MARCH OPENING FOR £1.3M RPSI WHITEHEAD MUSEUM
Society realises ambition to showcase steam for a new generation, and increase main line trips.
A DYNAMIC new era will begin for the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland on March 1, with the opening of its £1.3 million Whitehead Railway Museum (WRM).
The society expects that it will attract around 15,000 visitors a year. Visitors will be able to view, through observation windows, work in progress on locomotive and carriage restoration - and the Whitehead Heritage Engineering foundry in operation. There will also be an accessible signal cabin, 60ft turntable and education centre, as well as locomotive and carriage galleries, enabling visitors to get up close to preserved items which have not been seen in public for years. In the longer term, exhibits will include gems like Sligo, Leitrim & Northern Counties Railway 0-6-4T No. 27 Lough Erne. The development of a railway museum is a longcherished ambition of the RPSI, primarily known for operating main line steam throughout Ireland. The museum - complete with period-style café - will be complementary to main line operations, but the society expects it will create a whole new audience for its activities. There will be a low-key opening on March 1, but there are plans for a formal event later in the year. Initially, the museum will be open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, but the RPSI hopes that opening days will increase in time for the summer. Visitors will be guided in groups around the museum by specially trained RPSI members, and advance booking will be possible through the WRM website. On selected days, a steam ride up and down the site will be in operation, enhancing the experience for visitors. Denis Grimshaw, the RPSI chairman, said: “Ever since the society was founded in 1964, opening a museum was one of our aspirations and we see this as entirely complementary to our existing programme of main line steam tours. “Indeed, we hope that the museum will introduce a new generation to steam travel, and will in time enable us to increase the number of main line trains that we operate.” The overall funding package for WRM has been provided by the Heritage Lottery Fund, the European Regional Development Fund under the European Sustainable Competitiveness Programme for Northern Ireland and administered by Tourism Northern Ireland, with additional support from Mid and East Antrim Council and Ulster Garden Villages.
ABOVE: New visitor information panels inside Whitehead Railway Museum.
Hudswell Clarke 0-4-0ST No. 3BG ‘Guinness’ tests the Whitehead turntable on October 15 2016.
The view from the gallery, looking down on the carriage repair shop at Whitehead.