Year-long project to restore historic railway gates outside Ironbridge nearing completion
A yearlong project to restore historic railway gates outside Ironbridge is near completion.
The mammoth Jackfield gates are set to arrive at the railway site in three parts today.
More than 1,000 hours of volunteering from council workers, J&A Stevenson and members of Coalbrookdale-based Small Woods Association have been put in over the past year to recreate the dilapidated structure.
In the last two days, crews have been sanding and painting the cast iron posts and digging a trough to prevent the new gates having too much contact with any standing water.
A temporary shelter has also been erected where the 38ft gates will be finished.
Under the protection of the shelter, the gates will be joined together and given three coats of paint before the metalwork is put back on. They will then be lifted into place within the next couple of weeks.
The gates date back to 1862, and were installed as part of the Severn Valley Railway which ran from Shrewsbury to Hartlebury. In their heyday, they would have been opened and closed several times a day.
Although the railway line they sit on has been disused for many years, the gates remained in place and became a beloved – but neglected – feature. It is believed the last time the gates were removed and repaired was in the 1980s.
With restoration not an option, the team from Small Woods and engineers from Telford & Wrekin Council worked with a council conservation officer to draw up plans to create a replacement set of gates.
Historical photographs taken in the 60s and 70s became the blueprint for the new gates which are now in their final stage of completion.
Councillor Nicola Lowery, borough councillor for the Ironbridge Gorge said: “The care and dedication that has been put into authentically recreating the Jackfield Crossing has been truly exceptional and it has been fascinating to see this project evolve, as well as the techniques the volunteers have used to recreate the gates.
"The Jackfield crossing gates are a significant part of our history in Jackfield and mean a great deal to many within our community.
"I have been speaking to many residents in Jackfield over the last few weeks and everyone is really looking forward to seeing the gates return home.
“It was a real team effort to secure the funding for this and I would like to thank Small Woods and all the team for the fantastic work they have and continue to do to restore a piece of our history.
"I will be going on site later this week and I can’t wait to see them fully completed and to celebrate this with our community.”
Labour of love
Telford & Wrekin Council engineer Gareth Rushton, who helped to oversee the project, said: "The gates have taken a team from Small Woods over 1,000 hours to build.
"They have used traditional skills and techniques which has been really great to see.
"Each gate measures 38ft, which is longer than the wingspan of a Spitfire and when you think about it like this, you realise what a feat this has been.
“J&A Stevenson, another local firm, has also done a fantastic job restoring the metalwork which will be used on the new gates.
"This has been a real labour of love for everyone involved. The gates are part of the industrial history of the Ironbridge Gorge and one of the reasons it is designated a World Heritage Site. We’re in the final phase now. In a few weeks’ time, the gates will be lifted into place and back where they belong.”