We are very pleased to announce that, thanks to the generosity of our members and supporters, the Trust has taken possession of the Steam Works site at Blyth Road, Southwold. The Trust already has full planning permission to build 22-chains of track (in two or more gauges) on this land, which is directly adjacent to the Southwold Railway’s 1879 trackbed. Naturally, there are several conditions to fulfill with regard to planning, so we hope that our supporters will bear with us while we deal with those. You can see on the map where the site is: just down the road from the (now sadly lost) original station: things have changed a little since the date of this map (Copyright Ordnance Survey), but the basic geography is the same.
Land in Southwold is some of the most expensive in the area, so the Trust has devoted most of its assets to this sale (except for “ring-fenced” funds such as the Heritage Train Fund, the 2-4-0 “Blyth” Fund, and the “Scaldwell” Fund), so there will be a major fund-raising exercise using the sponsorshop “Bonds” to build our visitor centre and railway restoration shed, source and lay track, and lay out the extensive landscaping required. The sooner we can provide the facilities, the sooner we can open to the public, and thus create revenue for the restoration of the rest of
the railway. One of our models for this is the Lynton and Barnstaple’s fund-raising “LynBarn” railway, which operated very successfully before the L&B were established at Woody Bay: the SRT has, perhaps, the added advantage that our operation is actually in Southwold!
We would like to add that there is, currently, nothing on the site, and we do not encourage going to see it using vehicles: the approach is very hard on low-slung cars (though it will be improved), and we would not wish to be responsible for lost exhausts. The best way to see the site (if that still appeals) is by bike or by walking on the popular route between the Blyth Hotel and the river bridge to Walberswick Station (where our volunteers recently cleared the station site and the bench that marks it) – with the added advantage that your entire route will be on the trackbed of the SR, and the bridge is still founded on our railway piles and supports. The site itself will only be open to members for the moment, and even then we will of course be subject to the appropriate regulations for construction sites.
The plan is modest, but represents the first time that the Trust has at the same time owned land, and had planning permission to rebuild the railway on it. In the wider context, and also acknowledging the recent achievement of the Mid-Suffolk Light Railway in gaining permission for their extension in the teeth of severe local opposition (sounds familiar, doesn’t it), it gives us hope that the complete restoration of the 8-mile Southwold Railway is now realistic and achievable.