6:30 PM 17 April 2022
The 2022 season on Suffolk’s only standard gauge steam railway has started with a visit from the Easter Bunny and two unusual locomotives in action.
The Mid Suffolk Light Railway is holding its Easter Steam on Sunday and Monday, giving visitors their first chance to see steam in action on the line this year – and volunteers are confident coal supply issues won’t affect the line.
Across the country, steam companies fear they may struggle to continue operating full service during the year.
The last Welsh coal producer went out of business at the end of last year – and the main alternative source for the quality coal needed for steam locomotives was Russia or Kazakhstan.
Sanctions against Russia mean it is unavailable and the only economical way to get Kazakh coal west is through Russia – and that route is also closed.
From now on, the railways will have to turn to other sources, including Colombia or Australia, but the cost of transporting coal from these countries is very high.
Middy’s John Reeve said there was more than enough coal to last the season – he only uses relatively small locomotives which do not use as much as the large engines seen on some lines.
At Easter, the work was shared by the railroad’s steam tram engine and a steam shunter.
The first day of the special event attracted dozens of visitors eager to enjoy the good weather.
Mr Reeve said the combination of the two small locomotives provided a good start to the season – but volunteers were still waiting to see if they would need to hire a traditional steam engine for the summer.
The railway’s own locomotive, 1064, is nearing the end of a long restoration – and this is a very important year for the museum.
The Middy, which ran from Haughley junction on the main line north of Stowmarket to Laxfield, closed in 1952 and a special event is due to take place in July to mark the closure and celebrate its rebirth as a museum over the last 20 years.