I think the railways would be in a sad state if not for the volunteers. To think of all the track BR ripped up to be left to overgrow. If it was left at that there would be some dismal areas. Thank goodness volunteers filled the void to create preservation railways. And it was done despite BR’s stubbornness. For example when it came time to rip up the Swanage line a group offered to buy the line if they left the track. At first BR said sure for £125k which is a lot of money today never mind in the 70’s. Money was being raised when they changed their mind and took up all the track. It became all overgrown until money could be raised and BR would agree to sell the land to Dorset County Council. The railway leases from the council.
This weekend the railway is celebrating 35 years. It was such an awful lot of work clearing the line, relaying all the track, bringing in coaches and locomotives, rebuilding them, then getting people to come. And this happens all over the UK.
As a last bit of behind the scenes I got to go up the line to where they were salvaging parts to use in the rebuilding of a coach. There is such a lot of coaches and such, more than can be possibly saved, so for those that can’t be rebuilt they salvage what they can. The logistics of storing this stuff is mind boggling.
We were picked up in 08436. This was built in 1957 in Derby. It’s a 350HP workhorse. These shunters are very low geared and can haul just about anything. This day it was bringing up the crane.
So up we went and I got my first cab ride in a diesel.
It’s a bit different of course than a footplate ride and even has space for the essential tea kettle.
The wagon holding the crane was built in April 1942 and it was used to transport Sherman Tanks. The crane was added in 1971. Once we got to the other side of Norden we stopped and a group of volunteers met us. They needed the crane to shift a few things so they could access the parts they needed.
It was loud noisy work but fascinating to watch. We could have been there for hours but we had a family reunion to go to. So we did what we could. The thing with preservation is the list never ends so it’s ongoing.
Right near us was an old brake van known as the shark. It had the ploughs in front of the wheels to distribute the ballast. This was built in 1957 as well.
The history that is available is amazing, a bit like treasure hunting.
It wouldn’t be possible without the men and women who give their time and expertise to make these railways happen. If you have the chance to ride the trains and you see the crew, thank them. There is a good chance they are volunteers who do it for the joy of it. If they didn’t, just think how bleak it would be if the landscape had been left with the track ripped up.