Heritage Railway magazine article

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The following article appeared in the March 2005 issue of 'Heritage Railway' magazine as part of the 'The Younger View' column, which showcases the efforts of young people at heritage railway venues both in the UK and overseas. Heritage Railway is a leading title covering the whole spectrum of heritage railways and museums. Visit http://www.heritagerailway.co.uk/ for further information.

Indeed, the Cambrian Railways Society is fortunate to have been featured in the column on no less than three separate occasions in five years, illustrating the society's success at attracting young volunteers.

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Established in 1971 by a group of enthusiasts and former railwaymen who were anxious to preserve part of Oswestry’s once extensive network of railways, the Cambrian Railways Society has established an excellent museum and railway centre in the town.

Superficially, things seemed to stand still. However, the 400+ member society has recently seen the culmination of many years’ work behind the scenes, which due to their sensitivity, have been progressing out of the public eye.

The Nantmawr branch has recently been bought by the society, part of which had lain dormant for over 30 years. About three quarters of a mile has been cleared of vegetation since the end of September 2004. The level crossing at White Gates was re-laid in January.

A group of society members purchased the former Cambrian Railways Company social club, and turned it into a highly successful venue, which attracts a healthy mixed audience.

Official museum registration has also recently been granted, the site becoming dedicated to the history of railways in the former Cambrian area.

A Parry People Mover also gained HMRI approval to operate along the society’s running line to Middleton Road bridge.

However, it is pleasing to report that the society is far from being merely a haven for old men: it has a healthy mixture of young and not so young, male and female alike.

The development of the Nantmawr project has attracted a number of new volunteers and members since I last featured the society in June 2003. These include fifteen years old Paul Owen, a pupil at the Marches School in Oswestry. He is currently pursuing a career in the rail industry and hopes that experience gained with the CRS will put him in good stead.

Rob Jones, aged 14 hails from nearby Trefonen. How did he become involved with the project? He went for a visit with his friend Paul and got hooked. What continues to attract him to Nantmawr? “The tremendous progress we’ve made in transforming it from a jungle to a fully functioning heritage railway. Rob is currently planning a career as a Historian and said his interest in railways has helped it along. Rob’s father, Alistair, is also a volunteer.

Along with Paul, Rob worked extensively on opening up trackside ditches during the early stages of the project – an apparently unglamorous, yet highly important task.

Another new volunteer is nineteen years old Alun Evans, who works for a local manufacturer. He became involved with the society last September after reading about the Nantmawr project in the local press. What continues to attract you to Nantmawr? “I like cutting vegetation” he enthused. Along with his parents, he is now a regular volunteer.

Phil Bradley, 22, is an employee of Tanat Valley Coaches. Interestingly, from time to time, his duties include driving the D79 bus route, which follows the course of the old Tanat Valley railway, which the Nantmawr line joined at Blodwell Junction. What continues to attract him to Nantmawr? “I look forward to seeing a piece of Oswestry’s railway history brought back to life.” He became involved with the project thanks to his friends Dave Morris and Andy Rudd, who have been regular volunteers with the society for several years. What work has he done for the society so far? “I’ve helped with the operation of the People Mover on Sundays as a Crossing Keeper and also at Nantmawr, where I’ve been involved with trackwork and vegetation clearance.”

Of note is that these new volunteers are all local – proof of the society’s investment in forming good relations with local residents. Indeed, some of these residents include those living alongside the line who have come along to help, a prime example being pensioner David Jones, who’s grandson Hugh accompanies him.

Some of the society’s young volunteers also form part of the Cambrian Diesel Group, which is currently raising funds to acquire a diesel loco.

In concluding, I would recommend volunteering on the Cambrian. You are assured of a warm welcome, which the inhabitants of the Shropshire/ Welsh border are well known for. The society’s social scene predominantly centres on The Cambrian club on Saturday and Wednesday nights.

Contact the society at Oswald Road, Oswestry, Shropshire. Tel – 01691 671 749. Visit http://www.cambrian-railways-soc.co.uk/ . The museum is open daily 10 – 1600hrs.

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