The Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway has been honoured with the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, the highest accolade a voluntary organisation can receive in the UK.
The award, often described as ‘the MBE for volunteer groups’ was announced by Buckingham Palace in a special edition of The London Gazette. The citation said the award was given to the railway for operating an eight-mile steam railway to demonstrate how it served its rural Mid-Wales community from Edwardian times.
Volunteers reopened it as a heritage railway in 1963, seven years after the 2ft 6in gauge line was closed by British Railways. They have now been running the railway for longer than all of its previous operators combined, and have built it into one of the major
tourist attractions in Mid Wales.
The line has only five salaried staff while the crewing of the trains, staffing the stations, providing the maintenance and restoration of the rolling stock and track and even keeping the lineside vegetation at bay, are duties carried out by a team of around 290 volunteers.
They are backed up by close to 2,000 company members who while not directly working on the line support it by such means as donating to restoration appeals.
Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway was nominated for the award by Stephen Kaye, the Mayor of Welshpool. He highlighted the educational value of the railway’s activities and the benefit to the area of the more than 26,000 visitors which the line brings to the region each year.
Two long-standing and dedicated volunteers attended a Royal Garden Party at Buckingham Palace to recognise the award.
John Jacobs, a Duty Manager who volunteers on the line four days a week, said: "The railway draws volunteers from all walks of life, and it was an honour for steam fireman John Meekums and I to represent all of them on this very special occasion.”
Steve Clews, chairman of the railway and also a volunteer added: “I am delighted that our railway has received this award. This is a real honour for all those volunteers who have worked so hard over the last 60 years to make the railway what it is today.”
Tia C Jones, the Lord Lieutenant of Powys who will present the award to representatives of the railway at the line later in the year, said: “I am absolutely delighted at this well- deserved award being presented to this iconic organization in Powys.”
The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service was created in 2002 to celebrate the Queen’s Golden Jubilee, and aims to recognise outstanding work by volunteer groups to benefit their local communities. Winners are announced each year on June 2– the anniversary of the Queen’s Coronation .