All aboard as miniature railway plans to grow

STEAM’S UP: Getting steam up on their Freelance Quarry loco, called Irene, at Saturday’s event in Cutteslowe Park are John Roulstone, front, and Derek Graig

STEAM’S UP: Getting steam up on their Freelance Quarry loco, called Irene, at Saturday’s event in Cutteslowe Park are John Roulstone, front, and Derek Graig Buy this photo

First published in News Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by , Council Reporter, also covering Oxford city centre. Call me on 01865 425429

OXFORD’S train station is due to expand in a £75m redevelopment and the new line to London Marylebone is well under way but this year could mark yet another railway expansion in the city.

That’s because it’s full steam ahead for the mini-railway in one of Oxford’s parks.

The Cutteslowe Park Miniature Railway has been making tracks since 1988 and the group which runs it hopes to expand the line by more than 300m.

Oxford City Council has said it intends to hand over the necessary loop of land through Cutteslowe Park – and David Price, the secretary of the City of Oxford Society of Model Engineers (COSME), said work could start this winter.

He said: “Subject to planning permission being given, it would be a winter project and we would probably start this winter and we might complete it then as well.

“We have been in negotiations with the council for about a year now and the plan is to take the railway outside the current site that we lease from the council.

“It would be double the size of the current ground level railway.”

Mr Price, who became involved eight years ago through his interest in the railways, said an agreement over the land could be reached within the next month which would allow it to seek planning permission.

The 71-year-old, from Abingdon, said the society is seeking to expand the railway because of its popularity, which he says has been steady for the past three or four years.

The project would cost around £30,000 and would be funded by the income the society receives from tickets, plus possible external funding.

Members of the group, set up in 1946, bring their own model trains to the track on days when it is open and sometimes there are up to 14 operating at any one time.

The mini-railway used to be based at Blenheim Palace but moved to Oxford, where it has a clubhouse and a carriage shed, because the society was unable to meet the palace’s request to run trains every day.

An estimated 25,000 people use the railway, which runs on alternate Sundays, Bank Holiday Mondays and some Wednesdays from late March to the end of October.

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Graham Jones, of the Friends of Cutteslowe and Sunnymead Park, said: “Providing all the wrinkles have been ironed out, then our message is good luck to them. They have shown themselves to be an absolute asset to the park.”

Graham Gain, a train enthusiast who came down from Eastcote near Birmingham on Saturday for the Dreaming Spires Rally, said he thought expansion was a good idea.

The 69-year-old said: “It would be wonderful. I know it would be much appreciated by visitors. It is a lovely little location and it is very well supported by the public.”

Sophy Mutch, a spokeswoman for the city council, said: “We are working with COSME to look at helping them expand.

“There are several processes we need to go through to enable this which could result in a planning application.”

 

Making tracks – little line started life in the grounds of Blenheim Palace

Oxford Mail:

  • An event at the railway in 1994
  •  
  • THE Oxford and District Society of Model and Experimental Engineers was set up in 1946.
  • It came under various guises, including the Witney and West Oxfordshire Society of Model Engineers, which was founded in Witney in 1955 and ran trains on portable tracks in the area, as it did not have a permanent base.
  • The Duke of Marlborough became president of the society when it secured a permanent site at Blenheim Palace – the track was built in six months.
  • The last trains ran at Blenheim on September 6, 1987.
  • Plans for a new site in Cutteslowe Park had been drawn up by May 1987 and a lease on the site was arranged with Oxford City Council.
  • The new track was ready for Easter 1988 and the society changed its name to the City 
  • of Oxford Society of Model Engineers.
  • It has now been running 
  • for more than 25 years and operates on alternate Sundays, Bank Holiday Mondays and some Wednesdays from late March to the end of October.
  • The Dreaming Spires Rally is held each year in July.
  • It was awarded money in 2011 from the Big Lottery Fund for a special carriage for elderly and disabled people.

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