A VOLUNTEER who has dedicated almost 60 years to the Didcot Railway Centre has been shortlisted in the Unsung Hero category in the Beautiful South tourism awards.

Frank Dumbleton is one of the centre’s longest-serving volunteers and photographers.

The award is organised by Tourism South East which said Mr Dumbleton had been chosen for his long-standing commitment and hard work at the railway centre.

The loyal volunteer has been involved with the Great Western Society, which is the charity that has run the 'living museum' since its formation in 1961.

Mr Dumbleton typically dedicates more than 100 days each year of his time as the centre’s photographer. He records activities on the 21-acre site and takes publicity shots to help promote the popular tourist attraction. The railway enthusiast even took part in the Antiques Road Trip last year on BBC with the railway centre.

Chief executive Emma Jhita said: “This is wonderful news and a much-needed boost at this really difficult time. Frank’s work has been used extensively in recent years as our marketing team has switched to an image-led, largely digital approach. Having fantastic photos showing visitors what we were able to offer was invaluable during the pandemic-affected 2020 season.”

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She added: “Reaching the finals is well-deserved recognition for Frank. Like many of our volunteers, he puts in countless hours to help out and also acts as a Museum Steward and educational guide when he can. His passion for the Great Western Railway and his knowledge, having been involved for 60 years, is also a fantastic resource.”

Despite 2020 being a difficult year for many, the competition is still tough.

The annual tourism awards attracted entries from around 100 businesses from Kent to Hampshire and from the Isle of Wight to Oxford.

Fran Downton, chief executive of Tourism South East, said: “We felt strongly that the Beautiful South Awards should go ahead this year. Recognising and celebrating the quality and excellence of our tourism business, in the face of adversity is really important to us. Tourism in the South East demonstrates national and world class offerings, and the entry standards to our awards are always high. This year was exceptionally challenging for our businesses and we are pleased to be able to deliver some well needed positivity and rewards”.

The winners will be announced at an online ceremony on March 4, 2021.

Didcot Railway Centre is currently closed, but the centre hopes to be open with Steam Trains running on weekends, Wednesdays and Bank Holidays from April until October, however the centre is still awaiting details from the Government before bookings are made available.