Leighton Buzzard Narrow Gauge Railway extension back on track

Volunteer Robert Hampton pointing in the direction of the extension. Photo by
Volunteer Robert Hampton pointing in the direction of the extension. Photo by

The extension of the Leighton Buzzard Narrow Gauge Railway is back on track after months of uncertainty.

Earlier in the year it looked like it had hit the buffers when an earthworks contractor could not be found to reprofile the route and lay the stone base for the track to be laid on.

In the Summer edition of Chaloner, The Magazine for the Leighton Buzzard Narrow Gauge Railway, there is an article about the Extension Update.

It says: "Towards Double Arches project slows due to lack of funds. We went out to tender in early April and at close of tender we hit a major problem as no one was prepared to quote.

"There doesn't seem to be that much money in the pot and there is a trickle of donations coming in."

Joe Horsley, the lines General Manager said “It was really worrying when we went out to tender for the earthworks and no one wanted to even quote for it."

A contractor has now been found, at a price significantly more than originally budgeted, and work will start in around a week’s time.

Joe added: "It's quite a big job with around 2,500 cubic metres of sand and clay to remove then 1,500 tonnes of base stone to be laid and finally 500 tonnes of ballast (the stone that keeps the track in place) to put down."

Track laying is planned for late September/ early October which will be carried out by the railway’s volunteers to keep costs down.

This will still need hired-in heavy-lifting equipment since every 36ft track panel weighs around ¼ tonne and the points significantly more.

Even when the track is down there is lots more work to do before the line can carry passengers.

In 2017, the Railway secured a new 250-year lease with Arnold White Estates and EU funding towards the project.

As part of its plans to extend operations beyond Stonehenge Works, the Leighton Buzzard Railway will work in partnership to deliver a new 250-year lease for the whole line, including the extension, an immediate cash injection and the promise of additional investment as and when the quarries are worked out and redeveloped.

The LEADER fund grant, worth £47,000, includes a £34,000 contribution towards the costs of the extension, a new coach and improvements to facilities at Stonehenge Works.

Terry Bendall, the Railway’s Chairman said: “Not all the work to completion is funded, with the earthworks swallowing most of our current funds.

"We need further donations to ensure that the line can be completed in 2020 and passenger trains can run. Currently we still need to raise another £45,000.”

Anyone wishing to donate to the extension may do so by cash, card or cheque in person to the railway’s booking office on operating days, or by sending a cheque payable to the 'Leighton Buzzard Narrow Gauge Railway Society' to Pages Park Station, Billington Road, Leighton Buzzard, LU7 4TG.