Partly Cloudy

Partly Cloudy

max temp: 16°C

min temp: 8°C

Search

The pigs are coming. Find out more about

Pigs Gone Wild

here.

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.

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.

0 comments

BBC's Springwatch has arrived in Minsmere Nature reserve for the third year.
Presenters Chris Packham and Michaela Strachan.

A new Springwatch star is likely to be born at RSPB Minsmere in the next three weeks to capture the hearts of millions of viewers in the same way that a hapless little fish did during last year’s immensely popular BBC nature showcase series.

Gina Long celebrating with the family on receiving her MBE

Three community heroes from Suffolk were honoured for their selfless work and made an MBE by Prince Charles.

Suffolk fisherman Harry Simper

A young Suffolk fisherman has netted himself a national award.

The Sorcerer's Apprentice. Photo: David Tett

From half-term fun and open gardens to the Suffolk Show and air displays, there’s plenty to see and do in Suffolk during the school holidays.

Ipswich Crown Court.

An Ipswich man with “an entrenched and disturbing interest” in sexually abusing females has been jailed for 12 years.

Fiona Cairns, director at Suffolk Preservation Society

A charity which aims to protect and enhance Suffolk’s landscape and iconic buildings wants to join forces with town and parish councils to help them fight against ‘inappropriate’ developments.

File picture of Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service at work.

Firefighters rescued a woman from a house fire in Ipswich during the early hours of the morning.

Carol Turgoose with volunteers at the foodbank in Halstead

Opticians across Essex and Suffolk have given a boost to charities supporting poverty-stricken families in the area.

Watch the new equestrian challenge

There are just days to go until the gates open for the 2016 Suffolk Show, and with an action packed programme set to please visitors, organisers have shared their top 10 new things to enjoy at this year’s show:

A 1963 Ferrari 250 GTO outside Heveningham Hall. Picture: Cameron Maynard/Aperto Photos.

An 18th Century Suffolk mansion has announced plans to host a gathering of rare classic cars as part of celebrations marking the 20th anniversary of its annual country fair.

Most read

Most commented

HOT JOBS

Show Job Lists

Topic pages

Streetlife

Newsletter Sign Up

Great British Life

Great British Life
MyDate24 MyPhotos24