With the end of the old year, the Trust can look back at a series of great achievements over 2014.
Volunteer attendances at our working days at both Wenhaston and Southwold have crept up in numbers – as has Trust membership. Donations have leapt up, with solid and gratifying support for all projects. Social events and promotional activities show the same rise in numbers.
Under the management of Stewart Green, our shop is doing well, with a large number of new stock items. The Trust has attended more events than ever, both local and national – the highlights being the Mid-Suffolk Light Railway Museum’s Gala, and the Warley Show at the National Exhibition Centre.
At Wenhaston, we have pretty well cleared the SR Trackbed Path, and tidied up the station site.
Access to the trackbed is greatly improved, and an area of hardened land allows us to park volunteers’ cars off-road, where they do not impact on passing traffic. A start has been made in re-instating and repairing the driftway (occupation) crossing and associated railway boundary fencing. Removal of the dead trees, brambles and underbrush has allowed the woodland ecology to begin to recover and to become more diverse.
At the Southwold workshop, the Rolling Stock Group have finished a complete refurbish and repair of the Coach 7 body, inside and out. Rails, some original SR, have been sorted, with unusable sections removed, and fishplate holes drilled for re-use. Our range of tools still increases, both by donation and by judicious buying. Bernie Ward has supervised new displays of various SR and related artefacts: many historic SR artefacts have been given to the Trust for our future museum.
The Heritage Train Project, launched to members in the autumn and to the public in November, is off to a very good start, with pledges and donations to almost £10,000 in the first three months. Van 40 – the replica covered van – has a complete, re-gauged, braked, underframe, and is now at the SOLD workshop at Lowestoft for the body build. Open Wagon 41 has an outline design, an underframe, and is ready to be worked on as soon as we can find somewhere to do it. SR Balcony Brake Composite Coach No 8 is at the design stage: two estimates have already been received for the underframe build.
Sharp Stewart No 3 “Blyth” has had lots of work behind the scenes, and we now have a contract signed up for the production of CAD
drawings/designs for the complete rolling chassis – an essential
before we can get quotes on manufacture. The already-built frames have
been measured and drawn in CAD, so they can be checked as “fit for use”
before we proceed with other parts. We have estimates of cost for the
boiler/firebox, and for the rolling chassis, as far as can be done at
this stage. A 2D CAD of the GA of the loco is being done.
The on-loan Motor Rail “Simplex” loco is at last in the workshop, and work has already started on refurbishment.
The Trust Railway Bus Tours with “Olive” were again successful, and brought in both valuable cash for projects, and new members.
Naturally, there have been some disappointments. The Brake Composite Manx Northern Railway coach of 1879 is in secure and weather-proof storage, but because we do not yet have a railway, grant aid cannot be applied for by the owners, and repair work therefore cannot start. We have not yet found another workshop, which it is increasingly obvious we will need quite soon. The grounded van body and composting WC, for which we gained planning permission in spring, have still not been installed at Wenhaston.
And of course above all, we still have a stalled process with the District Council planning department, who have now spent over 20 months not deciding on our application: this is on an application which they promised, in April 2013, to decide in 8 weeks. We have tried an appeal, but that turned out to be too expensive for us – and there seems little we can do about this flagrant and extremely annoying procrastination, to which there seems no end.
But it must at least now be obvious to the opposition and to the planners that we are not, now, going to give up and go away, however much they might wish that. And it’s not as if we don’t have an enormous amount of stuff to do, which will keep us busy for at least 10 years, even without, yet, having a public railway and tourist attraction on the SR trackbed.