The royal seal of approval given by HRH The Prince of Wales on January 25, was no less than the 10 years of hard graft by the volunteers of the Mountsorrel Railway deserved.
Nearly 12 months after the Great Central Railway’s industrial branch was presented with the Heritage Railway Association’s Special Award in 2015, following its official opening in late October that year, the line was graced by an official visit from the Prince.
In the latest of his many adventures on heritage railways, the Prince rode on the footplate of ‘Jinty’
No. 47406, and met hundreds of local schoolchildren and volunteers before unveiling a plaque to mark his visit to the recently-opened Mountsorrel and Rothley Community Heritage Centre.
The Mountsorrel Railway is small beer in terms of the overall UK portfolio of heritage lines, but it encapsulates the very essence of what has made it so successful. In effect, it has not only created an attraction out of literally nothing apart from a disused length of track but a superb facility for use by local people.
It has given the GCR the chance to authentically operate industrial locomotives and freight trains and to demonstrate how interchange sidings work, and as such has made a phenomenal contribution to the heritage sector. In advance of the building of the new museum at Leicester North in conjunction with the National Railway Museum, it adds a seemingly small yet potentially huge string to the GCR’s bow, in the drive to make it one of the leading attractions of any kind in Britain.
The project has again showed just what ordinary people can achieve, and how history and heritage can be revived and celebrated.
This year’s HRA annual dinner at the Grand Central Station in Wolverhampton, formerly the GWR’s Wolverhampton Low Level station, takes place on February 11, after this issue has hit the shelves.
However, the 2016 awards, which will be presented by guest speaker Network Rail chairman Sir Peter Hendy, will be reported on in full on our www.facebook.com/heritagerailway page, the biggest enthusiast site of its kind in the world with more than 323,000 followers.
While the Mountsorrel grafters have worked miracles to create their polished gem, I find it incredible that there are others who seem determined to water down priceless history and heritage.
Yes, the Isle of Man Parliament has now decided that it will not cut the now-unique Douglas Bay Horse Tramway in half, but nonetheless will reduce part of it to single track, to make way for the “improvement” of the seafront promenade.
We fully support the Manx Electric Tramway Society’s campaign to keep this wonderful living piece of global transport history and heritage intact. Yes, the tramway may make small losses, but does Tynwald not understand the concept of a “loss leader” in that an iconic yesteryear feature like this boosts tourism?
Now that the line has been saved throughout its length, planners are back to the drawing board. One question – why not make it the primary feature of the newly-restyled promenade, rather than cutting, reshaping and disfiguring it to fit? Countless future generations will thank you for it.
Robin Jones, EditorEnjoy more Heritage Railway reading in the four-weekly magazine. Click here to subscribe.