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Phase 1 of Churnet Valley’s Leek extension opens for passengers

THE initial 659ft of the Churnet Valley Railway’s (CVR) £1million extension to Leek carried its first passengers on October 11, just 48 hours after the first track panels went down.

Greg Wilson’s USATC ‘S160’ 2-8-0 No. 5197 had the honour of hauling the first train full of invited guests over the £40,000 extension from Leek Brook, 10 years after the current project to reach Leek started to gain momentum. 

The official opening was conducted in heavy rain by Coun Sybil Ralphs and the CVR’s Tony Hancock.

Astonishingly, the extension did not exist just two days prior to the formal opening. It was laid in 48 hours by CVR volunteers and a 30-strong team from the Permanent Way Institution as part of its 2019 Practical Trackwork Challenge. 

The last panels were not installed until the day before the ‘S160’ ran over it.

Rain batters ‘S160’ No. 5197 as it eases the first train over the Churnet Valley Railway’s extension from Leek Brook on October 11. DAVID GIBSON

Funding for this section has been part financed by Staffordshire Moorlands District Council, which donated £19,000; the CVR provided the remaining £21,000. 

However, the CVR is launching a new share issue to help raise the £1m required to complete the next two-thirds of a mile to Leek. Grant aid will also be sought.

A new station is being constructed at Leek to replace the original 1849-built station, which was demolished after the line closed in 1965. The site is today occupied by a supermarket.

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