We did it! - Many thanks to everyone who voted for our project in The People's Millions.
The ITV Meridian East news at 6pm on Thursday 26 November 2009 showed Fred Dinenage presenting a large cheque for £49,500 to Rowan Millard, our Carriage & Wagon Works Manager.
The level of support we've received from across railway preservation, and the wider heritage movement, from our visitors, members and their friends, from local people and from access groups has been tremendously encouraging. Our sincere thanks to you all.
Check out our video and photo gallery for the project.
The People's Millions is a competitive programme of the Big Lottery Fund, giving people a real say in how lottery money is spent in local communities throughout the UK.
The aim of the competition is to fund projects that provide opportunities for people to enjoy in their area, whether indoors or out, and improve facilities for all to enjoy.
The Big Lottery have already funded 318 projects across the UK. In November this year they will fund over 50 projects of up to £50,000 each across the 15 ITV regional news areas. There will be separate head-to-head competitions in each of the 15 ITV Regions.
Bluebell Railway Project: The Bluebell Railway has submitted a project which is one of only six to make the shortlist for the Meridian East ITV Region.
The Bluebell Railway is a not-for-profit organisation, largely run by volunteers, which operates steam-hauled passenger trains on a 9-mile line through the heart of the Sussex Weald. It was the first full-sized railway preservation project in the UK, and celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2010.
The project is to restore a derelict Victorian Carriage - once used as a domestic dwelling - so that it may provide a special carriage for the benefit of wheelchair users.
If successful the Bluebell Railway will turn this (right), a grounded body once built into a bungalow, which was originally a London, Chatham & Dover Railway carriage, No.51, built in 1889 ...
... into something very similar to this, able to carry up to 6 wheelchairs in Victorian comfort.
The carriage will join the Bluebell's set of Victorian carriages which are used through the year for normal journeys and for special events such the very popular Victorian Picnics in the summer and the equally popular Victorian Christmas services. As originally designed the Victorian carriages did not accommodate wheelchairs, thus at present wheelchair users miss out on these journeys and special events.
The vintage carriage the Bluebell wish to restore will look almost as it did at the end of the 19th century on the outside, but the interior will be redesigned by the Railway's award winning Carriage & Wagon workshop to provide accommodation for up to six wheelchair users and their friends.
In a normal year the Victorian set of coaches can be expected to make 250 journeys and thus this project will provide 1,500 spaces for wheelchair users. Over the Christmas period there are eleven Victorian Christmas trains, which will give a capacity of 60+ wheelchair users. The space will be flexible such that if there are fewer wheelchair users on a particular journey, more of their friends can be accommodated in the same saloon rather than elsewhere in the same coach.
Right: The proposed wheelchair accessible carriage is almost identical to this carriage, seen here gleaming in the sunshine awaiting its first passengers after restoration to service in November 2006. Further details of the work that went into the restoration of this carriage are available here.
At present the Bluebell Railway runs a much more modern carriage able to carry passengers in wheelchairs, and is also just starting work on converting a second of these.
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