An appeal has been launched by Swanage Railway volunteers to raise £65,000 so that work can resume on building a much-needed £240,000 carriage storage shed.
It is hoped to have the £65,000 raised by the end of June so that the steel structure of the building can be ordered before being delivered to the site and constructed in November, 2021.
Work on the structure – located east of Herston Halt on the outskirts of Swanage – began in January, 2020, but had to stop at the end of March, 2020, when the Government introduced the first national Covid-19 lockdown.
Before the work had to stop last year, contractors had managed to complete the foundations for the steel structure that will span two tracks and be capable of storing ten carriages – including the Swanage Railway’s historic heritage carriages.
Swanage Railway fund-raising chairman Randy Coldham said: “This appeal is for a critical project to protect our historically important heritage carriages, the oldest of which date from the 1930s.
“The Swanage Railway doesn’t have any undercover storage facilities for its carriages which have to be stored outside in all weathers. Keeping ten carriages under cover in a dedicated storage shed will protect the vehicles from the weather and also reduce the costs of maintaining the carriages.
“We are hopeful that the public will help us to close the funding gap and allow the carriage shed to be completed by the start of 2022 so it can protect some of our historic carriages from the ravages of winter weather,” added Randy.
The re-launch of the new Herston carriage shed appeal comes after the Swanage Railway’s Save Our Service Appeal reached its total of £360,000 in less than a year.
It was at the end of March, 2020, that Swanage Railway volunteers launched the appeal to help the heritage railway survive the economic effects of the Coronavirus pandemic.
Randy explained: “I would like to thank everyone who has worked so hard to reach – and surpass by £5,000 – the Save Our Service Appeal target of £360,000 in less than a year.
“It’s a marvellous achievement thanks to the generosity of our members, staff, volunteers and the public.
“With our earnings from running trains reduced by lockdowns, Covid-19 restrictions and the need for social distancing on our trains which has reduced seating capacity, the Save Our Service Appeal has allowed the Swanage Railway to survive the winter.
“We are now working to safely resume train services in line with the Government’s roadmap to recovery from the Coronavirus pandemic,” added Randy who is also a volunteer Swanage Railway signalman.
Early 2020 saw £30,000 raised in an initial appeal so that preparation and foundation work could be carried out on the site of the new carriage shed which is a first for the heritage line that has been rebuilt from nothing since 1976.
Randy explained: “Fund-raising work for the carriage shed had to be paused in March, 2020, as dedicated and determined Swanage Railway volunteers battled the economic challenge of surviving the Coronavirus pandemic through the Save Our Service Appeal.
“Now, we can return to the Herston carriage shed project which has seen us raise £177,000 towards the building costs thanks to successful fund-raising efforts as well as generous legacies and bequests.
“With the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, the appeal was paused before reaching its target of £32,000. We had hoped to secure a grant to part-fund the construction but it was no longer available as the grant administrators had changed their requirement to enable them to finance organisations affected by Covid-19.
“Without the grant, because of the early closure of the original appeal and allowing for inflation we have set the appeal target to raise £65,000 by the end of June so that the steel structure of the carriage shed can be manufactured and installed on the site. It is hoped to complete the new shed by early 2022,” he added.
The new carriage shed at Herston will be 131 metres long, have a height of 6.5 metres, a width of 9.2 metres and cover an area of more than 1,000 square metres.
The project manager for the Herston carriage shed is Swanage Railway Trustee Nick Coram – a volunteer operations department locomotive driver and fireman – while the consulting engineer is Jim Peters of Such Salinger Peters in Bournemouth.
To make a donation to the Herston Carriage Shed Appeal, go to www.swanagerailwaytrust.org/