It is some 5 years or so since the Section went on a first visit to the, then, recently opened Weardale Railway when we travelled in four classic coaches hauled by two classic steam engines, one at each end of the coach set. Since then the railway has undergone some traumatic times with mainly financial problems, leading to the redundancy of most of the employed workforce and suspension of their timetabled services until new arrangements could be put into place. A new owner, ECT (Ealing Community Transport) bought a sizeable stake in the railway in 2006 and this, together with a new infrastructure, enabled the railway to recommence operations in 2007.
After such a troubled start it was hoped that the railway would quickly build up its operations, its passenger base, its reputation and go from strength to strength. Surprisingly, ECT earlier this year decided to get out of all railway work and has sold out its 75% stake to an American company, Iowa Pacific Holdings, which owns 6 private railways in the USA. It is only now that the railway has a clear road ahead and it has just been announced that the new owners are planning to reopen the old British Railway track from Bishop Auckland to Wolsingham by the end of this year adding some 8 miles to their existing 4 miles of track and opening up new passenger and tourist opportunities.
We felt that another visit to the Weardale to show our support and add something to their finances would be welcomed by the Section and so it was that 39 of us (and 12 cars of the marque) arrived at Stanhope Station on the appointed day. By 11am the cars were displayed in the reserved car park next to Stanhope Station. At 11.45am we climbed on board the carriage set for the day, a two coach railbus built by Leyland Motors in 1984 which is probably the only set of its type still running in the UK although we understand that several are still running in Iran. At present their only steam engine, No.40, an ex-NCB passenger tank, is undergoing a major overhaul although they expect it to be back in service for their December Santa specials. A very pleasant run through the beautiful Weardale countryside took us to Wolsingham station with its newly built station shelter/shop where several members bought mugs and other mementoes of our visit. After a short stop the railbus returned us to Stanhope. The pictures are from our previous visit to the railway.
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Weardale Railway at Stanhope 28th Sept 2008