Triple whammy for Epping Ongar
By: Robin Jones
THE repackaged Epping Ongar Railway has performed the railway preservation equivalent of a football team winning the Premier League and the FA Cup – by taking the heritage sector’s two top honours.
In early December, the former London Underground line which has been turned back to the steam era by supremo Roger Wright carried off two major honours at the National Railway Heritage Awards, as reported in Heritage Railway issue 171.
Firstly, it was named Ian Allan Publishing Railway of the Year.
It also won the National Railway Heritage Awards Volunteers' Award for its work on restoring its Ongar terminus.
Since then, on Saturday, December 15, four days after we closed for press, the railway was awarded the Heritage Railway Association’s annual awards (large groups) for an outstanding achievement in railway in recognition of its major transformation of a preservation backwater into a significant tourist attraction for the capital while enhancing all its infrastructure and stations.
The railway has also introduced regular steam services following the purchase of GWR 4-6-0 No. 4953 Pitchford Hall and prairie No. 4141.
A direct link to the London Underground had now been restored, via a vintage bus service from Epping to North Weald.
The HRA Annual Award (small groups) was made to the Bala Lake Railway in recognition of it having recreated, for the first time, a rake of loose coupled Dinorwic Quarry slate wagons and for majoring on the operation of Quarry Hunslet locomotives, including Julian Birley’s repatriation of Winifred from Tennessee.
Four decades of dogged determination had culminated in a splendid 40th anniversary gala.
The John Coiley Award for locomotive projects went to Beamish Museum for the restoration of 0-4-0 well tank No.18 Lewin. The shunting engine which worked at Seaham Harbour for 93 years was built in 1877 by Stephen Lewin & Co, of Poole in Dorset, and is unique in its design.It was retired from use at Seaham Harbour in 1969 and stored until 1975 when it was presented to Beamish.
Paul Jarman, Keeper of Transport at Beamish Museum, has overseen the restoration of the locomotive.
The Peter Manisty Award for Excellence went to the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway for its grim determination in dealing with its double landslip disaster.
Not only did a public appeal, first reported in Heritage Railway, raise £1 million for the slippages at Gotherington and Chicken Curve near Winchcome to be repaired, but the project made significant improvements to the line’s original construction. It was transpired that he Chicken Curve slippage was as a result of the GWR not laying proper foundations for the embankment and installing drainage channels when the line was built.
While the repairs were underway, the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway continued to run services in an imaginative way, operating the line it two halves while making its northern extension to Laverton open to the public.
At the same time, despite the setbacks, the railway continued with its rebuilding of Broadway station, its next northern terminus, while continuing to progress its extension to Honeybourne.
The Heritage Railway Interpretation Award went to the Mid Suffolk Railway for its recreation of a typical bucolic rural backwater Colonel Stephen’s light railway with an authentic back-drop including newly-restored locomotive Wissington, on loan from the North Norfolk Railway.
A Highly Commended certificate was given to the North Norfolk Railway for the overall presentation of Weybourne station, including its flower and vegetable gardens and toilets.
The Rail Express Modern Traction Award went to the Mid Norfolk Railway for its continued excellence in specialising in the operation of locomotives and carriages stock in BR 1970s blue and grey livery culminating in a significant first of bringing together nine Class 47 diesels, approximately ten per cent of the surviving fleet, for a half-centenary gala.
The new Railway Magazine Annual Award for Services to Railway Preservation was made to former steam shedmaster Dick Hardy in recognition of his time, knowledge and experience spent in selfless devotion to the heritage railway movement over many years.
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