Published: 27th February 2016
Achievements and distinctions across the entire heritage railway industry were recognised at the Heritage Railway Association 2015 Awards Night. Held on February 6 in The Grand Station banqueting centre at Wolverhampton low level station, once the GWR’s most northerly broad gauge station, the awards acknowledged individuals, institutions and railways in eight categories.
The evening was hosted by Paul Lewin, General Manager of the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railway with the awards being presented by Mark Garnier MP, Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Heritage Rail.
To create a special atmosphere for the gala night, Wolverhampton banqueting centre was temporarily transformed back into the Low Level Station, with sound, lights and smoke effects heralding the arrival and departure of a ‘steam-hauled passenger train’ headed by Keighley & Worth Valley Railway’s out-of-ticket Pannier No. 5775 painted in the fictitious Great Northern & Southern Railway colours it carried during shooting of Lionel Jeffries' 1970 film ‘The Railway Children’, the cinematic classic which marked its 45th anniversary 2015.
The HRA Annual Award (Large Groups) was jointly awarded, judges declaring a tie between the Severn Valley Railway (marking its 50th anniversary and stylish half-century celebrations) and the Isle of Wight Steam Railway, for its Train Story Discovery Centre, an imaginative combination of covered storage and an interactive museum and visitor centre.
The HRA Annual Award (Small Groups) went to the Ecclesbourne Valley Railway for the reopening and operation of the nine-mile rural Derbyshire line. Runner-up in this category was the Lincolnshire Wolds Railway for their continuing development of the length of former Great Northern Railway at Ludborough.
The John Coiley Award was won by the Gloucester & Warwickshire Railway in recognition of the facilities provided to 35006 Locomotive Company Ltd which have enabled restoration of ‘Merchant Navy’ No. 35006 Peninsular and Orient Steam Navigation Co to an exceptionally high standard. Runners-up in this category were North Norfolk Railway (Midland and Great Northern Joint Railway Society) for the recreation of a Great Eastern Railway Y14 class from the society’s J15 0-6-0 No. 7564, and the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland for restoring and returning to traffic GNR(I) Q class 4-4-0 No. 131.
The HRA’s Special Award for a Meritorious Project went to the Great Central Railway, for the Mountsorrel Branch Line project, resurrection from scratch of the quarry branch from Swithland Sidings to Rothley Community Heritage Centre.
The Railway Magazine Annual Award for Services to Railway Preservation was won by David Woodhouse, MBE. This recognised his remarkable 60-year heritage railways career which began as a Talyllyn Railway volunteer and took him to senior roles across the heritage railways and tourism industry.
The North Yorkshire Moors Railway won the Morton’s Media (Rail Express) Modern Traction Award, for their diesel locomotive operation, which included 160 days working for their Crompton Class 25.
The National Railway Museum and York Theatre Royal received the Morton’s Media (Heritage Railways) Interpretation Award. This recognised an innovative collaboration that joined theatre with live heritage steam when the NRM acted as a temporary home for the theatre company.
A grouping of ‘Great Little Trains of North Wales’ (including Talyllyn Railway, Vale of Rheidol Railway, Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railway, Welsh Highland Heritage Railway, Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway and Corris Railway) and the Royal Scot Locomotive & General Trust were joint winners of the Steam Railway Magazine Award.
The collective award to the narrow gauge lines recognised a fresh spirit of partnership which in 2015 blossomed into the staging of a series of spectacular narrow gauge anniversary galas, as well as the flourishing of cooperation in engineering expertise, overhaul contracts, advice sharing and locomotive visits.
Royal Scot Locomotive & General Trust was recognised for its multi-£million transformation of the redundant Crew diesel depot which has turned it into a first-class overhaul and maintenance base for the fleet of locomotives operated by Jeremy Hosking and the Trust.
Guests also saw a review of the winners of the HRA 2015 Carriage & Wagon Awards. These included the Overall Winner, Severn Valley Railway, Bluebell Railway for Best Coach, Caledonian Railway for Best Wagon, Nene Valley Railway for Best Tram/Railcar and the Snowdon Railway, Commended for its Snowdon Lily replica Victorian carriage.