Steam railway given double boost from government’s recovery fund

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Foremarke Hall running round at Broadway station. Photo: Ian Crowder

THE government’s culture recovery fund has given Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway a grant of £318,000.

And in a second piece of good news, the Dinmore Manor Locomotive Group has been given £26,100 to help with the overhaul of one of its other Great Western locomotives at Toddington.

Both awards were part of the first wave of grants under the ‘Here For Culture’ campaign, announced today, Friday.

The railway is one of 445 organisations across the country receiving a ‘lifesaving financial boost’ from the government during the coronavirus pandemic.

The £1.57bn Fund is designed to help performing arts, heritage sites, independent entertainment venues and museums to weather the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Voluntary finance director Richard Winstanley said: “The grant is intended to help us continue vital maintenance, run the business and pay the bills including the salaries of our seven staff, at a time when the railway has suffered the huge financial impact of cancelling services and special events for five months, during what would have been our peak season.

“And, although we are running trains once again, fare income is much reduced thanks to the need for social distancing, which halves the capacity of our trains.

“It will be a vital boost in helping to overcome financial shortfalls as the railway emerges from lockdown, whenever that happens. The fund is a key initiative and I applaud the government in recognising the importance of underpinning the security of a wide range of organisations, including the GWSR, for the future.”

Chairman of the Dinmore Manor group, Kenneth Sims, said: “This will help us complete one of the most extensive steam locomotive overhauls ever undertaken in the heritage sector, at a time when because of Covid-19 work has slowed significantly.

“It also means that important work awarded to contractors can be completed in this £400,000 overhaul, helping to ensure the historic 1942-built Great Western heavy freight locomotive no. 3850 will return to steam as soon as possible.”

Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden, said: “As a nation, it is essential that we preserve our heritage and celebrate and learn from our past. This massive support package will protect our shared heritage for future generations, save jobs and help us prepare for a cultural bounce-back, post Covid.”

The impact of the line on the surrounding economy was clearly seen when it opened its extension to Broadway in 2018 giving a boost to the area’s tourism.

This year it has managed to resume services on a limited basis with Toddington station the place for people to join and leave trains. For full details, go to: www.gwsr.com

Ros Kerslake, chief executive of the National Lottery Heritage Fund which administers the Culture Recovery Fund said: Heritage creates jobs and economic prosperity, is a major driver for tourism and makes our towns, cities and rural areas better places to live.

“All of this is so important for our wellbeing and will be particularly vital when we start to emerge from this incredibly difficult time.”