Lottery Heritage Award Update 31/03/2021

Heritage Lottery Emergency Fund

Like for everyone else, most other businesses and operations last year was a very time challenging for the railway. Having been forced to close on March 23rd, due to the spread of COVID -19, we were faced with several months of being unable to generate income ourselves and even after a moderately successful 2019 our cash reserves very quickly began to reduce.

The nature of a heritage railway operation is that it cannot be “mothballed” – most costs are still incurred whether we generate income or not and without addressing this the railway would not be able to re-open in compliance with all regulatory and safety requirements. It was therefore imperative that we secured additional funding, ensuring we were able to survive this crisis and be able to deliver a full calendar and timetable of activities as restrictions are eased so that once again we could look forward to generating severely needed income.

Many avenues of potential income were investigated and we were advised that the Heritage Lottery were launching an emergency fund. Grateful for the opportunity we applied and in November we were pleased to announce we had received a grant for £250,000 to ensure essential works could continue and our running costs and overheads paid. The grant contributes to our costs from November to March 2021 and has been invaluable in getting us to this point where we are in a position at the end of March 2021 to be able to plan limited opening as restrictions are due to be relaxed in April.

As we look forward to returning to normal operations during the summer, we still have challenges to overcome. Not least frustrated bookings from last year that have to be honoured. However, as we look forward to generating income that begins to returning us to our pre-Covid financial stability, we feel if it were not for grant from the HLF, which has significantly contributed to our survival to date, then we might not be in the position we are now whereby we see how we can navigate our way to viability.

The money has been used across the railway and the following is an overview of some of the areas where this money has been used.

Permanent Way and Infrastructure.

Responsible for ensuring our tracks, bridges, signalling and lineside boundaries are maintained in compliance with regulations implemented and inspected by the Office of Road and Rail. Their work includes flailing the vegetation track side to ensure this does not encroach on the rails, the clearing of culverts to allow excess water to drain away, maintaining the rails and replacing ballast, new fencing along the railway boundaries to prevent trespass and the concreting of sidings at our Swithland location.

An example of some of the work we have done is shown below. The rails rest on Ballast (crushed stone) this moves over time and has to be re-built up again to ensure that the rails run completely flat. The following picture shows the Ballast hopper wagons being moved to our Carriage & Wagon works for essential maintenance and exams ahead of track maintenance. March 2021

The next image shows a tamping unit, this lifts the rails and helps align them when the ballast has been either compacted or displaced. The ballast is then reloaded onto the track bed. March 2021

The next photo shows a rail mounted Crane which is in situ to install a replacement parapet on bridge 341. February 2021

Carriage and Wagon Works

This department does most of our restoration, maintenance and safety exams of our rolling stock. Not all work is possible and some of our coachwork has to be sub-contracted to companies to external specialist companies.


The following pictures show the progression of work done to two carriages. The first is our Director’s Saloon No. 999503, the Arrowvale Belle and dates from 1959, built at Wolverton. It has been necessary to do a complete restoration of this vehicle. This has included repanelling and veneering the inside.  The finished vehicle is to be added to our fleet of carriages to available for charter and due to its unique design, we expect this to be very popular


Initial exterior paint preparation and stripped interior prior to restoration.

All of the interior required restoration

Completed exterior paint and renewed interior following restoration

Veranda Car – Images required plus any other work of interest.

This was originally converted from a BR Mk1 coach by Nemesis Rail at Burton on Trent. To ensure continued compliance with safety regulations it has been necessary to improve the railings and whilst out of traffic also undertake essential maintenance and attend to the paintwork. The following picture is prior to restoration.

This image below shows Jamie Swanson welding the new security rails and the next two show the completed repairs.

Essential maintenance for Heritage Stations

Quorn & Woodhouse

Goods Shed and Platform – This unique piece of heritage enables us to showcase how freight was loaded and unloaded and to show and discuss the effects of social change that was brought about by the railways, benefitting industry, local communities and bringing fresh food to the cities. In recent times the building and loading platform had fallen into disrepair. We had already planned to restore this in 2020, but the monies allocated had to be used elsewhere as our reserves continued to reduce. Through careful planning we had identified that we could bring this back to life and at the same time life also use this as a classroom and museum. We have already made strides in welcoming schools to the railway and we want to encourage more school visits to the railway to ensure our heritage is understood and appreciated and hopefully engage the attention of future steam engineers and volunteers. The following pictures show how work has progressed.

Replacing the rotted platform

The Completed Livestock Pen


The inside of the building also needed extensive restoration as shown in the next two photos showing the replacement ceiling and rebuilt fire place.

The completed floor and original working markings found on the walls during preparation which will be kept.

Locomotive works

The team have been very busy and have used their time well to ensure we are ready for the time we can re-open and commence running again. Apart from the usual on-going maintenance required for all vehicles essential repairs have been made to No.6990 “Witherslack Hall” Great Western Railway Modified Hall Class 4-6-0 and No.92214 British Railways Standard Class 9F 2-10-0.

The following photos show new super heater elements for the 9F


Jonny Johnson and Alex Burnside after fitting the super heater elements to the 9f

Jonny Johnson again putting the sanding valve back on the 9F after overhauling the valve

Next we have new piston valves for 6990 Witherslack hall and the boring device set up on to enable correct fitting.

As ever, all work was overseen by our Chief Engineer Craig Stinchcombe.



The Great Central Railway would like to acknowledge the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund and all National Lottery players.

Whilst there is still challenges facing the railway and we remain cautious as to when we can fully re-open again, without doubt without the grant we would not be in the position we are today.


Loughborough Station                           Quorn and Woodhouse Station entrance



Rothley Station Entrance




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