Railway bosses chuffed to bits
MID Suffolk Light Railway is set to be really chuffed – by a £15,000 grant towards a £80,000 scheme to extend its museum.The award could mean the museum is a step nearer its aim of creating more jobs and boosting tourism in the area.
By James Fraser
MID Suffolk Light Railway is set to be really chuffed – by a £15,000 grant towards a £80,000 scheme to extend its museum.
The award could mean the museum is a step nearer its aim of creating more jobs and boosting tourism in the area.
The cash boost has been recommended for approval of Mid Suffolk's executive committee and will be used to improve facilities at the museum in Wetheringsett, near Stowmarket.
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A new cafe, shop and lecture room form part of the on-going makeover of the museum.
Three years ago the trustees of the museum embarked on a £55,000 project to build an exhibition hall, archive facility and toilets. Mid Suffolk then handed over £7,500 to the scheme.
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The trustees now want to add to the range of facilities to boost visitor numbers – and increase turnover with the opportunity of more merchandising.
The Mid Suffolk Light Railway Society was established in 1990 by a group of enthusiasts who were keen to create a small museum on the site of the former light railway that ran from Haughley to Laxfield during the nineteenth century and early twentieth century.
Carrying both agricultural goods and passengers, it finally closed in 1952.
Around 1,000 visitors come to the museum over its summer season – but this expected to increase with a marketing push.
According to the proposal submitted to Mid Suffolk, more jobs could be created as the museum enlarges boosting tourism in the immediate area and Mid Suffolk in general.
Richard Watson, a trustee and treasurer of the MSLR, welcomed the news.
"We see ourselves as a valuable resource in Mid Suffolk, potentially attracting tourists and business to the area, although in a small way.
"So any support that we get from the local authority we feel is an endorsement of that and good news."
He added that the museum was now waiting to see if they have been successful with other bids submitted to various bodies across the county, including Suffolk County Council.
Fast facts – source Paul Geater
The light railway line was affectionately known as The Middy. The museum stands on the site of the former Wetheringsett and Brockford station.
Construction started in 1902 and, in the absence of decent roads, brought many rural communities in from the cold
Freight started using the line in 1904, passengers in 1908. The London and North Eastern Railway took over the line in 1924.
During the Second World War it became a strategic asset, helping build American airbases at Horham and Mendlesham.