Engine returns to historic track for first time in 50 years after restoration work

The restored Sirapite engine at Leiston Long Shop Picture:

The restored Sirapite engine at Leiston Long Shop Picture: JOHN HEALD - Credit: Archant

Volunteers restoring one of Suffolk’s historic railway lines will this weekend celebrate the first locomotive on the track for 50 years.

The Leiston Works Railway (LWR) group is reinstating the line, which was abandoned in the late 1960s, to run between Buller Road and Main Street to connect with the award-winning Leiston Long Shop Museum, once the home to the Richard Garrett & Sons engineering works.

So far the group has restored around 150ft of line and today and tomorrow will have a diesel loco on the track - the honour falling to Ruston 48, a type of train that would have used industrial lines, owned by Lawrie Rose.

People will be able to see the train and the work done so far today and tomorrow as part of a special event called The Big 160 - 1859-2019, celebrating the opening of the restored section of line and 160 years since the railway came to Leiston.

Entrance will be at the junction of BUller Road and Station Road.

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There will also be other attractions - including railway displays, craft stalls, children's games, several model railway lay-outs and rides on a seven and quarter inch gauge steam railway - at the Waterloo Centre, Waterloo Avenue, both days from 10.30am to 4.30pm, admission £5 adults, children free.

An LWR spokesman said: "We have managed to gather a number of former railway men together who use to work on the branch line in the past.

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"We also hope to have one of the original flag girls that stopped the traffic outside of the Town Works so that the works locos could cross the road. Why not come along and meet some of these legends?"

The route of the LWR is tucked away at the back of a pub and between houses, but occasional tell-tale signs have always existed - in one place there is a former rail crossing gate and a cast-iron post, while in the Engineers Arms' car park a section of rails can be seen, and in another place setts in the road mark the track bed.

Members of the LWR have been involved in long negotiations for permission to take over the land on which the track once stood. Parts have been unused for decades and had become overgrown with vegetation, with some tipping of unwanted household items.

The remainder was incorporated into the garden and car park of the pub.

The group's aim is to rebuild the line and to run railway vehicles drawn by horses or locomotives, including the historic steam shunting locomotive Sirapite, which was used on the railway from 1929 to 1962 and which has been restored to working order at the Long Shop.

The Sirapite would be able to pull a brake van, about to be restored by LWR members, allowing visitors to experience an industrial railway for themselves.

Community leaders have been supporting the project, which they could be a big asset to the town and bring a lot of people- families and children - to use the railway and enjoy the attraction, boosting the economy.

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