With the extremely generous support of several donors and of the Transport Trust, a group of local railway enthusiasts, helped by strong motivation from the Earl of Cranbrook, succeeded in purchasing part of the old railway track bed which runs from a point between Leiston Library and the Engineers Arms in Main Street, parallel with Dinsdale Road to the junction of Buller road and Station Road.
The group decided, appropriately, to call itself Leiston Works Railway (LWR), as the line was used initially by Suffolk Punch horses hauling wagons of coal and iron down from Leiston’s main railway station to the Garret Works and then hauling back up to the station manufactured goods for export. Then, from 1929 to the early1960s, this task was taken over by the Aveling and Porter steam shunting locomotive, Sirapite, which over the past five years has been splendidly restored to full working order by the Long Shop Museum who own and maintain it, see the video clip below.
Whilst the track bed has until very recently lain in a parlous state with loads of fly tipping and very overgrown, there is now firmly in place a long-term plan to embark on a programme of restoration, so that – eventually – Sirapite may be able to run up and down the line again on special event days in Leiston. And there may even be occasions when horses pulling wagons will be able to repeat what was done every working day more than a hundred years ago.
The LWR has been created as a not-for-profit railway preservation society and all work will be carried out by friends and volunteers. This is a very exciting project in that will result in what will be one of the few known instances of a preserved industrial railway engine being able to run again along its original track bed.
To test support for the project, a pubic Open Evening Meeting was held at Leiston Community Centre in King George’s Avenue on Monday 4th July 2011. A great number of local enthusiasts signed up to the idea and the group was constituted as the Leiston Works Railway Trust in September 2011. We achieved the status of a registered charity in December 2012. It should be noted that our group is independent from the Long Shop Museum but it is our intention to work closely with the Museum to bring to eventual fruition our aim in seeing Sirapite running along its old line.
We started work clearing the old track bed late in October 2011 when a large band of volunteers began moving away debris and vegetation.