A RAILWAY preservation group has bagged a lottery grant of nearly £2 million.

The Colne Valley Railway Preservation Society have been granted £1.757 million of Heritage Lottery Funding.

The money will fund the All Aboard: Developing the Colne Valley Railway project which aims to provide long term sustainability for the railway.

It will enable the group to buy its main site in Castle Hedingham and create a new entrance and building together with the development of two centres on the site.

Paul Lemon, chairman of the Colne Valley Railway Preservation Society said: “We are delighted the Heritage Lottery Fund has given us their full support.

“This allows the railway to secure its future and to develop the site with some first class facilities for the community, our visitors and the railway preservation world alike.

“We would also like to thank Braintree Council for their support with this project.”

The two new centres will be the Cubitt Skills Centre, a workshop which will become a centre of excellence for the overhaul and restoration of historic railway carriages, and the Brewster Interpretation Centre, which will tell the story of the railway and the community.

The charity will also span generations as it enters the digital age as it plans to allow public online access to the collections for the first time.

The current education programme will be enhanced and developed allowing a greater range of students to benefit.

Robyn Llewellyn, head of the Heritage Lottery Fund East of England, said: “Thanks to National Lottery players we’re delighted to support this project.

“Owning the land, trains and buildings will enable Colne Valley Railway to invest in a positive future for this heritage railway while new premises, digital access and training opportunities for apprentices will transform access to the railway’s many wonderful stories.”

The original Colne Valley (and Halstead) Railway was built by the community after the area was ignored by the big Victorian railway companies.

Since its inception in 1974, the current Colne Valley Railway has specialised in visits by schools and hosts about 50 schools a year as well as welcoming visitors and enthusiasts.

Tom Cunningham, Cabinet member for economic development at Braintree Council, said: “We’re proud to have been able to support Colne Valley Railway Preservation Society via our Business Growth Loan Fund which helped them secure a Heritage Lottery Fund grant.

“Colne Valley Railway is one of our major rural tourism and heritage destinations – a wonderful day out for families and school children and a great example of one of our attractions.”