Restored coach relaunched into service by Duke

The Duke of Northumberland relaunched the Mark 1 carriage.
The Duke of Northumberland relaunched the Mark 1 carriage.

A vintage railway carriage, restored by dedicated volunteers, has been relaunched into service by the Duke of Northumberland.

The transformed and smart-looking Mark 1 carriage was unveiled at a ceremony yesterday afternoon at the Aln Valley Railway’s (AVR) Lionheart Station, in Alnwick.

The heritage AVR development is an ambitious scheme to re-open most of the old branch line from Alnmouth to Alnwick and work is ongoing to complete the project.

More than 15,000 hours went in to the carriage restoration programme and its launch is the latest success story for the AVR, which has become a popular visitor attraction since opening a few years ago.

Speaking at the ceremony, the Duke, who is the AVR’s president, said: “I am delighted to celebrate the relaunch of this wonderful and magnificently-restored coach into service again.

“And, with the recent completion of earthworks, the raising of further finance to purchase and lay a good deal more track on the old branch line and the reintroduction of steam on the line, we also celebrate the further development of the Aln Valley Railway as a heritage steam railway.

“I formally opened the railway here four years ago and I was really impressed by the work of all the volunteers.

“Now that this coach is complete after 15,000 hours of restoration work, I am staggered by the team’s dedication and achievement and I congratulate them on this magnificent endeavour.

“I remember a few train trips from Alnwick station in my childhood and I’m looking forward to riding in this coach and bringing back some of those memories.

“I hope it won’t be too long before this railway once again links Alnmouth and Alnwick and I look forward to seeing this heritage steam railway become a welcome and important addition to the area’s attractions and a major contribution to the tourism economy.”

The carriage was built by British Railways at its Derby Carriage Works in 1956.

After service with British Railways, then later with the Gloucester Warwickshire Railway, it was purchased by a syndicate of AVR members and transported to Alnwick where it has been subject to extensive restoration by the railway’s carriage team, known as The Tuesday Gang.

Michael Fairnington, from Wooler, was thanked for doing the metal work on the coach.

After the short ceremony, guests took a trip in the coach, pulled by the railway’s steam locomotive Richboro, and there was the chance to see the recent progress at the railway, including the recently-laid connection to the original trackbed.