UK weekly edition, Wednesday, July 18, 2007
DEREHAM — It can’t compare with American transcontinental railway construction back in the 19th century, but a local railway project will still allow you to lay down some railroad track.
The Mid-Norfolk Railway Preservation Trust, in charge of restoring about 18 miles of railroad, is looking for people to be part of its all-volunteer team based out of Dereham Railway Station, about 40 miles northeast of RAF Mildenhall.
The trust recently sent out a notice in U.S. base publications for volunteers and has already received support from interested airmen. However, the ongoing railway project is in constant need of assistance, said Matt Goodrum, the trust’s volunteer coordinator.
“There will always be jobs to do,” he said about the various demands of the aging railway, with roots as far back as the 1800s.
Established in 1995, the role of the trust is to maintain an 11-mile active railway line between Dereham and Wymondham, as well as restore a 6½-mile stretch of disused track from Dereham to County School.
The entire railway line is considered to be one of the largest preserved railways in the U.K., according to the trust’s Web site, www.mnr.org.uk.
The active part of the railway also offers passenger services, in which the proceeds help fund the ongoing restoration project.
Besides working with railroad track, some other jobs that volunteers can tackle include painting and refurbishing railway stock from the 1950s and ’60s, such as coaches, cars and diesel locomotives. There is also much work required for the trust’s next big project — clearing vegetation from its neglected northern section line.
On a recent Saturday afternoon, Goodrum and a group of volunteers could be seen placing sections of track using a crane, while others were reviving an antique coach to its glory days with coats of new paint.
Just about every weekend, workers make it out to the railway station to volunteer their time. Volunteers don’t necessarily have to be train enthusiasts. They could just enjoy the opportunity to labor away as part of a large project, Goodrum said.
“For me, it’s a nice sense of achievement. I enjoy coming out here to see the railway being built up,” Goodrum said.
He also invites aircraft maintainers to see if their skills can be transferred to the trains.
“If they want to use those skills, they’re quite welcome to come here and do it or try something different,” he said, and added that on-the-job training is provided as well.
And for military units in need of demolition training, there are two bridges on the northern line that can be destroyed.
“They could blow up a few bridges if they want,” Goodrum said, smiling.
Membership in the Mid-Norfolk Railway Preservation Trust is required to volunteer on the railway. Fees range from 3 to 15 pounds a year and cover accident insurance. Sturdy footwear and work clothes should be worn, and safety vests and hardhats are available at the Dereham Railway Station, where the trust is based. Those interested in volunteering can e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
The trust also provides train rides on its historic railway stock as well as visiting steam engines from 3 to 10 pounds. For more information on ride times and volunteering, call 01362 690633 or go to www.mnr.org.uk.