Melton Mowbray train fans will be delighted this Easter, as the miniature railway is set to reopen in the town’s Wilton Park. The railway – once a popular feature of the downtown park – fell into disuse in 2019, but now, having returned to its former glory, it is preparing to welcome passengers again.
The restoration of the railway was carried out by There and Back Light Railway, a portable event railway company based in Melton which launched in 2019. Its portable railway can often be seen appearing at events around the county and the beyond, and now it will also operate the Wilton Park Railway.
According to There and Back owner Steve Purves, who is now the keeper of the 10.25 inch gauge model railway at Wilton Park, the railway was built in 1967 and opened in 1968 at Hamworthy Park near Poole, Dorset. He says there was originally the locomotive, three cars and a brake van, driving around the paddling pool in the park.
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He said the railway operated there for around four years before being sold to the Melton Mowbray Town Estate. The estate then installed it at the Leicester Road sports ground in time for the 1975 season, using two cars and occasionally the brake van, by the ticket collector/custodian.
“It’s been run by the Town Estate over the summer just about every year since, but the last 10 years haven’t been kind to it and its use has become more sporadic,” Steve said. “It fell to single carriage use before falling into disuse in 2019. The working locomotive and carriage were stored in the workshops on the city estate, another carriage was intended to be reused as a planter and the third wagon was hidden in storage.”
Having successfully operated There and Back Light Railway since 2019, Steve says he is always looking for expansion and what can differentiate There and Back from other portable railways. The opportunity to restore and operate the Melton Miniature Railway was a great opportunity to show what the railway company can do.
“We’ve always had a good working relationship with the people of Melton and have attended many events in the town and even brought the railway to the park on our own, but we’ve always been asked ‘why don’t they get not the other railway running? “After much conversation, an agreement has been reached between the Melton Mowbray Town Estate and us to restore the Wilton Park Railway to its former glory and keep it running with our team of dedicated railway volunteers.”
The abandoned locomotive and carriage have been taken to There and Back’s workshop for refurbishment and are expected to return to the railway on Good Friday April 15. Steve plans to run the railway in the park as much as possible – at least every weekend from Easter onwards. to October, he said.
The Melton Mowbray Miniature Railway is due to reopen on Good Friday and will be open from Good Friday to Easter Monday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day. Prices will be £2 per person each way, or three trips for £5 per person. You can pay in cash or by card on the train.