Essex

Epping-Ongar heritage railway reopens after restoration

Steam engine running through Blake End on the Epping to Ongar railway
Image caption The five mile track has been renewed to allow various types of train to run on

A heritage railway using a former section of London Underground line has reopened following a five-year restoration project.

The Epping-Ongar Railway, part of the Central Line until 1994, stopped running heritage services in 2007.

The volunteer organisation which has run the line since 2004, renewed the track, refurbished rolling stock and restored buildings.

It resumed passenger services between Ongar and Coopersale on Friday.

Simon Hanney, general manager of the Epping Ongar Railway (EOR) said the reopening was an important moment for its 90-strong volunteers.

'Step back in time'

"There's a real sense of achievement and excitement," he said.

"It's the longest heritage railway in Essex and the closest one to London, so we wanted to make it a railway the county can really be proud of."

The line out of Ongar was opened in 1865 and from 1949 was operated by London Underground.

Running at a loss, it was closed in 1994.

Between 2004 and 2007, the Epping Ongar Railway ran weekend heritage passenger services.

Since then they have replaced the track and point work along the five mile (8 km) section between Ongar and Coopersale.

Image caption The Grade II listed station at Ongar has been restored

Station buildings at Ongar and North Weald have also been restored.

Extension aim

"We wanted it so as soon as you approach the stations and step through the front door you really get that feeling you're stepping back in time," Mr Hanney said.

The trains currently run to Coopersale.

In the long-term EOR hope to upgrade the section of line into Epping and build a platform close to the Central Line station.

"This reopening is only the first stage of a longer journey to get to Epping, but it's a huge step," he said.

"Much of the restoration we've been doing has had Epping in mind for the future.

"We want to show people we're serious about its restoration and demonstrate its doing a good thing for the local area, so local residents will support our aims to once again run to Epping."

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