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Middy steams ahead with track extension with anniversary target

PUBLISHED: 19:15 23 April 2019

The extension to the Middy is now taking shape heading from Dovebrook. Picture: PAUL GEATER

The extension to the Middy is now taking shape heading from Dovebrook. Picture: PAUL GEATER

Archant

Work on the extension to the Mid Suffolk Light Railway is powering ahead after engineers were able to take advantage of the mild winter to lay ballast along the route of the new track.

Before the work started, the route of the Middy extension. Picture: PAUL GEATERBefore the work started, the route of the Middy extension. Picture: PAUL GEATER

It is now laid all the way from the railway's current terminus at Dovebrook to the new end of the line at what will become Aspall Halt – built on the route of the former railway which closed in 1952.

The ballast was laid by the Middy's contractors, TES 2000, whose more usual work is undertaking maintenance for Network Rail.

Now the ballast is down, Middy volunteers can start laying track on it – but that could be a long job and the preservationists still need to be able to get more track for the work.

John Reeve from the Middy said: “We have some track and sleepers that we can be starting with – but not enough to complete the full length of the extension so we need to access some more.

Middy trains will have a run of about 1km when the extension is completed, Picture: LAWRIE ROSEMiddy trains will have a run of about 1km when the extension is completed, Picture: LAWRIE ROSE

“One of our members is hoping to negotiate to take on some track that is being replaced at Felixstowe docks – but nothing has been fixed with that yet.”

It is not possible to say when the extension will be open to trains – that depends on the railway getting the track and on it finding enough volunteers to lay it.

But they do have a target in mind. Mr Reeve said: “We really would hope to be operating to Aspall by 2022 which is the 70th anniversary of the closure of the original Middy line.

“We can't make any commitments at this stage – but that looks realistic and if we get things done earlier than that so much the better.”

The extension will provide a 1km running line, and Aspall Halt will be built to resemble a small Middy halt from the period shortly before closure.

When first built, there will be a single track to the new halt, although there is space to build a run-around loop for locomotives at some point in the future.

The impact of laying the ballast is already clear on the landscape – TES 2000 started work last August and finished by the end of February. The work is being done for cost price to the railway.

Visitors to the Middy had their first chance to see progress at Dovebrook during the railway's Easter steam event with the trackbed tantalisingly disappearing into the distance from the current end of the line – but trains should be back one day.

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