The Swindon and Cricklade Railway celebrated its 35th anniversary on Sunday 17 November with a Kids Go Free day, and the launch of a specially carriage converted to accommodate wheelchairs.
The carriage was unveiled by Michael Hill, Chief Executive of the Hills Group, and Councillor Nick Martin, the Mayor of Swindon.
Originally built in 1959, the conversion took four years to complete, with the aid of the Hills Group, who provided £27,000 through the Landfill Communities Fund, which is administered for Hills by Community First, the Rural Community Council for Wiltshire.
The carriage is named LAURA, after the wife of the Hills Group founder, Edward Hill, who established the Wiltshire based company in 1900.
After the ceremony is over, railway society’s representatives and guests were taken for a ride in the newly converted carriage, hauled by 0-6-0 steam locomotive, “Salmon”.
The public then had the chance to ride in the new carriage.
Michael Hill said: “I am so impressed with what has been achieved by the enthusiastic group of volunteers to deliver this project.
"They have had many setbacks along the way, but their sheer determination has ensured that this marvellous railway experience can be enjoyed by all.
"Hills is proud to have supported this project and it is very special that my great-grandmother’s name is carried on the coach.”
Brian Pound, chairman of the railway society, said that the introduction of this coach will allow people with access difficulties to enjoy the ride in a more comfortable manner.
Swindon and Cricklade Railway Society is located at Tadpole Lane, Blunsdon, Swindon SN25 2DA
Top, the railway society 35th anniversary train. Above, unveiling Laura and the converted railway carriage in use. Photos: Richard Wintle of Calyx
Below, Edward Hill (1872 – 1956), founder of Hills Group to Laura Phillips (1870 – 1948)