All of us arrived in Swindon earlier in the day, checking into our hotel. What is there to say about Swindon? It’s a classic railway town, with a lovely old town surrounding the station. So if you’re into your railway history you’ll love it. I can’t say I was particularly impressed by the new town or the one-way systems – but each to their own hey?
Anyway, onto the evening. After we had all got ourselves ready, the bus arrived at our hotel, and off we set to the Awards!
We have to say that the STEAM Museum looks great from both the outside and the inside! Based in what was once the largest railway works in the world, the Museum was mainly a machine and turning shop for the Great Western Railway. This has now been lovingly restored to give a fantastic history of the Great Western. Too bad we didn’t have much time to enjoy it – no sooner had we arrived we were ushered into the Great Western Hall for our meal and the awards themselves.
Once the audience was suitably fed and watered (i admit to having one or two glasses of red by now), our MC for the night Neil Buxton from ACoRP opened proceedings. The opening speeches included a touching toast to the late Tom Clift, a friend of Community Rail, one or two mentions of Neil’s 60th birthday (sorry Neil), and plans for ACoRP to expand its empire into Scotland. Neil was suitably assisted by Mark Hopwood, Managing Director of First Great Western.
Now then, onto the business end of the evening – the Awards themselves. A full list of the winners can be found on the ACoRP website, so we won’t bore you to death with all of them. Needless to say we were very eager to hear how we had got on. And the Friends of Lidlington Station, represented by Tess and Irene, were up first for the Lidlington Station Mural in the Best Community Art Scheme Award (well, third in the Awards, but you know what i mean). A hush descended on our table as the awards were announced in reverse order.
Highly commended went to Prestonpans Railway Station Community Mural, 3rd to Furness and Lake Lines CRP – we’re still in this – 2nd to Show the Way Rail Trail. Finally, 1st went to….Friends of Heaton Chapel Station – ooohh!! So close. It’s a great winner, and it was brilliant for the Friends of Lidlington Station to be nominated. It’s a massive achievement, and the mural is well-loved. So we loveyu guys.
Several more increasingly-nervous minutes passed by, as the awards were counted down one-by-one, before our other nomination of the night…Best Community Rail Event for the Easter Eggspress. Once again, Neil and Mark counted down. Another Highly Commended went to the Heart of Wessex Local Food Train. Now third…150th anniversary of the railway in Christchurch – a shock, we thought it would win!! 2nd to the Friends of Heaton Chapel Station again. And the winner is…
Perhaps the best way to describe the reaction was through a trusted friend – “It was the loudest cheer of the night!” And wasn’t it half. A flabbergasted Stephen collected the award with volunteers who helped him out on the day. I think he has just peeled himself off the ceiling now! The judges had passed their verdict on our winning event:
An ‘eggsciting’ time was had on the Marston Vale Line as the Easter Eggspress rolled into town complete with special guest the Easter Bunny! The train was suitably decorated; the Easter Bunny busy distributing Easter eggs to children in Easter headwear. A local face painter and balloon modeller were also part of this event. A team of eight volunteers were on hand to assist passengers and to provide an at-seat refreshment service, including the renowned Bedfordshire clanger! On-train survey feedback included ‘This is the first time I have been on this train for an event and my three children were very excited and impressed’
To be honest, the remaining awards went by with a bit of a blur. That’s probably down to the shock of winning an award, although the bottles of wine probably didn’t help matters too much. Both Neil and Mark effortlessly and humorously guided the Awards to its conclusion, thanking all for attending, and all in the Community Rail community for another excellent year for Community Rail – and we whole-heartedly agree! Then, it was back to the hotel for further celebrations and fun.
We would like to first congratulate all of the winners. Some of the entries were utterly fantastic and worthy winners. We would also like to thank ACoRP for yet another brilliant Awards ceremony. And finally, we would like to thank you all for your support over the years – you made all this possible by just using the line.
So here’s to next year – perhaps we could go for the Station Development Award for Ridgmont station. More on that next week.
If you want some more pictures from the Community Rail Awards, we highly recommend you go to the ACoRP Facebook Page. There are some truly brilliant pictures there!