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Full steam ahead for railway plans

PUBLISHED: 10:20 18 December 2008 | UPDATED: 22:03 05 July 2010

AMBITIOUS proposals to bring the elegance of the steam age back to a coastal town have been given a tentative thumbs up by local councillors.

The Southwold Railway Trust has been looking for ways to bring the steam train experience back to the town for many years and has now tabled plans for a £200,000 steam park where visitors can take trips around landscaped gardens on a replica locomotive.

AMBITIOUS proposals to bring the elegance of the steam age back to a coastal town have been given a tentative thumbs up by local councillors.

The Southwold Railway Trust has been looking for ways to bring the steam train experience back to the town for many years and has now tabled plans for a £200,000 steam park where visitors can take trips around landscaped gardens on a replica locomotive.

A narrow gauge railway started running between Southwold and Halesworth in 1879 but closed in 1929 when it could no longer compete with a new bus service.

While plans to revive the entire length of the railway have caused controversy in the town in recent years, the Southwold Railway Trust is now focussing its fundraising efforts on setting up the steam railway park on the site of the old Sole Bay Car Spares yard at the end of Blyth Road.

Now members of Southwold Town Council have spoken in favour of the plans. Although a final decision has been deferred until more detailed plans are available, councillors said on Tuesday night that the attraction would be an asset to the town but a great deal of work would be needed to improve the access route - currently a rough track which is a designated footpath.

John Miller said: "I have to say that the scheme really is a good one. It is imaginative and it would be a good thing for Southwold. I don't know if any councillors have used the track leading to the yard in the last week but I have. It is full of huge holes which are full of water."

Susan Doy said that the steam park would be an attraction for locals and visitors.

Simon Tobin said: "In principle I am totally in favour of the project but I agree that there is simply not enough information yet to make a decision. If it is tastefully done I think it would be a feather in the cap of Southwold."

The site is currently used as a breakers' yard and is next to the town's rubbish tip. If the plans for the steam railway park are approved, the existing shed would be used to house an engine shed and workshop, café, museum and shop.

A stretch of 2ft gauge looped track would run through landscaped gardens so visitors could experience steam travel for themselves and parking for about 40 cars would be provided on site.

Members of the Southwold Railway Trust are already working on creating a replica Sharp Stewart tank locomotive - the type of train which would have been used on the original Southwold railway - to run in the park.

Once Southwold Town Council has made a decision on the proposals, the plans will be considered by Waveney District Council in the new year.

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