AFTER years of toil by volunteers and thousands spent on restoration, the historic Epping to Ongar Railway Line will finally open to customers again this Friday.
A track was first built between Stratford, east London, and Ongar in 1865, and at its peak 50 trains a day would thunder down it, but declining passenger numbers meant that the Epping to Ongar length of the line was closed in 1994.
In 2007 a new group of volunteers vowed to restore the line to the glory of its Victorian heyday, and after years of fixing old engines and repairing rusted tracks, on Friday (May 25) the first passengers in more than a decade will pass through the turnstiles as the line opens again to the public.
Simon Hanney, the secretary of the Epping Ongar Railway, said: “For me, Friday will be a moment of quiet reflection on everything that has been achieved and it has all been made possible by the hard work a lot of people have put into all of this.
“Being part of ensuring the sustainable future of this great train line and doing something of real benefit for the local economy is very humbling.
“It will be a fantastic way for people to enjoy the countryside of the district and discover one of the great aspects of our heritage: the steam trains.”
“I know that traders up in Ongar are very much looking forward to their historic town being opened up to visitors.”
Initially, Routemaster buses will transport visitors to from Epping Station to North Weald Train Station where they will be able to catch a steam or diesel shuttle service to Ongar or through Epping Forest to Coopersale.
The service will run every weekend and on bank holidays.
Mr Hanney said: “This is really the end of the first chapter of the railway’s restoration.
“We want to run a full service along the length of the line, from Epping out to Ongar. Currently we do not have a date for the opening of the full stretch, but work is going really well.”
To book a ticket on the Epping-Ongar Railway visit http://eorailway.co.uk/.