Ribble Steam Railway celebrates £207K lifeline award from Culture Recovery Fund

City heritage organisation Ribble Steam Railway and Museum is celebrating after being awarded £207,200 from the Government's Culture Recovery Fund.

Monday, 12th October 2020, 6:24 pm

The financial lifeline means the Preston based charity on Chain Caul Road can carry out essential work to enable it to welcome more visitors amid Covid-19 restrictions and in the future.

The grant will also mean it can share its story with more people through the development of its digital offer.

A delighted David Watkins, Chairman of the Board, said: " We've never really been good at applying for awards in the past. This is the first time that we at Ribble Steam have been successful with a higher valued grant application and we are all absolutely over the moon."

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A Ribble Steam Railway locomotive - named Courageous after and painted in the original livery colours of the Preston dock link line's former Courageous loco.

Ribble Steam Railway opened for the first time since March last Saturday. David said: "This has come at a time when, because we were forced to close our doors and with no income being generated, we could not invest in or develop our business. Now, because of the Culture Recovery Fund, we have this fantastic opportunity to add to the experience that Ribble Steam can offer to all of our visitors both young and old.

"The major projects we're doing are nearly all outdoor things. We're widening the platform so we can actually put some picnic tables so people can have a cup of tea out there and watch the trains at the same time. It's all starting from scratch. It's a big job - it's something we've wanted to do and something we need to do. A signal gantry is going over the main gate to make it look more railway like when (people) approach."

A new external sign will be put up to alert visitors to the site and its attractions near Preston's docklands and there are plans to create a timeline showing how rail travel and freight journeys took off from the 1820s and rail's role through to the present day.

Front of House Director, Alison Pinch, said “With this grant, we are going to be able to give visitors from all walks of life better access to our railway, whilst helping keep everyone safe with social distance measures both indoors and outdoors. We are going to create new digital access, helping visitors explore our industrial heritage

Celebrations at Ribble Steam Railway (photo: Neil Cross)

collections virtually."

Describing the award as a "fabulous and timely opportunity" David pledged: "We will use this to strengthen and

grow our volunteer community, supporting our local area in Preston and Lancashire...We welcome visitors and volunteers from all walks of life to enjoy and participate in keeping the industrial heritage of Preston

alive."

He added: "The Covid-19 pandemic meant sadly for the first time in our history, we had to close our gates to both our visitors and our volunteers. Because of this closure essential work on our historical locomotives and key conservation work in our museum and workshops had to be halted. This grant will allow us to restart vital work and strengthen our volunteer community and allow us to keep this heritage alive for the future generations to

experience.”

Ribble Steam Railway relocated from Southport in 1999/2000 where it was then called Steamport. On the site of Preston's dock link railway it has 50 steam and diesel locomotives on site. The line is used not just by Ribble Steam Railway but carries freight from locally based Total Bitumen, also on Chain Caul Way.

David said: "We've only been here since 2000. This was a field. In 20 years we've done one hell of a lot."

* Some 445 heritage organisations in England benefited from the first batch of £103m funding from the Government's £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund. The Fund was established to help Britain’s museums, galleries, theatres, independent cinemas, heritage sites and music venues with emergency grants and loans during the pandemic.

* Ribble Steam Railway and Museum is due to open on Saturdays during the rest of October. But this may be subject to change and potential visitors should check the charity's website for updates. For more information see ribblesteam.org.uk and to book tickets see ribblesteamtickets.co.uk