Shropshire heritage railway to start on extension
One of the county's heritage railways is looking to start the first major extension of its running track – 50 years after the line was shut down in the Beeching cuts of the 1960s.
Cambrian Heritage Railway, which runs in Oswestry and Llynclys, is breaking out of its short run at Oswestry station to extend its line to Weston Wharf, next to the Stonehouse Brewery and Weston Pools.
Rob Williams, 36, chairman of the railway, said the expansion is likely to be completed by the start of the 2018 running season, but passengers should expect to see trains running over longer sections of the track as work is done towards the new stop.
"We're looking at the work in stages," he said. "A major milestone would be to reach Gasworks Bridge, at Shrewsbury Road, and we hope to be there for the early part of next year.
"The work that needs to be done is mostly refurbishing what's already there, replacing rotten sleepers and levelling the track. That part of the track will also run alongside the new greenway that Shropshire Council is planning to build as a new footpath and cycle way.
- Cambrian Railways owned 230 miles of track over a large area of mid-Wales, with its headquarters at Oswestry railway station. The station opened on May 1, 1860, and the last passenger train ran on November 7, 1966. The last freight train ran in 1971.
- The Cambrian Railways Society was set up in 1972 based on part of Oswestry goods yard. The railway museum was set up in a former engine shed and, in 1987, an agreement was reached with British Rail to use the sidings south of the yard, down to Middleton Road, and powers were obtained under the Oswestry Light Railway Order 1995 to operate passenger trains on these sidings a total distance of about 300m.
- The Cambrian Railways Trust was formed in 1998 to work on acquiring the railway between Gobowen and Blodwel. The practical aspects of rebuilding the railway and operating the trains were left in the hands of the Society.
- During 2003 and 2004, the Trust built a new railway from scratch on the 1,200m of trackbed from Llynclys South to Pen-y-Garreg Lane, Pant. The first passengers travelled on the line in July 2005.
- Oswestry Station was purchased by Oswestry Borough Council in 2005. The building was renovated, converted to form a restaurant and visitor centre, and leased to the Oswestry Station Building Trust.
- In January 2009, the Society and Trust merged to become Cambrian Heritage Railways, and in 2011 the first passenger train was run from the platform at Oswestry.[/breakout]
"The second stage will be to work with Shropshire Council to sort out Gasworks Bridge. At the moment it's got a lot of scaffolding underneath it and there isn't enough room to pass a train through, so Shropshire Council will need to look at what work needs to be done there.
"Then the third stage will be Gasworks to Weston, which is more refurbishment work. We have a lot of materials ready to do the work and we're looking at possible grants to pay for machinery hire to speed up the work."
Mr Williams said once the track reaches Weston Wharf, the plan is to work with the brewery to create a tourist attraction where people can ride the train from Oswestry to Weston, get off and enjoy a tour of the brewery, then ride back to Oswestry.
November 5, 2016 will mark 50 years since the last passenger service from Oswestry to Gobowen. Mr Williams said the anniversary year was a good time to push the heritage railway forward more.
"It's particularly important that we're now expanding, 50 years on, with the first large change to the line really since we started running," he said.
"We'll start our 2016 season at Easter running south from Oswestry for as far as we've got track down, so if people have visited us before they might want to come back again and see how far we've got by then."
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