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Work on new track for Middy attracts a crowd despite rainy weather

PUBLISHED: 11:44 28 August 2018 | UPDATED: 17:17 28 August 2018

Rob Patten from TES cuts the first sod watched by Middy Vice Chairman Ian Meigh, Middy President Tony Alston, and John Reeve. Picture: LAWRIE ROSE  MSLR

Rob Patten from TES cuts the first sod watched by Middy Vice Chairman Ian Meigh, Middy President Tony Alston, and John Reeve. Picture: LAWRIE ROSE MSLR

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Members of the Mid Suffolk Light Railway braved the weekend rain to celebrate the formal start of work on their new extension.

Middy directors and Rob Patten back at Wetheringsett and Brockford station. Picture: LAWRIE ROSE MSLRMiddy directors and Rob Patten back at Wetheringsett and Brockford station. Picture: LAWRIE ROSE MSLR

The new track will bring the running length of the line up to about 1km – and should be ready for its first trains by 2021 at the latest.

The railway’s President Tony Alston joined Rob Patten from TES 2000 Ltd, railway contractors, who are helping with advice and equipment to cut the first sod on the extension at Dovebrook – the current limit of the line’s operations from Wetheringsett and Brockford station.

A train full of well wishers witnessed Mr Patten, the project manager for the extension, turning over the first turf with a silver spade in the traditional manner for beginning the work of laying a new railway line.

TES 2000 and their associates Colas Rail are both major railway contractors working with Network Rail and will take on the Middy project as part of their Apprentice training schemes.

It is hoped that the start on the preparation of the track bed work can be made during October/November after the Middy’s steaming season and before the Santa Specials in December.

Middy Volunteers have already made a start on the clearing of the old track bed and sorting the rail and sleepers the railway has been stockpiling in the previous years.

When finished, the line will be little over double the existing length and total approximately a kilometre.

There will be a small halt style station at the end of the line to be called Aspall, which will provide visitors with a destination for their trip on the Middy.

Original estimates for completion of the project were up to three years, but with the very welcome help from TES 2000 and Colas Rail progress to completion could be a lot sooner.

Middy spokesman John Reeve said: “Despite the rain we had a fair number of visitors on Sunday and the train that took the people down to the sod-cutting ceremony was packed.

“Hopefully we’ll now be able to crack on with the engineering work during the autumn and then we’ll really feel progress is being made.”

Rob Patten, project manager for TES2000 said “This is a great opportunity for TES, as we will use our track apprentices on this project which will be a great learning curve for them.

“This is a very exciting project to be a part of and I am very much looking forward to getting the machines in to kick the works off.

“Once complete, I hope that the extension of this historical part of Mid Suffolk can be enjoyed long into the future. It’s fantastic to be able to be giving something back to the community.”

Much of the track that will be used on the extension has come from former freight sidings in Ipswich – and as a light railway the Middy does not need as much engineering and ballast as would be required for a normal rail line.

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