New Shropshire railway museum opens after four years of work

A Shropshire railway society's new museum has officially opened to the public.

The Weighbridge Museum has opened to the public
The Weighbridge Museum has opened to the public

Committed volunteers with Bishop's Castle Railway Society are chuffed with the progress they have made in being able to open the brand new Weighbridge Railway Museum, in Station Street, but they still have more to do to keep them busy.

"We are all extremely pleased," said the society's Lin Dalton just after a celebratory committee meeting had finished. "It has taken us four-and-a-half years to get to this point."

And even though regular opening is currently restricted to 11am to 3pm on the second and fourth Tuesday in every month, she says more events and open days are on the cards. There is one this Saturday between 11am and 4pm as part of national Heritage Open days events.

"We are often on-site doing jobs and we will never turn the public away and will always take the time to talk to them," said Lin.

The museum is open on the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month

Bishop's Castle had a rail link until 1935 after town businesses clubbed together to create if for bringing in and exporting goods from the town. It only lasted for 70 years, with 69 of them in financial trouble.

"People think it was closed as a part of the Beeching cuts of the 1060s but the line closed well before then," said Lin.

The Heritage Open Day at the weekend will allow people to see a banana van, which was used to transport bananas from import at Avonmouth, to all around the country. There will also be a historic old farm tractor to tie it in with the edible England theme of events.

This weekend would have seen the huge Michaelmas Fair in the town but the organisers cancelled it earlier this year with Covid in mind. The railway taking part in the heritage open day, which could include a steam powered procession, is a small replacement for the loss of that event, Lin hopes.

"We get people visiting to see the buildings, the weighbridge and the social history of people who were living here and working on the railways," said Lin. "It's not just about railway enthusiasts."

How the building used to look

Among the projects still to be completed are cosmetic improvements to the site, and getting a connection to the mains water supply. Fresh water has to be carried on to the site to make teas and coffees, although there is a public convenience nearby for those essential moments of relief.

Bishop's Castle Railway Society was set up in 1989 to preserve remaining artefacts from the railway that opened in 1865 but was not profitable and it could not compete when road transport took over from the rails.

The museum explores how the coming of the railway in 1865 changed the lives of those in a small isolated community by enabling cheaper goods to come into the area, local produce to reach wider markets and make travel to the larger towns possible, thus bringing prosperity to the area.

Among the first regular events to be held at the Weighbridge is the model railway society that held its first meeting on Tuesday, September 7.

For more information on the project visit bcrailway.co.uk.

Group visits are welcome outside of the normal opening times by prior arrangement.

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