So here we are again, the final day of 2015. As expected, numbers on site were slim but some progress was made by the DMU team on firstly repairing a defective door on centre car 59303 and then by washing 'the bubble' after it sitting idle for several months with the defective vacuum cylinder.
Progress was made on the station too with various new signs being put up and old ones being removed in preparation for the Booking Office move. The new 'Welcome' sign was also installed above the door and it looks excellent. Unfortunately, the fading light (and a passing monsoon) prevented a decent photograph being obtained so maybe tomorrow. Coupled to all of this activity, some of the poster boards on the fence which has been removed were recovered and the 2016 Timetable posters were distributed around the remaining poster boards.
2015 has been another solid year of progress for our enterprise, not least with a change at the top of WyvernRail but also out there on the ground...
Mid-January saw the completion of the project to relay the unusual three way point in the yard after the timbers had become life expired. This was also the first time progress was made towards the conversion of the former Tannery into a Booking Office. More track work followed at the end of the month with the relaying of another point further down the yard.
February saw Clayton Battery Locomotive "Sophie" arrive courtesy of MyTestTrack.com and contractors made a start on building a lovely new retaining wall to the west side of the bottom car park. It was a busy old time for this area as we had overhead gantries for electric railways by the end of March, yet another venture by MyTestTrack.com. Whilst all of this was going on, the BSK team worked long days to push forward to bring us our first ever on train kitchen in the guards compartment of the BSK.
The Circus came to town at Easter in April with the Party Workshops Family Circus proving a hit with the public (so much so that they'll be back this Easter) over three days. Meanwhile, down at Shuttle, S&T department spent April installing ground frames for the loop which would later see service in the same year.
The late May Bank Holiday saw our busiest public day of the year as Wirksworth Carnival rolled into the car park with it's various floats, bands, acts and followers. It was rammed! A few days later, we welcomed 33013 "Swordfish" to the railway which was brought it to operate our new Afternoon Tea trains which were to begin shortly afterwards. The locomotive proved a firm favourite with both the crews and the public and performed excellently each Tuesday for the tea trains.
It was a great moment when our first Afternoon Tea train departed Wirksworth at 14:15 on 2nd June. The chaps had worked unbelievably hard to get the kitchen ready and stunning it looked too. Buffet staff and other volunteers continued to provide an excellent Afternoon Tea service each Tuesday until the end of September. The last week in June saw our first foray into a mid-week special event in the form of the 1950s Week. It was met with moderate success in the glorious sunshine of the time. Also during this week, we ran our first ever Murder Mystery evening special which was professionally acted by Broken Pipe Productions. Look out for this in the 2016 programme too!
July was a very busy month as one would expect. We had the usual Classic Bus Rally and Classic Transport Weekend events, both of which were very successful and enjoyed by all. We also hosted our first ever wedding reception party as Kaye and Matthew got married near to Duffield Station and used the train to get to their reception at Shottle. It was a glorious day and everybody was very complementary about the time they had on the railway. Throughout this time we also operate 6 steam-hauled dining trains to Shuttle and back dubbed the Shottle Soiree. The meals were served on Friday evenings and all six evenings were sold out and my thanks go out to all of the teams who put these on as some late nights were had!
The Permanent Way team busied themselves in Wirksworth yard in August laying a new point for what was to become Taylor's siding. Track kindly donated by Celanese at Spondon was to be used to great advantage in reconfiguring the yard and volunteers had spent many hours down at their site in Spondon recovering the components.
The DMU team had all on September to finish their project on 50253 which was finished just the day before the Multiple Memories DMU gala. They worked until around 23:00 to finish it alongside 53599 which had been in for a repaint. The gala hosted the Railcar Association's Annual Convention and also saw another first - the first public operations using Shottle's loop. This was fantastic and was a great success. Some lessons were learnt which partly sparked off the new timetable for 2016 but it was fantastic to have busy trains passing. The gala also saw another experiment at Duffield too, with the BSK's kitchen being used to serve high quality breakfasts to the public whilst they sat on the picnic benches.
Aside from the ever present Model Railway Exhibition, October saw the arrival of another loaned locomotive in the form of Class 25 D7629. This has already covered a few duties in the winter but will see some action in the summer. However, it goes without saying that one of the most special things happened in October with the visit of His Royal Highness Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales. This was such an honour for the whole railway and it was made even more special by his representatives approaching us to organise the visit rather than the other way round. That was certainly one to remember!
And as we've just passed another successful Santa Season all I can do now is wish everybody a Happy New Year and thank them for all of their hard work and drive in 2015. 2016 should be yet another interesting year with the impending remodelling of Wirksworth Station and maybe even Duffield too!
Maybe you'll join us for a fizz and mince pie on the train tomorrow but remember it's our new Blue timetable tomorrow with departures from Wirksworth at 11:05, 13:05 and 15:05 or 12:12, 14:12 and 16:12 from Duffield.