Today, Churnet Valley Railway have completed phase one of their ‘Reconnect Leek’ project.
Standing aboard the train waiting at Leek Brook Station, Gregory Wilson, Operating Director of Churnet Valley Railway said “it’s been the ambition of the Churnet Valley Railway for many years now to ‘Reconnect Leek’. We have faced many obstacles and today, we are very proud to say that the first stretch of the line back to Leek is operational.” He went on to add“this is a symbolic moment – right now it’s only 201 metres, but it is further than we have managed in over 20 years, and marks the beginning of a very exciting period for Churnet Valley Railway and the town of Leek.”
Following Greg’s rousing speech, Councillor Sybil Ralphs MBE, Leader of the Staffordshire Moorlands District Council thanked all of the team involved in bringing the Leek line back to life; “…so many people who are committed to this project. Nothing would have been possible without the many volunteers who have worked tirelessly to make this happen and they can be so proud of what they have achieved. We at the Council will continue to support with grant funding wherever we can. I congratulate everyone concerned. ”Councillor Ralphs has been a stalwart supporter of ‘Reconnect Leek’ as she recognises “Leek and the Moorlands is going to benefit enormously – as we all know, towns and cities prospered when the railways arrived – and so will Leek.”
On the wave of Councillor Ralphs flag and to rapturous applause from a carriage packed with Churnet Valley Railway directors, staff and volunteers, locomotive USATC S160 no. 5197 puffed out of Leek Brook Station, pulling the train along the newly laid track.
This first stretch of track was funded by Churnet Valley Railway and Staffordshire Moorlands District Council, and was laid over a 48-hour period by a team of volunteers from The Permanent Way Institution and Churnet Valley Railway.
Churnet Valley Railway will shortly launch a fundraising drive to help pay for the remaining track and infrastructure, including the eventual Leek Station. They hope to raise the required £1,000,000 through a combination of grant funding, share issue, community activity and special events, some of which will see the new track showcased to the public. The first of the special events will take place on 26th October with ‘Super Power Saturday’.
This ground-breaking, one-off event, a first for the UK since 1944, will showcase the unique spectacle of three working S160 steam engines double- and triple-heading trains as they weave through the Churnet Valley and up the steep gradients to Ipstones. All ticket sales and donations from the day will go directly to the ‘Reconnect Leek’ fund.
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