The Railway Museum in Ravenglass is forging ahead with plans to deliver an outstanding new museum experience, since gaining permission to extend the footprint of its existing building.
Network Rail has granted permission for the Railway Museum to build on land at the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway’s station site, which had been earmarked for the development.
The project gained £488,700 of Heritage Lottery Funding in September 2015, along with match-funding from Cumbria Community Foundation (CCF), Fisheries Local Action Group (FLAG), Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway Preservation Society (RERPS) and Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway (R&ER). All funders will now be able to see their vision realised.
A new train-shed extension will double the existing Railway Museum’s footprint and allow its collection of historic rolling stock to be displayed under cover for the first time. Accessible new displays and exciting interactive features will breathe life into the fascinating history of the nearly 150-year-old railway affectionately known as ‘La’al Ratty’, the first narrow-gauge public railway in England.
Accumulated over its long history, stretching back to 1873, the R&ER has thousands of items to display in the exhibition space and research facilities that will become available. The Railway Museum will also catalogue and digitise its archive, making a wealth of material available for display and research for the first time. This will allow the Museum to tell more fully the unique story of the railway, its connections to iron ore mining and granite quarrying, and its impact on life in Eskdale.
A museum-standard temporary exhibition space is to be created, to enable schools and special interest groups to stage their own displays. This involvement with schools will be backed by the development of a first-class education programme, so children can learn about the history of the Railway and the part it has played in local life and industry. In this way, the railway will become more relevant to many and attract a wider and more diverse audience.
Many historically important objects can now be restored, with these including parts of an 1875 3ft gauge saloon coach (one of the oldest surviving English narrow-gauge coaches), ICL no. 1 ‘Bunny’ (the railway’s first petrol locomotive and holder of the line speed record) and several wagons from the railway’s granite quarrying past.
The Railway Museum will close to allow work to start, and re-open in June 2017 in its new, extended form. This will enable it to attract local residents, visitors and railway enthusiasts throughout the peak months of the 2017 tourism season.
Speaking on behalf of the Railway Museum, Project Manager David Rounce said: “We are thrilled to have been given the green light to build our new museum. ‘La’al Ratty’ has such a remarkable history and has been a vital part of the community for so long that we’re delighted to be able to bring the railway’s story to life like never before, engaging with visitors of all ages.
“This wouldn’t be possible without the assistance of our generous funders, with whose help we can now realise our vision of making our heritage available to the general public whilst, through our schools and community exhibition programmes, contributing significantly to local education and civic pride. We’re particularly excited to have the museum ready for the 2017 season, which we are confident will be a real asset for tourism in Cumbria and the Western Lake District in particular.”