First track laid in project to revive Victorian railway
- Credit: Archant
Volunteers have been using the same kind of tools once used by 19th century navvies to lay Southwold's first new railway line in 88 years.
The track and a new visitors' centre are being built at a former steam works site in Blyth Road as part of a long-term project to reinstall an eight-mile narrow-gauge railway which once ran from Southwold to Halesworth.
James Hewett, Southwold Railway Trust chairman, said the works were the fulfilment of a long-held dream and a major milestone on the path to reviving the town's Victorian steam train heritage.
He said: 'It's going extremely well. We've been waiting to do this for 20 years. We have already got the first part of the visitors' centre up.'
Mr Hewett said it was the first 3ft gauge railway track to have been laid on the Southwold railway since it closed in 1929, and it was very similar to the track laid by the old railway company in 1879.
He said: 'We are doing it like old-fashioned navvies from the 19th century, although they wouldn't have had as many high-vis jackets back then.
'We're also using almost the same tools that they would have used.'
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READ MORE: Project to reinstate historic railway to Southwold remains on trackThis part of the project will see 22 chains - just over a quarter of a mile - of track laid at the site which is adjacent to the original 1879 trackbed, now a popular foot and cycle way to the River Blyth bridge.
The railway will have stops at Wenhaston, Blythburgh and Walberswick.
Mr Hewett said the trust hoped to receive its first steam train, a 1913 Peckett locomotive called 'Scaldwell', this summer.
He said the new visitors' centre - which will cost about £150,000 - would eventually have a small cafe, a shop and a restoration shed.
Mr Hewett said: 'Members of the public will be able to watch volunteers restoring rolling stock and steam engines.'
The site is currently only open to members of the trust, but there are hopes they will soon be able to hold an open day for members of the public to see the project progress first-hand.
Operations at the site will allow the trust to become the UK's 202nd heritage railway.
To find out more about the Southwold railway project, visit www.southwoldrailway.co.uk or call 01502 725422.