Lockdown won’t derail Middy – but could delay steam engine’s arrival

The Middy's own locomotive is being restored. Picture: MID SUFFOLK LIGHT RAILWAY

The Middy's own locomotive is being restored. Picture: MID SUFFOLK LIGHT RAILWAY - Credit: Archant

Preserved railways across the country are fearing for their future as the coronavirus crisis grips the UK – but Suffolk’s only standard-gauge heritage line is confident it can steam ahead.

The trackbed of the Middy extension is waiting for rails to be laid. Picture: MID SUFFOLK LIGHT RAIL

The trackbed of the Middy extension is waiting for rails to be laid. Picture: MID SUFFOLK LIGHT RAILWAY - Credit: Archant

The Mid Suffolk Light Railway (Middy) based at Wetheringsett near Eye has been unable to run since New Year’s Day – and has had to cancel its events planned for spring and early summer – including its usually-busy Middy at War event in May.

But the Trustees have been assured that the museum could survive the loss of income from the whole 2020 summer programme if necessary.

Marketing manager John Reeve said the cancellations were an enormous disappointment to the Middy’s volunteers after such a promising start to the year with a record attendance for the New Year’s Steam-up and the fine Easter weather, which they believe would have attracted hundreds of visitors.

He said: “As an accredited museum and a registered charity, the Middy depends almost entirely on open days for funding. No visitors means no income. At present, and with no clear end in sight to the emergency, the railway still needs support even when it can’t open. Basic maintenance and security still have a cost although all the Middy staff are unpaid volunteers.

The future of the Mid Suffolk Light Railway is assured despite the lockdown. Picture: PAUL GEATER

The future of the Mid Suffolk Light Railway is assured despite the lockdown. Picture: PAUL GEATER - Credit: Archant

“The good news is that the Middy will still be here when the crisis has passed. Nonetheless the strain on finances will be enormous, especially with the two major projects currently in hand, both essential for the continued development of the Middy.”

The Middy is extending its running line to a new station at Aspall Halt which will more than double its length and it is restoring its own steam locomotive. Both projects are likely to be delayed by the lockdown, but it should not threaten their completion.

The railway had hoped to have its steam loco, Number 1604, operating in time for the 2022 70th anniversary of closure celebrations. It is still possible that the locomotive could be re-assembled and steaming by the end of next year – but things could be tight.

The extension project had been proceeding well with the trackbed and ballast in place and just the sleepers and rails left to put in place before its trains can have a longer run.

Both of these projects have their separate appeals to achieve completion and can be accessed via the website here

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