On a firm (four) footing

Now that the Colne Valley Railway has purchased its own trackbed and land, plans are pushing ahead on more visitor attractions and a longer running line.

IT has been a tense few years. In 2015, the landowner informed the Colne Valley Railway – based near Castle Hedingham on the picturesque Essex/Suffolk border – that he had plans for the site that did not include the railway. The CVR Preservation Society was faced with moving lock, stock and barrel to a new site – and, while one was initially found nearby, that deal fell through and it was back to square one.

Looking south through the station as ‘Austerity’ saddle tank No. WD190 passes on the passenger service. The station building on the left was moved brick by brick from Sible & Castle Hedingham while that on the opposite platform was built using materials reclaimed from other CVR stations. The signalbox came from Cressing, the area on the right adjacent to the people will be the Brewster Interpretation Centre, and behind that will be the Cubitt Skills Centre, new car park and main entrance.

The main problem was the CVRPS did not own its own trackbed, a lesson there to be learned by any other heritage lines in a similar situation. Heritage operations at Castle Hedingham date back to the early 1970s, when the founders acquired a piece of the former trackbed and set about building a station and running line – the station building being moved brick by brick from Sible & Castle Hedingham – while the CVRPS was formed to run the trains.

When the founders retired in 2005, the CVRPS raised funds to buy the freehold, but instead this was sold to an Australian landlord, who allowed operations to continue on five year leases until the 2015 bombshell. Cue many months of fraught negotiations, highs, lows, and Heritage Lottery Fund applications.

Read more in the June issue of RE – on sale now!

 

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