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An authentic coal train from the 1930s was recreated at the Isle of Wight Steam Railway earlier this month – a throwback to the days of steam when coal was the only significant freight carried on Island’s railways.

Restored by a dedicated team of expert volunteers, the event on Sunday 9th April was an incredibly rare opportunity for visitors to see rolling stock in operation in the very place it was originally used more than 80 years earlier.

Isle of Wight Steam Railway’s General Manager, Peter Vail said:

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“It’s often difficult to justify using funds to embark on this type of restoration, because they don’t directly enable us to carry new fare paying customers. But the Railway prides itself on
undertaking these very special projects and we are incredibly proud of the result,”

The Southern Railway transferred several hundred ex-London Brighton and South Coast Railway open wagons to the Island in the 1920’s and over many years the Railway acquired several examples in varying states of repair. In 2012 Gary Walker, who was then the Carriage and Wagon Supervisor, had the idea of creating a complete coal train based on 2 wagons that had been previously been restored.

Collaborating with former trustee Roger Macdonald, the rusty metalwork from the wagons being kept on site at Havenstreet were sorted out to see what was worth keeping. Gary then set a challenge to the Railway (by personally providing the oak required for new wagon subframes) which it accepted and the Coal Train Project was under way. A further £25,000 was required and fundraising commenced, boosted by successful grant applications to the Arts Council Prism Fund and the Peall Railway Trust.

A team was assembled at Havenstreet and work eventually started on 2 additional wagons during 2015 under the leadership of the Railway’s expert wagon restorer John James. The project was more or less complete by the summer of 2016 and now the coal train has been assembled and run in public for the first time.

Peter continued:

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“Now the coal train is operational and has had such an enthusiastic reception, it’s likely to be a regular feature at our Heritage Goods days that operate monthly throughout the season. Come along and see this unique example of the Isle of Wight’s working history.”

For more details on special events visit www.iwsteamrailway.co.uk.

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