Railway receives Welsh boost

Railway receives Welsh boost

14 February 2024

THE Downpatrick and County Down Railway has been presented with a donation to boost its appeal fund by representatives from its Welsh counterpart.

Jonathan and Samuel Turner, from the Gwili Steam Railway in Carmarthen, regarded as one of the UK’s most picturesque and preserved railways, were in Downpatrick recently to hand over a cheque after seeing the devastating flood which engulfed the Market Street railway and much of Downpatrick town centre last November.

The Welsh pair saw the national news coverage of the flood which occurred after the Quoile river burst its banks following the wettest October on record and had a whip round among their volunteers.

Jonathan and Samuel presented the cheque to the heritage railway’s vice-chairman, Mike Beckett, and membership secretary, Innis Mennie, last weekend and were shown round the facility and the ongoing clean-up operation.

At the start of the year, the local railway launched an appeal for financial help as it battled to come to terms with a £3m repair bill following November’s devastating flood.

Officials asked for help as they attempt to not only reopen for business, but preserve a piece of unique living history for future generations.

The flood left a trail of devastating destruction in its wake, with the water causing substantial damage, necessitating urgent repairs to locomotives, carriages, track, bridges, platforms, and buildings.

The financial burden was described as “substantial” with the charity’s insurance assessors estimating unavoidable costs exceeding a quarter of a million pounds.

Volunteers described the task to return the railway to its pre-flood state and operational condition to ensure its long-term viability and continued contribution to the community as “monumental”.

Last month, railway chairman Robert Gardiner said while the government had offered some limited financial support, the charity had yet to see if the not-for-profit organisation will even qualify, even though the money will be inadequate to deal with the challenge ahead. 

He is hoping the railway’s community of supporters will weigh in with their help to allow officials to rebuild and restore the hugely popular facility to its former glory.

Mr Gardiner said donations, no matter the size, will contribute to repairing the damage and ensuring that the beloved railway remains a source of pride for generations to come.

He said support for the appeal would not only help recover from the immediate impact of the flood, but enable volunteers to continue offering a unique and enriching experience to visitors in the years ahead.

Shortly before Christmas it was revealed that a damage report from a specialist railway engineering firm in England estimated that repairing the fleet of almost 30 vehicles to their pre-flood condition would be over £2.3m.

The repair bill includes £626,400 to lift all 29 vehicles, or £21,600 each, £1.45m for 58 “bogie overhauls,” £150,000 for critical spares overhaul and £100,000 for miscellaneous inspections and repairs.

In addition, the report suggested it would take around 10 weeks to repair two vehicles at a time, or over three years for the entire fleet and alarmingly revealed that in all cases, the flood had “significantly reduced” the lifespan of every component and assembly on every vehicle.

To support the flood relief appeal visit www.downrail.co.uk/appeal