MARCH OPEN­ING FOR £1.3M RPSI WHITE­HEAD MU­SEUM

So­ci­ety re­alises am­bi­tion to show­case steam for a new gen­er­a­tion, and in­crease main line trips.

Steam Railway (UK) - - Irish News -

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.

ROY THOMPSON

ABOVE: New vis­i­tor in­for­ma­tion pan­els in­side White­head Rail­way Mu­seum.

ROBERT WHITE

Hudswell Clarke 0-4-0ST No. 3BG ‘Guin­ness’ tests the White­head turntable on Oc­to­ber 15 2016.

ROBIN MOR­TON

The view from the gallery, look­ing down on the car­riage re­pair shop at White­head.

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