Work parties are regularly held on the old track bed. Mini diggers have pulled stumps out and racked down the bushes and brambles; volunteers have loaded and removed fly-tipped rubbish.
Topographical surveys have been carried out and the surface is being levelled.
Early in 2019, we laid some track for the Big 160 Event. This track, comprising traditional wooden sleepers, bullhead rail, chairs, keys and fishplates was retrieved from Ipswich Docks.
More track was laid in October 2019 thanks to the great assistance of the Royal Engineers unit 507.
Some of the brick and flint walls were in need of repair and a low retaining wall has been built to prevent the access path to the cottages along Dinsdale Road from falling onto the track bed. Work continues on the walls and some ex-Garrett metal fencing, kindly donated by the Long Shop Museum. will be placed on top of it. This fencing is being cleaned and painted in readiness. The hedges have been cut back and constantly need maintaining.
In 2016, with the support of Leiston Town Council and Hoopers Architects, planning permission to re-lay the railway was achieved. The permitted project includes land in the garden of the Engineers Arms public house and we are hoping to acquire the necessary proprietory interest over it so that the line can reach Main Street.
Ex-LMS BRAKE VAN
In October 2015 we acquired an LMS 20-ton brake van for use on the works line. The restoration of the van is a major project for the LWR and has started at our off-site workshop. Once fully restored, we intend to use the van to carry visitors along the works line. We have named the brake van “Jumbo” after one of Sirapite’s drivers. .
The van was kindly donated by Tilia Business Park Ltd on whose land at Wroxham it had stood rotting for many years on an isolated siding off the main Norwich to Cromer line. The Brake Van was built by the London Midland and Scottish Railway at its Derby Works in 1936 and faithfully served the LMS and British Railways for over forty years.
Brake vans were once a common sight on the UK’s railways and played an important part in the braking system of goods trains before the universal use of continuous brakes.
The widespread use of the continuous braking system led to decline of the brake van over the 1980’s and today there are only a handful of working examples left dotted around the heritage railways and museums of Britain.
On the 24th October 2015 the LWR sent their first working party out to the Brake Van to prepare it for its journey to Leiston. After just a quick oiling the breaks of the Van were released and the LWR soon had it running up and down its short siding. This ease in operation after over thirty years of neglect is indeed a tribute to the quality of the LMS and British engineering.
Clearing out over 40 years of rubbish and debris was dusty work but did unearth a surprise or two! Now the Brake van is undercover in the LWR workshop we are able to work on the project all year round. We have been joined by some of our friends from the Mid-Suffolk Light Railway in the restoration project. There is a great deal of work to do but the Brake van has been found to be in much better shape than we expected.
Please look at the Facebook pages our support group – Friends of the Leiston Railway – to see up-to-date pictures of the restoration together with that of the Friends’ 1869 GER coach body no. 514.