The Colne Valley Railway Preservation Society has received a grant of £1,757,200 from the Heritage Lottery Fund for its ‘All Aboard: Developing the Colne Valley Railway’ project.
The project aims to provide long term sustainability for the Colne Valley Railway (CVR) in Castle Hedingham, including the provision of a new entrance and building which includes visitor facilities together with the development of two important centres on the CVR’s main site.
These are the Cubitt Skills Centre, a workshop which will become a centre of excellence for the overhaul and restoration of historic railway carriages, and the Brewster Interpretation Centre, which will tell the story of the railway and the local community.
Paul Lemon, chairman of the CVR Preservation Society said: “We are delighted that the Heritage Lottery Fund has given us their full support. This allows the railway to secure its future and to develop the site with some first class facilities for the local community, our visitors and the railway preservation world alike.
“We would also like to thank Braintree District Council for their support with this project.”
The archive collections held by the charity and others will be digitised and joined through a single web portal, allowing on-line public access to the collections for the first time.
The charity’s existing education programme will be enhanced and developed allowing a greater range of students to benefit.
The original Colne Valley (& Halstead) Railway was built by the local community itself after the area was ignored by the big Victorian railway companies and the preserved current day railway celebrates that tradition.
Since its inception in 1974, the current CVR has specialised in visits by schools and organisations caring for those with special needs, as well as welcoming local families and enthusiasts.
Robyn Llewellyn, head of Heritage Lottery Funding (HLF) East of England, said: “Thanks to National Lottery players we’re delighted to support this project. Owning the land, trains and buildings will enable CVR to invest in a positive future for this railway while new premises, digital access and training opportunities for apprentices will transform access to the railway’s many wonderful stories.”
Tom Cunningham, cabinet member for economic development at Braintree District Council, added: “We’re proud to have been able to support CVR Preservation Society via our Business Growth Loan Fund which helped them secure the grant and will be directly invested in the north of the district.
“CVR is one of our major rural tourism and heritage destinations – a wonderful day out for families and school children and a great example of one of our local attractions.”
With assistance from Essex County Council, an application was made in 2014 for £1.66m and a stage 1 pass was announced in November, meaning £66,000 was released to enable detailed studies and negotiations to take place.
However, in March last year, the landowner announced the offer to sell to the charity had been withdrawn, forcing the railway to relocate.
A number of options were investigated before an agreement was reached with the landowner to split the site so the charity could purchase the railway site including the important heritage buildings.