Light railway rescues diesel engines as industrial site set to become new visitor attraction

A fascinating piece of industrial history is being turned into a visitor attraction.

MP Owen Paterson, centre, at Tanat Valley Light Railway with Adrian Semence, left, and project manager Mark Hignett
MP Owen Paterson, centre, at Tanat Valley Light Railway with Adrian Semence, left, and project manager Mark Hignett

The Tanat Valley Light Railway, near Oswestry, was created as part of the lime industry in 1877 and ran for just over a century. Volunteers are restoring the track that runs 1.5 miles from the lime kilns at Nant Mawr down to the Tanat Valley line at Llandu.

This week has seen new arrivals at the site in the form of railway vehicles.

The two Ruston Diesels, a Rectank low-loader, a six-wheel store van and a generator van made their way to the Shropshire/Welsh border by road from Southall, west London.

With the closure of the Great Western Railway Preservation Group at Southall, the Tanat group stepped in to buy the five important pieces of equipment as part of its plans to restore operations to the Nant Mawr branch.

One of the first to see the new arrivals was north Shropshire MP Owen Paterson, who called in to see the attraction. He said it was a fascinating project and that he was pleased the railway had recently been given a grant from the Government’s Cultural Recovery Fund.

Volunteer Adrian Semence said: “We are a registered charity, a not-for-profit organisation, powered by a group of volunteers committed to retaining and sharing the history of our unique location.

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Based near Oswestry, we are at the very end of the Shropshire and Montgomeryshire Railway at the Nant Mawr Lime Kilns. The freight line opened in 1872 and finally closed in 1977. We are raising funds to enable us to apply for a Transport and Works Act Order which will allow us to run trains with fare-paying passengers on our railway line. Our target is £35,000.”

At the site in Nant Mawr are five historic attractions; what are claimed to be the tallest lime kilns in England; an industrial monorail collection; carriages from the closed Coventry Electric Railway Museum and an award-winning environmentally significant open area.

"The lime kilns were built in the Victorian period and raised to boost production. They had to have the buttresses added to support the extra weight and are claimed to be the tallest in England,” Mr Semence said.

“We are also custodians of the Richard Morris monorail collection which includes over 70 of these unusual machines. The star is the only steam monorail engine in the world which is currently undergoing restoration. Like most heritage sites our income collapsed last year and to increase visitor numbers to provide a stronger financial base to allow us to maintain and develop the site, we are working to run trains on the full length of our line.”

Visit tanatvalleyrailway.co.uk for more information.

Specific projects are in progress maintaining the lime kilns and installing a visual display including trolleys and rail track.

He added: “Our crowdfunding project will allow us to get trains running along our beautiful piece of track for all generations to enjoy and will be a major boost to the site’s restoration.”

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