Published: 26th October 2015
Major funding announcements, completion of prestige projects and the return to steam of high profile locomotives (usually following hideously expensive and often protracted overhauls) are great news stories. Rightly so, they highlight the dogged determination of those in the railway preservation movement to see things through against all the odds – a vibrant and inspirational attitude which presents us with the awesome array of heritage railways we enjoy today the length and breadth of the county.
Amid the headline grabbing achievements are a raft of small success stories. Perhaps easily overlooked when scanning the big picture, every one of these small triumphs has its own back story of hard work and determination. Every one contributes to the overall success of so many railways – and we should applaud them.
Great Central Railway is a major player by any standards. It has won a Heritage Lottery Fund first round pass for significant funding towards the ambition of constructing a major museum in association with the NRM at its Leicester North terminus. This is wonderful stuff, but there is more to developing the GCR as a working museum than a fabulous display building. Demonstrating the everyday activities of a typical Victorian Railway means attention to locations further down the line, such as Quorn and Woodhouse station yard.
Two of GCR’s long-serving volunteers, Brian Screaton and Tom Chaplin, managed a project to renovate and interpret the station yard which has transformed the location. Aided by a £46,416 Biffa Award grant, features are included which recreate some of the facilities which would have been found in the days when the GCR was a main line running to London Marylebone. The project was aimed at enhancing the visitor experience, particularly for younger generations, many of whom would never have seen a working goods yard in a typical rural railway station.
The successful outcome was recognised at the Biffa Award ceremony held at Coventry Transport Museum on October 1 which celebrated the incredible work done by projects across the country towards, as the official title put it, ‘Building communities. Transforming lives.’
Over 240 eligible projects were whittled down to a shortlist of just 20 across the five categories: Community Buildings, Recreation, Small Grants, Cultural Facilities and Rebuilding Biodiversity, as well as an overall winner – with Quorn & Woodhouse station being named as the top ‘Cultural Facility’ project.
The work at Quorn & Woodhouse station includes construction of a timber goods platform incorporating a cattle dock where animals would have been kept prior to transportation and erection of coal staithes to show how coal would have been stored ready to be loaded into locomotive tenders. The station stairs and roof have been authentically repaired and refurbished to address structural problems and a corrugated tin clad building (The Tin Shed) dating from the opening of the railway in 1899 has been rescued from a dilapidated state, re-clad and refurbished to create a community meeting room.
“We are delighted with this award which is a fitting tribute to the hard work of everyone who took part in the project,” commented Bill Ford, Chairman of the David Clarke Railway Trust, following the ceremony. “From the grant application, to the design, to managing the contractors who undertook the work it has been a real team effort. As we continue to develop the railway, unlocking the secrets of how and why the railways were built and how they served communities is really important and we are thrilled Biffa Award have funded and now recognised the work.”
Meanwhile, the South Devon Railway enjoyed a cracking night at Torre Abbey on October 15 which was hosting the English Riviera & South Devon Tourism & Hospitality awards dinner. SDR was thrilled to be named joint winner of two Gold awards, 'Best Visitor Attraction' and 'Best Tourism Experience/Activity'. The later was for its 'Drive a Train' product.
The other major heritage line in the area, Dartmouth Steam Railway & Riverboat Company, picked up Silver in the ‘Sustainable Tourism Award’ category and Bronze in 'Best Tourism Experience/Activity'.
SDR’s awards haul for 2015 now stands at five, earlier this year the railway having picked up a Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence 2015, Transport Trust's Young Preservationist of the Year for Alasdair Page and the RHS and Britain in Bloom 'Outstanding' award.
There could be more recognition of SDR’s efforts to come, it being entered in two categories of the 'Devon Tourism' awards to be announced on November 26 in Plymouth.