THE Swindon & Cricklade Railway will be back in business from next week.
Staff and volunteers have spent months preparing the heritage railway for its grand reopening on October 4 and have made sure to maintain the historic site during lockdown.
They have tuned up the steam and diesel locomotives. added a new coat of paint to some of the buildings, trimmed hedges and shrubs, and re-tarmacked the platform,
Alan Bott said: “It’s good to finally be back. We’ve been getting ready since May when there was a possibility of opening earlier.
“This was a massive task and it’s taken a long time, with slow and steady progress. It’s been tough, but we’re looking forward to welcoming people back.”
Precautions have been taken to ensure visitors can stay safe while still enjoying their journeys through the Wiltshire countryside on classic locomotives.
Tickets must now be pre-booked on the website and every group has its own compartment on the train.
Hand sanitising stations are set up around the site, a one-way system is in place and social distancing will be enforced.
Mr Bott added: “It’ll be a traditional yet different experience. Diesel engines will be in operation to begin with, then we’ll bring in the steam ones at a later date once things get going again.
“At some point on the weekend we reopen, The General Steam Navigation will be having its boiler lifted and removed from the chassis for the first time in 60 years.
“It’ll be the first time people can see right up close to it. We’re continuing with the next phase of our restoration.”
Trespassers proved to be a persistent problem during lockdown, adding extra stress for volunteers who had to carry out costly repairs to fences and gates.
Mr Bott warned that they would be seeking to prosecute repeat offenders as please for them to stop seem to have been ignored.
He added: “The railway is not abandoned or under construction, as some seem to think, the tracks are live and in regular use, even more so from next week.
“Trespassing is an offence and it’s added additional costs for fences and gates, so now our coffers are nearly dry.”
Visit swindon-cricklade-railway.org to book tickets.