HRA Awards shortlist announced

The finalists for the largest and most prestigious awards in heritage rail have been revealed, with railway projects big and small hoping for top honours. 

The finest restorations and most innovative projects on the heritage railway scene are set to go head- to-head for top honours at the HRA Annual Awards 2023. The shortlist for what have been dubbed the ‘Oscars’ of the sector was revealed in early February after hours of deliberation by 14 judges. 

The shortlist pits narrow gauge industrial saddle tanks against named Great Western express locomotives and 15in gauge railways against their much bigger standard gauge brethren for top honours.  

The 2023 HRA Annual Awards is proudly sponsored by leading steam locomotive lubricant producers Hallett Oils. With 11 hotly-contested categories, including a number of new categories, entries have been stronger than ever.  

The judging panel included top names from the sector like Anthony Coulls, Paul Lewin and Chris Price, and editors from a host of leading railway publications. The overall winners will be announced at a glamourous evening event in Birmingham on Saturday, March 11 – with tickets now on sale. 

Heritage Railway Association Chief Executive, Steve Oates, said: “Despite all of the challenges thrown at the sector, some of the work demonstrated by entrants to the awards this year is literally staggering. The amount of effort put in by staff and volunteers at railways and tramways up and down the country over the past 12 months never ceases to impress – and these awards are all about celebrating their successes. 

“I’m really pleased that the shortlist this year has thrown a spotlight on some of the projects, and people, who don’t often get recognition too. Whether it’s painstaking wagon restoration or countless hours of toil by people normally behind the scenes – this year the entries have really dug deep into what makes heritage rail special on so many levels.

“It’s going to be a really exciting evening; heritage rail’s big night out! I can’t wait to see the winners up on stage, smiling to the cameras and knowing that their hard work has paid off.” 

Arguably the top honour for 2023 is the new ‘Railway of the Year’ award, sponsored by Hallett Oils. Shortlisted in this category are Seaton Tramway, Isle of Wight Steam Railway, Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway and Dartmouth Steam Railway and River Boat Company. 

The most coveted prize for anyone restoring a steam locomotive is the Coiley Award for Steam Locomotive Engineering, sponsored by Morris Lubricants. This year the finalists are Dean Forest Locomotive Group for the restoration of BR ‘57XX’ class pannier tank No. 9681, Sittingbourne and Kemsley Light Railway for their Premier back to the future project, Bluebell Railway for London Brighton and South Coast Railway ‘A1’ Class No.72 Fenchurch and Severn Valley Railway for Great Western Railway ‘Hall’ Class 4-6-0 Hagley Hall.  

The HRA Award for Diesel and Electric Locomotion was no less hotly contested. Making the shortlist are the EPB Preservation Group for their 5759-Hampshire Holiday project, Crowle Peatland Railway for the restoration of Simplex locomotive 40s302, now known as ‘Little Peat’, the Great Central Railway based Heavy Tractor Group for Class 37 Nos. 37714 and D6700, and Georail Services Limited for the restoration project on Andrew Barclay Works. No.400DM ‘Duke of Edinburgh’. 

While in the world of carriage and wagon, the Morgan Award for Rolling Stock Preservation is a highly prized accolade too. In the running this year are Chasewater Railway for their pre-grouping private owner coal wagons, Lincolnshire Coast Light Railway for their ‘Queen Mary’ carriage project and Bluebell Railway for the restoration of Southern Railway Bullied five-plank merchandise open wagon No. 12058.  

Another new addition is the HRA Infrastructure Award, sponsored by VolkerLaser, created to honour the best heritage rail civil engineering, signalling and buildings work. Shortlisted in the inaugural award are Aln Valley Railway Trust for the Cawledge viaduct refurbishment project, Cambrian Heritage Railways Weston Wharf extension and Hampton and Kempton Waterworks Railway and their new coach shed and maintenance facility.    

Also new for 2023 is the HRA Team of the Year Award, created to recognise outstanding contributions from groups of staff or volunteers at heritage railways and tramways. No less than five teams were shortlisted. In the running are: 

The Lord Faulkner Award for Young Volunteers continues to go from strength to strength, indicating the success of many railways and tramways in attracting and developing a younger workforce. The finalists for 2023 are Keighley and Worth Valley Railway volunteer Oliver Harrison, Isle of Wight Steam Railway’s Isaac Farnbank, Alex Caulfield from Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway, East Lancashire Railway Preservation Society volunteer Liam Barnes, and Ecclesbourne Valley Railway’s Ben Field. 

In a similar vein, the HRA Rising Star Award, sponsored by Rail Signalling & Power, aims to recognise those who are aged over-26 but new to the sector. This award is also new for 2023 and the first shortlist features Kerry Noble from West Somerset Railway, Railway Preservation Society of Ireland’s Gill Lewis, and the Middleton Railway Trust Youth Team. 

Organisational innovations are not neglected in the HRA Annual Awards, with three categories designed to celebrate the latest thinking in the sector.  

The HRA Award for Environmental Innovation shortlist features Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway for their ‘Embankments and Cuttings project - bringing biodiversity back to our railway’, North Yorkshire Moors Railway’s ‘Primrose Path’ project and Railworld Wildlife Haven for their ‘ReUse, RePurpose and Share’ initiative.   

Finalists in the HRA Award for Business Innovation sponsored jointly by PNP Events Ltd and Trackside Magazine are Bodmin and Wenford Railway for their Cornish Rail Coffee Company, and Yorkshire Dales Railway Museum Trust for ‘Dales Dining’.  

The HRA Award for Marketing and Communications will be contested by Talyllyn Railway for their project build a digital audience, Isle of Wight Steam Railway for ‘Island Rail News’ and Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway for their ‘Journey Through Steam’ initiative.   

The awards will all be presented at a glamorous evening event in Birmingham on Saturday, March 11. Tickets for the HRA Annual Dinner and Awards 2023 are available now.

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