IT was full steam ahead as the Littlehampton Miniature Railway celebrated its formal opening under new ownership.
Balloons, streamers and blissful sunshine greeted delegates at the red tape ceremony at the Norfolk Gardens terminus.
New Arun District Council chairman Dennis Wilde was on hand to cut the tape and declare the attraction officially open, before hopping on for the inaugural ride on the railway’s new engine.
He was joined by an excited group of year-four and year-five pupils from St Catherine’s Catholic Primary School who visited the railway and Mewsbrook Park as part of a project on ecology and the book The Railway Children.
Mr Wilde said: “I was delighted to be asked to cut the ribbon to declare the miniature railway officially open.
“The attraction is part of the history of Littlehampton and I’m sure it will be a real draw for locals and visitors alike over the coming summer season. I wish Chris Phillimore the best of luck with the new venture, which I’m sure will prove extremely successful.”
The railway is now under the experienced whistle of Chris Phillimore, who has pumped in much-needed investment of £100,000.
Chris, who is the managing director of TIR Ltd, the company responsible for refurbishing the 760-metre track, was granted a 15-year concession to run the line by Arun in April.
He said: “I have worked on many railways before, but this one is particularly special.
“We have been looking for a line like this for some time. My company does a lot of work for operators of other heritage and leisure lines but we were keen to find one of our own.
“We think that Littlehampton is a great place for family holidays and day trips and want to make the railway an essential part of a day out on the south coast.
“The track has an established reputation that has been with it since its very first trip in 1948 and we are very keen to uphold the line’s brilliant tradition.
“We intend to ensure that the railway remains a real credit to the town and the number one place to go during the summer period.”
The railway first opened in 1948 with two 4-6-4 steam locomotives at its helm.
The track, which runs from Norfolk Gardens to Mewsbrook Park, is currently the oldest 12.25inch gauge railway in Britain.
Chris has succeeded the line’s former owner. Colin Evans, who was in charge for more than 14 years.
The new investment in the railway has seen the introduction of the heavy duty, Bo-Bo diesel locomotive and two enclosed coaches, as well as a new platform and signs.
However, there are bigger plans for the miniature railway’s future in the pipeline.
“We’re hoping, in the not-to-distant future, to be bringing steam engines back to Littlehampton after a near 40-year absence.
“We are also planning to introduce another coach for the summer holidays which will be fully open without a roof.”
The railway is currently running a competition to name its new. Bo-Bo diesel engine.
For further details on this, visit www.littlehamptonrailway.co.uk.