Published: 27th May 2016
The UK’s biggest freight company, DB Cargo (DBC) has saved the day for the Chinnor & Princes Risborough Railway (C&PRR) after a 100 year old steam locomotive was declared a failure.
When the steam locomotive’s visit was cancelled, DBC was approached to see if it could spare one of their locomotives to operate trains at the railway’s Gala weekend and the request was quickly agreed. The freight company promised one of its flagship Class 66 diesel locomotives for the 4&5 June Gala weekend to take its place.
A DB Cargo spokesman said: “DB Cargo is delighted to be able to support the Chinnor & Princes Risborough Railway in its hour of need.”
A C&PRR spokesman said: “The railway is grateful for DB Cargo’s fast response and in addition to rescuing our event, a piece of history will be made as the locomotive will be the first one to use the new connection onto the national network.”
The Class 66 will be arriving from Acton early on Saturday 4 June making it the first locomotive to use the newly installed main line connection. Passengers will have to wait a few more months before they can also traverse the connection but on 4&5 June, a free bus service will be running between Princes Risborough and Chinnor stations for the Route 66 gala event.
The Class 66 120 ton diesels are rarely used on passenger trains, and are designed to pull a 3000 ton train and will replace the 80 ton vintage steam locomotive which used to pull 1000 ton coal trains. This was withdrawn from service at the start of May when safety checks revealed a firebox problem necessitating repairs which will take several months.
The C&PRR was delighted to be awarded the top award in a Department for Transport (DfT) million-pound rail-tourism competition. The competition awarded a top prize of £75,000 to the C&PRR to help fund the construction of a new platform at Princes Risborough and a shunting loop.
The award was made in competition against many other innovative projects submitted by other preserved railways across the UK. The project is designed to boost rail-related tourism using preserved railways in a ‘Dragons Den’ type competition, funded by the Government.
The C&PRR was absolutely delighted to be listed at the top of the award notice published by Rail Minister Claire Perry. The citation reads that the award was made to part-fund:
Behind this simple statement lies 25 years hard work by volunteers in saving the four mile railway from Princes Risborough to Chinnor after closure in 1989. In the last 18 months, the railway has built an education and visitor centre, re-opened the Princes Risborough North Signalbox and reconnected the line to the national network.
A C&PRR spokesman said: “The £75,000 award, together with donations, legacies and the proceeds of fundraising activities means that a new platform will be constructed at Princes Risborough with level access to the Chiltern Railways’ platforms. This will be complimented with the addition of a shunting loop enabling the locomotive to run-round the train for the return journey.”
Enabling work has already commenced on the platform which should open in the next year making the C&PRR the nearest connected steam railway to London. Passengers will then be able to travel by Chiltern Railways’ services from Oxford, Birmingham, Aylesbury and London to Princes Risborough and with a simple platform change board a 1950s steam train deep into the Chilterns on an eight mile round trip taking an hour.
But the C&PRR will need more volunteers to carry out the myriad of tasks that are needed to run a preserved railway and there has never been a better time to join and learn new skills which are often transferable to your day job. In fact, the C&PRR runs regular railway operational training days for Network Rail staff. And as Network Rail are partners in the award, the close and good working relationship with them can only prosper.
This award, combined with the line’s new main line connection, will bring significant tourism benefits to the Chinnor area with inbound tourism that does not rely on road transport. Walkers and cyclists are expected to use rail all the way into the Chilterns to use The Phoenix Cycle Trail and the ancient Icknield Way and Ridgeway bridlepaths.
It is hoped that steam, and preserved diesel trains will be running from Chinnor to Princes Risborough within the next six months, once safety training has been completed and the ‘paperwork’ has been signed off by the rail authorities.
Rail Minister Claire Perry said: “We want to show the best of British to our visitors and Heritage and Community Railways are part of that package. I am delighted that the Chinnor & Princes Risborough Railway is one of 17 national winners across Britain. I look forward to seeing the scheme develop, providing another great reason to visit Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire.”
At a C&PRR Board meeting in late May, the proposed Heads of Terms for a 99 year lease with Network Rail for land at Princes Risborough were accepted marking another major step forward for the railway.
“I would like to publicly thank all of our volunteers who continue to work ceaselessly in all Departments and who make the Railway somewhere that visitors and volunteers enjoy and who will want to return to on future occasions. May I also say that if you are not yet a volunteer, then do think about how you could become involved in some way please.”