A dream has come true for Ribble Steam Railway with the opening of a new Exploration Centre and exhibition.
The city-based charity says its new facility will be “transformational.”
The centre was officially opened by Nigel Harris, managing editor of Rail Magazine, who also opened new exhibition ‘Arrival of the Sentinels’ which celebrates the role Sentinel locomotives have played in the city’s rail history.
Some 100 guests, including volunteers, gathered to celebrate the milestone moment and enjoyed train rides and an exhibition tour. VIP visitors included Roy Parry, a former engineer from the Sentinel works in Shrewsbury.
Dave Watkins, chairman of Ribble Steam Railway, which is located on Chain Caul Road, Preston, said: “It’s something we’ve wanted to do for a long time. For the last few years we have envisaged opening out our mezzanine floor to provide a viewing platform for our conserved industrial locomotives. It’s an unusual vista - it just gives you a totally different view. I am extremely proud of our achievements.”
The changes have been aided by a £10K award from the Big Lottery Fund and the majority of design work was done by the society’s team of volunteers.
The room can now be used for educational purposes or meetings and visitors to the centre can view numerous steam and diesel trains.
The exhibition marks 50 years since three diesel Sentinel locomotives were purchased by Preston council to replace nine steam engines. Diesel run Sentinels are still used by Ribble Steam Railway on weekdays to keep bitumen trains rolling on the dockside. Dave said: "We are the only preserved steam railway in the country that has regular freight traffic - that's been going on since 2005."
The Sentinel Enterprise has been restored to her original green livery for the exhibition.
The railway is open to the public at weekends, admission is £7.00 for adults, £4.50 for concessions and £20 for a family ticket. Admission includes the opportunity to ride a steam train.