On 8th November 2000, seven volunteers began to clear undergrowth in the then abandoned railway yard in Wirksworth. This came after another seven years of behind-the-scenes negotiations by WyvernRail Limited (now a plc) to arrange access to the line, raise finance and gain official permission to revive the railway for passenger trains. On Thursday, the same seven volunteers were joined by 50 more in cutting a birthday cake to celebrate astounding progress this decade and to announce some special news.
On 7th March next year, the first train in 60 years will take passengers from Wirksworth to Idridgehay. When this happens, it will represent the culmination of thousands of hours of hard work by a team of volunteers whose average age is in the 60s. This dedicated team have demonstrated that retirement from the nine-to-five can herald a new career restoring one of the most promising community lines in the United Kingdom.
One example of how our volunteers have excelled can be found with Roy and Les Smethurst of Ripley. Both in their 70s, the brothers joined the railway’s volunteers in 2004, bringing with them two beautifully-restored shunting locomotives. Roy and Les have been involved in numerous construction projects along the railway but their crowning glory must be the new platform at Wirksworth Station which they built from scratch. Beginning in March 2007, the platform was completed in October ready for the new Idridgehay service.
“Roy and Les represent the very best in our volunteers bringing our railway to life” remarked Gavin Kenning, the railway’s director responsible for volunteer liaison. “Our new platform at Wirksworth shows how dedicated volunteers can not only work miracles by turning derelict land into a lively commercial venture but illustrates how age and experience brings incalculable value to our venture” he added.
It is a testimony to the sheer determination of the railway’s volunteers that so many volunteers has stayed with the railway since the earliest days. The picture of volunteers back in 2000 shows seven people, all of whom remain active volunteers in 2007.
Tickets for the first train on March 7th go on sale in early December.
Image shows the pioneer volunteers on November 8th 2000. From left to right, they are: Vince Ware, Ian Shaw, John Gratton, Mike Craft, Martin Miller, Joe Ruddock, Phil Tarry.
Images show contrasting views of the line between Wirksworth and Idridgehay in 1999 and 2007. These illustrate the extent of the challenge facing the railway’s volunteers and the quality of the work that they have produced.
Images show similar views at Wirksworth in 1998 and 2007. From the dereliction of the late 1990s there has emerged a thriving business for both passenger services and railway testing under the banner MyTestTrack.com, seen here providing facilities for London Underground’s fleet of engineering vehicles.
Image shows a passenger train at Idridgehay; the beautifully-restored country station which will see passenger services return next March.