The Southwold Railway Trust is blessed with a very dedicated team of hard-working volunteers – and that has never been more obvious than during the against-the-clock landscaping work in September.
Two days each week (it takes all the days in between to recover), often travelling some considerable distance, volunteers have been clearing tangled overgrowth from our new neighbour’s land (and our own), to open up our new northern boundary for this winter’s ditching and fencing work. The team gets scratched by brambles and hawthorn, goes up to its knees in muddy water, strains its backs pulling out saplings, gets bitten by various bugs: even, in many cases, supplying (and sometimes damaging) its own tools. Yet a couple of days later, back they all are, getting stuck in. We have a chainsaw specialist, a couple of bonfire experts, two or three ropers (it’s often only possible to pull the stuff over the – now very full – ditch by hauling it over like a chain gang), and dedicated lopper and saw users. Morale is high despite the conditions – and despite the eternal putting-off of the Trust’s real aim – to rebuild the railway between Halesworth and Southwold. The dedication is very impressive – and shows what the team could achieve in the way of railway building if they were ever allowed to do it.
Anyway – after fighting with a particularly vicious tangle for Saturday and most of Wednesday, the job is well over half way done – though there are a few more almost-as-nasty bits to face. It’ll be a real relief to get back to the more creative work of carrying on with SR timber fencing, and of course also to the rolling stock work which has had to give way to the more urgent task. Meanwhile, things are moving on that front too: the engine and electrical work on Peter Nicholson’s Motor Rail loco are finally almost complete. The roof ribs to complete the frame of SR Van 40 are being made in Essex. The underframe modifications on Open Wagon 41 are complete except for the new axles, which are in hand. Design work on the upper works of 2-4-0T Sharp Stewart “Blyth” will be complete very soon, allowing this prestige project to move on to the next part of the process: getting build estimates (cost and timescale), writing a business plan, and ramping up the fund-raising. Various options for a new SRT workshop are being pursued. The Trust has a great future (and a pretty good present!), having the potential to become one of the most iconic heritage railways in the UK .
But above all we need new members – although numbers are creeping slowly up, we ideally need to more than double membership, to around 1000, to succeed in all our various endeavours. And that’s before we have an actual working railway to build and run! Join online on the website, or in our shop at 27 High Street Southwold, and take the opportunity to help to guide the Trust forward into a bright and exciting future.