Shortlist for top awards announced

The biggest heritage rail awards in the world is set to see a record holding ‘A4’ go head-to-head with a 2ft gauge Double Fairlie. 

The shortlist for the Heritage Railway Association Annual Awards 2024 brings together a host of preservation and restoration projects from opposite ends of the heritage rail spectrum. Sponsored by Inspire Structures, the long-running awards feature no fewer than 11 categories designed to capture the most innovative, eye-catching and exciting projects and achievements from right across the sector in the UK. 

The prestigious Coiley Award for Steam Locomotive Engineering, sponsored by Hargreaves, will be contested by the Sir Nigel Gresley Locomotive Trust for their overhaul of post-war steam speed record holder ‘A4’ Class ‘Pacific’ No. 60007 Sir Nigel Gresley, the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways for the construction of ‘Double Fairlie’ 0-4-4-0T James Spooner, and the Richmond Light Railway for the overhaul of 2ft gauge Bagnall 0-4-0ST Pixie.   

Meanwhile the shortlist in the award for Diesel and Electric Locomotion. sponsored by Give Life 365, features the North Norfolk Railway’s restoration of Class 104 DMU driving trailer No. M56182, Seaton Tramway’s upgrade of Tramcar No. 9 to improve accessibility and the Severn Valley Railway’s events celebrating 50 years of diesel preservation.  

All eyes will be on the headline Railway of the Year category too, with the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway competing against Seaton Tramway and the Volks Electric Railway for the honour in an all narrow gauge shortlist.  

The shortlist has been created following an extensive debate and vote by a panel of experts drawn from leading heritage rail figures and journalists. It is chaired by National Railway Museum Senior Curator Anthony Coulls. The panel scored dozens of entries from a strong field to create the shortlist, which will go forward to the awards event itself early in the New Year. 

Heritage Railway Association Chief Executive, Steve Oates, said: “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a shortlist as rich and varied as this one. It really is representative of the whole spectrum of heritage rail in the UK. We’ve got tramways competing with 15in gauge steam railways and one of the world’s biggest narrow gauge achievements competing with a Gresley ‘Pacific’. It’s exactly what these awards are about. 

“It’s also been perhaps the toughest to shortlist for. Some categories had half a dozen or more entries that were all potential winners. I think we’re in for a hugely exciting evening at our awards event in Brighton during February.” 

The Morgan Award for Rolling Stock Preservation, sponsored by Paintman Paints, features a shortlist of four in the 2024 event. The Isle of Wight Steam Railway’s restoration of the line’s former Midland Railway six-wheel crane, the Manx Electric Railway for the restoration of trailer No. 19, the Severn Valley Railway for the restoration of LMS-designed corridor composite carriage No. 24617 and the National Wagon Preservation Group for their ‘Merry-Go-Round’ coal train project.  

The Keith and Dufftown Railway’s ‘Dram Tram’ conversion of a redundant DMU carriage, Seaton Tramway’s Natural Seaton Festival, and the Kent and East Sussex Railways’ Santa Specials ‘quiet day’ are all hoping for victory in the Award for Business and Customer Innovation, sponsored by PNP Events. Seaton Tramway’s Natural Seaton Festival is also in the running for the Award for Environmental Innovation, sponsored by Premier Park, alongside the Kent and East Sussex Railway’s ‘Looking Inwards and Outwards’ environmental initiative. 

The Lord Faulkner Young Volunteer award always sees encouragingly high levels of interest, and this year has been no different. Making the shortlist for the 2024 award are Daisy Shennan from the Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway, Jonathan King from the Downpatrick and County Down Railway, Jacob Short from Peak Rail and Joseph Dean from the Avon Valley Railway.  

A recent addition to the honours is the Infrastructure Award, sponsored by Ernest R Shaw. Another strong shortlist emerged from the voting process with the Rother Valley Railway’s Hither Green turntable installation, the restoration of Bricket Wood station building by Bricket Wood Station Heritage Trust, the installation of a panel signalbox at Medstead and Four Marks station on the Watercress Line and the Corwen station project on the Llangollen Railway all in with a shout. 

The Award for Marketing and Communications, sponsored by Fox and Edwards Events, sees the Watercress Line make the shortlist in another category, this time for their ‘In the Loop’ series on YouTube. Also competing will be the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway for their events marketing and Toddington Standard Locomotive Ltd for their fundraising efforts towards Standard ‘4MT’ 2-6-0 No. 76077. 

People-focused categories are playing an ever-greater role in the HRA Annual Awards. In the Rising Star Award, sponsored by Purple Lighting, Railway Preservation Society of Ireland’s Sam Hall, Chelsea Lamb from Peak Rail and Osian Hughes from the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways have all made the shortlist. Finally the Team of the Year Award, sponsored by Expian once again features a shortlist of four. The Severn Valley Railway-based Class 50 Alliance, the Talyllyn Railway’s ‘Tracksiders’ young volunteers team, the Blythburgh station team from the Halesworth to Southwold Narrow Gauge Railway and the Dublin fundraising team from the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland have all made the final cut. 

In addition to the usual categories, another noteworthy project from the heritage rail world that has seen significant success during the last 12 months is set to receive the ‘Chairman’s Special Award’ on the evening. 

Winners will be announced during a glamorous dinner in Brighton on Saturday, 10 February 2024 featuring guest speakers and a three-course meal. Tickets for the event are available to purchase online.

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