The move to bring back passenger trains to a town in the Staffordshire Moorlands after more than 50 years has taken reality one step closer – after opening a new track with a historic railroad track.
The Churnet Valley Railway made its first train on a new track 201 meters north of Leekbrook in the direction of Leek yesterday, October 11th.
The £ 40,000 railroad, referred to as "Phase 1" of the Reconnect Leek program, is the first step in bringing trains back to the Queen of Moorland – 54 years after the last passenger service left the city.
It is hoped that the £ 1 million program will be completed in the next two years – and it will be paid for through a combination of grant funding, equity issues, community activities and special events, some of which will present the new route to the public become.
Railroad enthusiasts, volunteers, agents and journalists took the first passenger train from Cheddleton Station along the new stretch of road. Five detonators on the track announced the moment when the journey to the new route passed.
Sybil Ralphs, Chairwoman of the Staffordshire Moorlands District Council, was there to get the first train on the new line – and said the program would benefit the entire Moorlands.
She said, "What an absolutely fantastic occasion that is, this is just the beginning.
"So many people working to bring this line back to life – without the volunteers, nothing would have been possible – and the volunteers have made this possible, so they can be so proud of what they've achieved.
"I can not wait to get on to Leek and reach the new station being built.
"Cities flourished when the railroads arrived, and Leek, too."
The 201m stretch, which was set up by a 30-member team of volunteers from the Permanent Way Institution, was funded by the Churnet Valley Railway at £ 21,000 and a further £ 19,000 from the Staffordshire Moorlands District Council.
Greg Wilson, Operations Manager at Churnet Valley Railway, said: "It has been the desire of the Churnet Valley Railway to reconnect Leek for many years, we have overcome many obstacles and today we are very proud to say that the first circuit of the Line back to Leek is ready. "
He added: "This is a symbolic moment – currently only 201 yards, but it is further than we have done in over 20 years and it is the beginning of a very exciting time for the Churnet Valley Railway and the city of Leek. "
He added that the new track had been laid in a network rail operation.
He said, "Yesterday morning, there was no trail, just gravel.
"Yesterday afternoon the track was in."
The original railway station of Leek was built in 1849. Until 1965 passenger traffic in the city reversed, and until 1970 freight trains drove through the city.
The station was then demolished and on the site is now a Morrison supermarket.
The Churnet Valley Railway currently operates historic trains between Cheddleton, Consall and Froghall.
The Heritage Railway is hosting a Super Power Saturday event on October 26 to raise money for the Reconnect Leek program.
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