During the darkest and coldest days of winter, Trust volunteers continue to brave elements and minority grumblings alike. The Rolling Stock Group has been painting the underframe sections for Open Wagon 41, and refitting the axlebox bearings, ready for its re-wheeling. Meanwhile, in the background, a new member is designing the underframe for Brake Composite Coach 8: we are, through the good offices of our Trade Body the Heritage Railway Association, pursuing the matter of whether we will be allowed to rebuild this as original, with its flexible 6-wheeled Cleminson system. Yes – of course we can build it as we wish – but it would be supremely irritating if we were to be prevented by safety rules from operating the rebuilt coach for passengers within our Heritage Train. Quotations are still coming in for building Sharp Stewart 2-4-0T “Blyth”, which is definitely the most glamorous partof the Heritage Train.
And the next tranche of hardwood for Van 40 is on order at Bradnams of Haverhill, ready for the completion of the body structure at SOLD in Lowestoft: the T&G requirement is being planned out for body and roof. On the trackbed, all work on trees and bushes will stop at the end of February for birds’ nesting: all preparatory work for the ditching (which is going on now) and the stock fencing (going in in March) is complete. We are now ready to resume the SR fencing, with, hopefully, much of this to be completed by summer. On February 9th, we had the onsite inspection in relation to our Appeal against Suffolk Coastal District Council’s refusal of planning: the Inspector was very professional and even-handed, although I don’t think he was expecting the large delegation of opposition, which is not normally allowed. The Trust, in contrast to elements of the village, kept to the letter of the law, having advised all the volunteers to stay away – only the Chairman (the Applicant) and Planning Consultant were present. We are sure that the decision will be carefully considered: if by any chance the Inspector finds against us, we have several more proposals, applications and other activities already planned, as is our duty to the Charity. Several comments have been made about recent restrictions we have placed on casual walking through the Trust land. Our Public Liability Insurance only covers access by Members (with a separate event Insurance for designated Events only), so it would be outwith our duty as a Trust to allow casual entry. The solution, however, is simple: all members of the SRT have access onto the land at any time – because they, effectively, own it. So all anyone has to do is join the Trust as an individual or an organisation (£15 per year, in both cases), agree to support our Charitable Aims, and access is assured. All are welcome. We are well into the long process of finding out who owns the rest of the trackbed, and have an interested eye on one or two sections already. Parallel to all this activity, we have recently applied for permission to build a workshop and stock shed, with an attached small tourist attraction (more details in a later blog), in Southwold. This is adjacent to, but not actually on, the trackbed, and is similar to our earlier application (which was passed) – the one eventually scuppered by the contamination of the land. If all goes well, we may soon own trackbed (or land adjacent) in both the lower and upper Blyth Valley.