FIFTY years have passed since British Rail ran its last steam trains on the national network – and the heritage sector is thriving like never before.
That was the message from the Heritage Railway Association’s 2017 Awards presentation evening which drew around 200 delegates to the MacDonald Burlington Hotel in Birmingham on February 10.
Master of ceremonies Paul Lewin, otherwise general manager of the Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railways, remarked on the high quality of not only the winning entries but also the runners-up, to the extent that for the first time in history, not one but two of the association’s top honours – the Peter Manisty Award for Excellence – were bestowed, not as joint awards but separate in their own right.
As reported in issue 235, The Swanage Railway carried off one of the Manisty awards for the successful launch of ‘real’ public services along the full length of the LSWR branch from the resort to Wareham, with West Coast Railways as train operator.
The other Manisty Award went to the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland for its new museum and engineering facility at Whitehead. The £4 million museum opened its doors last March and was officially opened in October. With five galleries and a tearoom, the museum is wrapped around the existing engineering workshops, which means visitors can observe restoration work in progress on locomotives and coaches.
RPSI chairman Canon John McKegney said: “We are already attracting enthusiasts from across Britain and Ireland and this award will put us ever more firmly on the map.”
The Manisty Award is named in memory of the long-serving chairman of HRA predecessor the Association of Railway Preservation Societies, the late Captain Peter F Manisty formerly of the Royal Navy.
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