Historic goods wagon installed at disused Wheathampstead station

Crane carefully lowers the 1931 wagon from Great Western Railway at Wheathampstead's restored railwa

Crane carefully lowers the 1931 wagon from Great Western Railway at Wheathampstead's restored railway platform - Credit: Photo supplied

MOTORISTS passing through Wheathampstead last week may have wondered why a crane was dangling a railway wagon 100 feet above the picturesque St Albans village.

But the unusual sight was simply the culmination of a four-year project to restore what was left of the platform of Wheathampstead’s disused railway station.

Back in 2009, when a few village residents were told that part of the station still existed, a team of keen volunteers swung into action, clearing and revamping the site in time for the 150th anniversary of its opening the following year.

Since then, the site has been developed further and the project team has acquired railway artefacts from further along the disused line, where it is being developed as a busway from Luton to Dunstable.

Items include a short section of track.

Cllr David Johnstone, chairman of Wheathampstead parish council and project leader, said: “The team thought, what is the point of having track without something to put on it?

“So we found an open goods wagon.”

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Local pet supplies store GJW Titmuss agreed to buy the wagon, and villagers sponsored planks so the team could rebuild it from scratch.

However, there was a problem as Wheathampstead station was built on an embankment.

Cllr Johnston said: “The stripped-down wagon weighs over four tons.”

Previously, trains went up to the platform via bridges built on both sides of the station, but those have been removed and the site is now surrounded by mature trees.

So another local business, T&B Contractors Ltd, organised a crane to hoist the wagon over trees and into position.

The wagon, built in 1931 for the Great Western Railway, is now safely installed at the former station, awaiting restoration.

Other challenges facing the project team included having to cast, by hand, 18 large patterned concrete slabs on site, from a mould made by team member Terry Pankhurst.

Tons of raw materials, and about eight tons of ballast for the short section of track all had to be carried by hand up onto the disused station.

Terry said: “This has been a real community effort with residents and local businesses getting together to restore an important part of the village’s heritage with support from the parish council which owns the site.”

The station forms part of Wheathampstead’s heritage trail, launched at the end of 2011.