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Mid Wales railway receives the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service

A train crew meets a track gang at Cyfronydd station on Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway. Photo: Kevin Heywood/W&LLR.

Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway has been awarded the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, the highest accolade a UK voluntary organisation can receive.

Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway volunteers John Jacobs, duty manager and John Meekums, steam fireman, who attended a Royal Garden Party at Buckingham Palace last month.

The award, often described as ‘the MBE for volunteer groups’, was announced by Buckingham Palace in a special edition of The London Gazette published on Sunday.

The citation reads that the W&LLR is honoured for “Operating an eight-mile steam railway to demonstrate how it served its rural Mid Wales community from Edwardian times.”

[aoa id=”1″]Volunteers reopened the W&LLR as a heritage railway in 1963, seven years after the 2ft 6in gauge line was closed by British Railways. They have now been running the railway for longer than all of its previous operators combined and have built it into a major tourist attraction in Mid Wales.[/aoa]

Even today the line has only five salaried staff. Crewing of the trains, staffing the stations, maintenance and restoration of the rolling stock and track, even keeping the lineside vegetation at bay, are duties all principally carried out by a team of around 290 volunteers.

These are backed up by close to 2,000 company members who, while not directly working on the line, support it by donating to restoration appeals.

The W&LLR was nominated for the award by Councillor Stephen Kaye, Mayor of Welshpool, who highlighted the educational value of the railway’s activities and the benefit brought to the area by more than 26,000 visitors a year.

Two long-standing and dedicated volunteers of the W&LLR were advised of the impending award in confidence and invited to a Royal Garden Party at Buckingham Palace on May 21.

John Jacobs, a duty manager who volunteers on the line four days a week, said: “The railway draws volunteers from all walks of life, and it was an honour for steam fireman John Meekums and me to represent all of them on this very special occasion.”

Steve Clews, the railway’s chairman and a volunteer, added: “I am delighted that our railway has received this award. This is a real honour for all those volunteers who have worked so hard over the last 60 years to make the railway what it is today.”

Lord Lieutenant of Powys, Tia C. Jones, will present the award to representatives of the W&LLR at the line later in the year. She said: “I am absolutely delighted at this well-deserved award being presented to this iconic organisation in Powys.”

The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, created in 2002 to celebrate the Queen’s Golden Jubilee, aims to recognise outstanding work by volunteer groups to benefit their local communities.

Winners are announced each year on June 2, the anniversary of the Queen’s Coronation. W&LLR is one of 281 charities, social enterprises and voluntary groups to receive the prestigious award this year.