Since the property was acquired in 1997 and the Stainmore Railway Company was formed in 2000 the Kirkby Stephen East site has been transformed. The station structure has been conserved and partly restored internally for use as both a museum building and workshops. A large quantity of toxic waste that had been fly-tipped onto the site has been removed, the overgrown scrub land cleared and the formation drained and made ready for the railway to be re-laid. Just under two kilometres of track and sidings has now been laid and ballasted on the site, which by the summer of 2011 will be operable again as far west as Bridge 3 on the Eden Valley line. Pointwork and signaling are being installed to permit the operation of passenger trains and a platform extension added to the west of the original station building. Finally new amenities have been added, including a car park and picnic area.
There isn't the space here to describe all the work we have done over the past ten years but below are some 'before and after' photographs and a couple of others to give you a flavour of progress at Kirkby Stephen East. You can learn more about these projects on the main Company web site.
The Station - Before.
The use of the building as industrial premises by Station Mills for 23 years turned out to be the factor that in the end meant that the site survived to be restored as a Heritage Railway Centre. However several of the adaptations made by the previous owners have been difficult to reverse.
To use the building as a factory the original track wells were filled in on both sides of the building with rubble and then a layer of concrete applied over the whole interior of the train sheds. Heavy plant was needed to break through this crust. Sections of the roof were leaking badly and the beautiful 'Penrith Sandstone' walls had been covered with white paint
Here is the 'Darlington Platform' with heavy plant on site breaking up the concrete floor to restore the track bed
The Station - after
Ten years later the interior of the 'Darlington Platform' train shed has been restored as a museum area. The track has been re-laid, and at the moment provides a home for two LNER 1930's Gresley coaches which have also been partly restored on site. One of the coaches is a former buffet car and serves refreshments to KSE visitors.
The central range of buildings on the right has also now been largely restored. The furthest rooms now provide a home for the shop and the space occupied by the General Waiting Room now serves as a small exhibits museum.
During the Spring of 2011 we will be busy at work restoring the remaining room in this area - the Stationmaster's Office.
The Site - before
By 1997 most of the site of Kirkby Stephen East was derelict. A large quantity of rubble and waste, some of it containing toxic material, had been fly dumped along the south side of the area and much of the rest of the site was covered with established saplings more than 20' high that were beginning to form an impenetrable thicket.
Before any work could begin on track work the fly tipping had to be professionally removed and the thickets attacked with chainsaws and earth moving equipment to clear some space..
The Site - after
Ten years later you really couldn't credit that this is the same place - only the latticework of the original 1860's iron footbridge gives any clue that this is a photograph from the same viewpoint. The site has been cleared, vegetation cut back, land drainage restored, boundaries are repaired and the running lines and sidings have been laid and point work installed.
The site is almost back to being a working railway again.
On the right is some of the rolling stock available to working groups for carrying out track laying, ballasting and maintenance.
The Track Bed - Before
Even five years ago the first part of the route westwards from the site and down the Eden Valley Railway track bed was still untouched and completely overgrown. In this view work has begun on clearing vegetation from the the old formation near the former site of Kirkby Stephen Junction signal box on the left. The location of the abutments of former 'Bridge 2' are near the gate in the distance and beyond that the formation towards Bridge 3 still resembles the Amazon rain forest.
You would need a good machete to make any progress in that direction!
The Track Bed - after
The same view late in 2010. The first section of the running line for passenger trains is now heading away around the corner towards Bridge 3.
Rollers for installing point rodding are in place. In 2011 steam locomotives will be working along here for the first time in 45 years
Locomotives and Rolling Stock
While restoration of the building and re-laying of track has been in progress a lot of work has also been taking place on the locomotives and rolling stock based on the site. These include some pre-grouping Gresley coaching stock and a selection of early BR main line diesels and DMU's.
The Peckett 0-4-0 tank locomotive No.2084 'F.C.Tingey' is based at Kirkby Stephen East and during 2010 the engine has had an overhaul and the boiler tubes have been replaced so that it can be 'in steam' and hauling passengers for the 'Stainmore150' celebrations during the summer of 2011
Environmental Projects and Improvements
Some of the work carried out on site has been to improve amenities for visitors to Kirkby Stephen East. For example this area on the north embankment of the site has been developed to provide a picnic area with six tables and wheelchair access with the help of a a Cumbria Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund (CALSF) grant.
THE 'STAINMORE 150' PROJECT IS FUNDED BY THE HERITAGE LOTTERY FUND
The new picnic site on the north embankment.
Peckett 0-4-0 Saddle Tank 'J.F. Tingey' in steam.
The same view at Bridge 2 in October 2010.
The trackbed of the Eden Valley Line in 2007 looking west from Bridge 2.
The same view in 2010. The site has been restored as a working railway.
The west end of the station site from the footbridge taken about 2000.
The 'Darlington Platform' as it is restored today
Digging up the concrete floor that had been laid over the 'Darlington Platform' track well in 2000.