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Telford railway steams ahead thanks to team of helpers

If you have ever visited Telford Steam Railway, you are sure to have met many of its dedicated band of volunteers.

Telford Steam Railway driver Dave Angell, from Telford
Telford Steam Railway driver Dave Angell, from Telford

Whether it be the engine driver, guard, ticket inspector, catering staff or track worker, they all play a vital part in keeping the line running.

In fact, the attraction, which operates over a portion of the Wellington and Severn Junction Railway (W&SJR), is entirely run by volunteers who cover every aspect of its activities.

Not only are they passionate about the work that they do but they are also ambitious as they are committed to extending the line and expanding the services for visitors.

In addition, this year, the railway, which is open on Sundays and Bank Holidays, from Easter to September, has launched a larger programme of events in a bid to attract more passengers.

“It’s surprising how many people in the area don’t know we exist,” says Richard Owen, the railway’s commercial director.

“We’re a small railway but we have a grand plan – our ultimate aim is to take the railway back to Ironbridge.”

Drivers Alan Binns from Norfolk.

The railway first opened to the public as a heritage line in 1984, offering visitors a unique insight into the railway’s rich history as they take in the picturesque scenery along the route.

A regular passenger timetable consists of a departure from Spring Village north to Lawley Village and then back along the line to stop at Horsehay & Dawley. The train then repeats this journey in reverse, for a round trip taking 50 minutes.

In addition to the standard gauge running line, the railway also operates a short 2ft (610mm) narrow gauge line adjacent to Horsehay Pool.

The Phoenix Model Engineering Society operates a 5-inch miniature railway on the Spring Village site, as well as the railway’s shop and ticket office in Spring Village Station. A large model railway and the Furnaces’ Tearoom are situated at Horsehay & Dawley Station.

The ambitious Steaming to Ironbridge project would see steam trains regularly returning to the Ironbridge Gorge for the first time since 1966.

The first phase saw the completion of a new station at Lawley Village and the next stage of the plans will see the railway double in size from 1km in length to 2.25km with the track being re-laid from Horsehay to Doseley by contractors with the help of volunteers.

Volunteer guard Josh Hall from Horsehay.

This season the railway has many new special events planned, including several theatrical ones which are aimed especially at families and started with Alice’s Adventure to Wonderland over the Easter period.

On June 17, the attraction will be hosting an immersive Peaky Blinders-themed evening while on July 15 and 16 there will be plenty of swashbuckling entertainment for younger visitors who can follow adventures of the Darlings and Captain Hook on The Neverland Express.

The 1940s return to Telford Steam Railway, from August 26-28, featuring re-enactment groups, classic vehicles, vintage stalls and live singing and dancing descending on the line, while on September 2 and 3, the railway is taking part in the Horsehay Village Scarecrow Festival.

Ticket inspector John Ireland with Christopher Cooke, 5, Lyra Smith, 5, and Maddison Smith, 8.

The Anything Goes Diesel Gala will be held on September 16 and 17, followed by the Mixed Traffic Gala on September 30 and October 1, which brings the season to a close before The Polar Express Train Ride returns in the run-up to Christmas.

“We’re trying to attract as many people to the railway as we can by holding these special events, especially those with an emphasis on families. It also brings money into the area, for every £1 spent on a heritage railway, £2.80 is spent in the local economy. We’re very proud to be part of the community,” says Richard, who has been volunteering for three and a half years.

Engineer Anthony Hook, aged 38, from Muxton, joined the team around 10 months ago and now looks after the rolling stock, ensuring locomotives are kept in good working order and preparing them for journeys.

Anthony Hook from Telford, looking after the rolling stock.

He describes the railway as “one big family” and says he enjoys working alongside the other volunteers. “It doesn’t matter what your background is, everybody looks after everybody else,” he says.

One of the attractions of signing up as a volunteer was that he would be playing a role in keeping the skills used to maintain and run a steam railway alive for future generations.

“It’s something I had always wanted to do. I fully believe it’s important for people to learn these skills because if we don’t learn them and pass them on, they will be lost.”

There are lots of volunteering opportunities for young people, those who have retired and even lots of part-time options for those who can only spare a few hours each week to help out.

The railway has around 189 members, of which around 25 per cent are active volunteers who work on site. Without volunteers and the members supporting us, we couldn’t do anything,” says Richard.

On top of the train is Richard Owen

“Everyone tries their hand at different things. One day you might be working on the track or assisting with the locomotive maintenance, then the next day you might be driving the train or working in the shop or cafe.

“For me that’s the exciting thing, there is so much variety and opportunity to learn new skills and try different things.

“I’m office-based during the week so it’s fantastic to do something where I’m predominantly working outdoors. It’s a friendly group, we’ve got a shared interest in railways and making Telford Steam Railway a success.”

The railway always welcomes new volunteers. For more information about the railway’s event or volunteering, visit

Photos: Steve Leath.

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