Rail century marked

RAILWAY enthusiasts are celebrating the centenary of the opening of a local line for goods traffic, a key moment which marked the start of nearly 50 years of railway history in rural communities.

RAILWAY enthusiasts are celebrating the centenary of the opening of a local line for goods traffic, a key moment which marked the start of nearly 50 years of railway history in rural communities.

Train buffs will celebrate at the Mid Suffolk Light Railway Museum, Brockford Station in Wetheringsett near Stowmarket, with the centenary marked during the September 18 and 19 weekend.

There will be a re-enactment of the opening ceremony, demonstrations of how goods trains probably operated at the time and steam train rides will also be available.

Helen Fraser, the actress starring in the hugely popular television series "Bad Girls", will also formally open a new shop and refreshment room at the museum on Saturday September 18.

The actress' television career reads like a who's who of comedy with plays by Alan Bennett, seven series of Dick Emery and The Two Ronnies just part of her roles.

On the cinema screen, she has appeared alongside Tom Courtney in Billy Liar and Sigourney Weaver in Gorillas in the Mist.

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In "Bad Girls'' she plays a completely inept character hanging on to her job of senior officer until she can draw her pension, as Sylvia Hollamby.

Keith Froom, a museum trustee, said: "We are very pleased that Helen Fraser has kindly agreed to come and open our new restaurant and shop, as part of our celebrations marking the centenary.''

It was on September 20 1904 that the Mid Suffolk Light Railway opened purely for goods traffic. For nearly the next 50 years the railway was an important aspect of life for the rural communities it served in mid Suffolk.

The Mid Suffolk Light Railway, known affectionately as "The Middy'', was a classic case of a railway built late on in the great railway age that never paid its way and was to struggle for 50 years.

This example of quirky English history is remembered in Suffolk's only railway museum, also called the Mid Suffolk Light Railway Co, which is dedicated to keeping alive the memories of "The Middy''.

As far as the railway museum knows, there are no coaches or locomotives of the Mid Suffolk Light Railway still in existence.

However, the company has been recreating typical scenes from The Middy's past by using restored coaches and wagons that would have operated on its larger neighbour, the Great Eastern Railway.

The museum is particularly proud of returning steam to The Middy 50 years after its closure during July 2002, although the idea of running steam engines on restored line has not proved popular with everyone locally, with some upset at their peaceful village life being shattered.

nFor details of the weekend events see the museum's website www.mslr.org.uk or call 01449 766899.

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