800 Heritage Lottery Fund application covering provision of a new main building at Page’s Park with other upgrades secured a Stage One pass and development grant, but the crucial Stage Two final application was turned down last year. Following this unexpected disappointment, LBR re-appraised the scheme and opted for a revised building plan, utilising a similar footprint to the earlier scheme for which planning permission had been secured.
Having devoted well over 1,200 hours of volunteer effort over three years towards developing the scheme, this is a project more than deserving of success!
Referring to the ‘double your money’ offer made by a benefactor who does not wish to be identified but very much wants the railway to succeed in constructing a new station building, LBR chairman, Terry Bendall, commented, “‘I am both delighted and grateful. This comes at a crucial time for the railway and marks the start of our comeback from the disappointment of being turned down by the HLF. We decided to raise the money ourselves and the support has already been fantastic.”
“If we can raise the full £50,000 we double our money and will have enough to demolish the existing dilapidated station and erect the new building,” Terry continued. “Please help us give the Leighton Buzzard Narrow Gauge Railway a decent station!’
Donations can be made via the Railway’s website at www.buzzrail.co.uk or by post to the Leighton Buzzard Narrow Gauge Railway Society Limited, Page’s Park Station, Billington Road, Leighton Buzzard, LU7 4TN.