At the 2022 Heritage Railway Association (HRA) Awards held on Saturday, 19th March at the Burlington Hotel in Birmingham, competition for top honours was hotly-contested.
The event was hosted by Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways General Manager Paul Lewin with guest speaker Tim Dunn, of railway documentary fame. Over 75 entries were received for awards covering almost every element of railway preservation in the UK.
The Morgan Award for Preservation, which recognises rolling stock restoration, was awarded to the Great Central Railway-based Quorn Wagon and Wagon Group for its 17-wagon box van train.
The Coiley Locomotive Engineering Award was presented to the Strathspey Railway for their restoration of London Midland and Scottish Railway ‘Black Five’ No. 5025.
Seaton Tramway won the ‘Outstanding Visitor Attraction’ for the huge amount of digital work it has carried out and its attention to detail in customer satisfaction.
In the HRA Award for Diesel Locomotion, the Isle of Wight Steam Railway claimed the trophy for its pioneering 1920s Drewry railcar No. 2.
There were 11 nominees for the Lord Faulkner Young Volunteer Award that was won by 25-year-old Kent and East Sussex Railway volunteer fireman and guard, Sarah Tagart, who was responsible for recruiting a record-breaking number of new volunteers.
Heritage Railway Association Chief Executive, Steve Oates, said: “We had a record-breaking number of entries this year, and the Young Volunteer Award was one of the most hotly contested of all. I’m sure the judges would have given all 11 an award if they could, but Sarah’s work really shone, and it’s terrific that she took the top prize.”
In the Most Innovative Fundraising Idea category, teenage volunteers Thomas and Lucy Isherwood from the Downs Light Railway set about fundraising for the miniature railway during the coronavirus pandemic and managed to turn their target of raising £2,000 into £50,000 of funding for the line.
The HRA Award for Environmental Innovation was won by the Bure Valley Railway for its pioneering role in trials of biomass blended fuel to replace traditional coal, as well as other initiatives to prove that steam railways can respond to ever increasing concerns about the environment.
There were so many entries for the HRA Award for Communications that it had to be split into internal and external categories. In the internal competition, the West Somerset Railway Association were triumphant for their publication West Somerset Railway Journal. The East Lancashire Railway took the award for external communications for its efforts in transforming its digital presence to better capture the heritage nature of the line.
The Cholsey and Wallingford Railway were the standout winners in the HRA Award for Small Groups. The railway attracted a record number of visitors even in the face of a curtailed operating season due to the pandemic and completed the award-winning reconstruction of the Maidenhead canopy.
In the HRA Award for Large Groups, the Bodmin and Wenford Railway won for its work to transform its business operations which brought a bumper 55,000 visitors to the railway.
The HRA Chairman’s Special Award was awarded to Railway Vehicle Preservations Ltd for its rebuild of the LNER’s ‘beavertail’ observation saloon back to its 1937 condition.
To mark 70 years of preservation, the Talyllyn Railway was given the Manisty Award for Excellence to honour the enormous contribution that the line has made to the whole heritage railway sector and the inspiration it has provided to others for seven decades.
Steve Oates concluded: “This awards event means a huge amount to the heritage rail sector. It’s our chance to celebrate the railways and individuals who have gone above and beyond to deliver the quality, experience, ingenuity and passion that heritage railways depend upon. It’s also been a great opportunity to look back to the birth of heritage rail and take new inspiration from the massive success that the Talyllyn spearheaded all those years ago.
“After another really tough 12-months, not just for heritage railways but for the whole country, it’s been immensely satisfying to see and hear what a fantastic job volunteers and staff across the industry have been doing. It fills me with pride and with optimism that we will overcome whatever challenges face us next.”