Partly Cloudy

Partly Cloudy

max temp: 14°C

min temp: 10°C

Search

Suffolk: Middy seeks major boost to press ahead with expansion

12:00 12 April 2014

Driver Colin French and fireman Zac Bond at the Mid Suffolk Light Railway.

Driver Colin French and fireman Zac Bond at the Mid Suffolk Light Railway.

These are exciting times at Suffolk’s only standard-gauge steam railway as it prepares for major developments on three fronts.

shares

The Mid Suffolk Light Railway, which is based on the former Brockford station (confusingly in the village of Wetheringsett), is pressing ahead on three fronts as it consolidates a nationally-growing reputation.

The Middy has been operating steam trains on 400 metres of track since 2002 as it tries to recreate the atmosphere and operating style of a light railway before and during the Second World War.

It uses hired-in locomotives to pull authentic historic carriages on the line – but it is looking forward to a future when it can run its own train on a longer line into the Suffolk countryside.

There are three elements to its expansion plans.

It hopes to extend the running line by a further 600 metres to give it a 1,000-metre run with a small halt at the other end of the line.

This would give visitors a longer journey and give them a better taste of what life on a light railway was like.

It hopes to restore its own locomotive, a Hudswell Clarke 0-6-0 saddle tank engine that has not steamed since it was retired by British Sugar in 1970.

Volunteers expect the cost of the restoration to come out at £100,000 and to take five years – but once completed they will not have to rely on other locomotives to provide their power.

Finally the railway hopes to build an engine shed at Brockford to enable working locomotives, and carriages, to be stored out of the elements.

The Middy opened in 1902, but had the dubious honour of falling into receivership even before the first trains ran!

It operated until 1952 when, unable to compete with road traffic, it closed and the track was soon ripped up.

It was one of a number of light railways built across the country which mainly served rural areas where agriculture was an important industry.

Light railways were built to the standard gauge – their trains could continue on the main line. However they were built with minimal engineering, little ballast and followed the contours of the land more than main lines.

Therefore their trains, and the engines that pulled them, were lighter than on main routes – and their speed was restricted to 25mph.

The Middy ran from Haughley Junction (where the Cambridge route leaves the main line) to a field between Laxfield and Cratfield.

It was supposed to have run through to Halesworth, and to have a branch running from Kenton to Westerfield through Debenham, Helmingham and Otley – but these were never built after the money ran out.

The busiest days for the Middy were during the war when it served US airbases at Mendlesham and Horham – these are commemorated in the “Middy at War” event over the May Day bank holiday weekend every year. This year’s event should feature a fly-past by the only British-based Lancaster bomber that is still airworthy.

The Middy achieved national recognition in 2012 when it won the Heritage Railway Association Interpretation award for its work recreating its original atmosphere.

John Stark, from the Middy, said the recognition was important – but had to be seen as a step along the way to its development.

He said: “We aren’t going to ever be a large preserved line, but we do want to be able to really recreate what the Middy was all about and we are the only steam standard-gauge railway in Suffolk.”

The recognition has led to the railway successfully securing the loan of the original Kenton station sign that became part of the National Railway Museum collection after the 1952 closure.

The Middy held an open day earlier this month to show itself off to council leaders, local MP Dr Dan Poulter and the media in a bid to attract more visitors in advance of its 2014 season.

It gave visitors the chance to take to the footplate of its borrowed steam locomotive Wissington, and to hear what is planned for the future.

shares

0 comments

Barry Studd wins Holywells Ward at the local election count at Ipswich Corn Exchange.

It was a bad night for the Tories in Ipswich - and a great one for Labour as they gained two seats on the borough council.

Primark Ipswich

Some of the largest retailers in the heart of Ipswich are planning a multi-million pound investment in the town centre, MP Ben Gummer says today.

South East Suffolk Magistrates' Court

A burglar who stole a boiler from an unoccupied house on a new development while struggling with drug addiction must pay more than £2,000 compensation.

From left, Morgan O’Sullivan of Cushman, Simon Jennings of Ernest Doe & Sons, Darren Baldwin of Tottenham Hotspur FC and Andy Turbin, also fo Ernest Doe & Sons, with the fleet of electric vehicles supplied for the club's training ground.
Photo: Contributed

Tottenham Hotspur weren’t quite able to cut it in the Premier League, just missing out on this year’s title to Leicester City.

The Colchester Borough Election count at Charter Hall.

Here we bring you the results as they are announced from yesterday’s council and police and crime commissioner elections.

The crash happened in Granville Street, which is just off Norwich Road.

A man has been taken to hospital with a leg injury after the motorcycle he was riding collided with a car in Granville Street, Ipswich.

Pub quiz.

British author and mathematician Bertrand Russell said: “There is much pleasure to be gained from useless knowledge.”

Pupils from Holbrook primary with some of the 3D printed enhaler caps inspired but Tim Peake. 
Tristan and Jack

It isn’t every day your school gets a message from space.

Polling stations have now closed

Ballot boxes are being rounded up and votes will soon be verified following today’s local elections, and the police and crime commissioner ballots.

Stock image of the A12.

A number of ladders have fallen from a lorry onto the road and central reservation on the A12 at East Bergholt.

Most read

Most commented

HOT JOBS

Show Job Lists

Topic pages

Streetlife

Newsletter Sign Up

Great British Life

Great British Life
MyDate24 MyPhotos24