The dream of connecting the Moorlands back to the national railway network will move closer to reality when work on restoring the line between Leekbrook and Endon begins within weeks.
The project is a joint partnership between Moorland & City Railways and Churnet Valley Railway. Volunteers working on behalf of Churnet Valley Railway, will carry out repairs on the four-mile stretch of track, supported by contractors.
And as work beings, the local heritage railway is making renewed efforts to raise share capital with the aim of sending its first steam trains down the line to Endon by late spring.
With the share total now standing at just over £330,000, the Railway is extending its share issue into 2012 in a bid to reach its £450,000 target and provide sufficient funds for the expansion towards Stoke-on-Trent.
A Churnet Valley Railway working party has already cleared years of vegetation from the line to allow a full survey of the track’s condition, explained CVR Chairman Anthony Hancock.
“The survey has given us a clear picture of the scope and cost of work that will need to be done by our volunteers who will also be supported by contractors where necessary.
“Thankfully there are no major problems with bridges and structures between Leekbrook and Endon, but a significant number of life expired wooden sleepers will need to be renewed with hardwood replacements,” said Mr Hancock.
At the same time, plans are in hand to develop passenger facilities at Endon, bringing the village station back to life after decades of disuse. “Subject to the level of financial support we receive via the share issue, we hope to run inaugural passenger trains to Endon by late spring. The line will then be used for special events on the Churnet Valley timetable during the rest of 2012,” Mr Hancock added.
“Reaching Endon will be a major milestone for our expansion project and will mean that passenger trains will reconnect the outskirts of the Potteries with the Churnet Valley and Leek area for the first time since the cut backs of the Beeching Axe. We know there is real enthusiasm for the project in the Endon and Stockton Brook area and hope to receive support for the project from local residents.
Moorland & City Railways, who already own the line between Leekbrook Junction and Cauldon Lowe, have plans to operate regular freight and passenger services in to the Leek area, connecting to the Manchester to London main line near Stoke Station. Churnet Valley Railway shares – which will also help fund improved facilities at Cheddleton Station – cost £1 each and are available in any amount from £100 upwards.
In addition to a range of benefits and travel concessions, shareholders may also qualify for tax relief on investments over £500 under the Government’s Enterprise Investment Scheme.