Despite the recent easing of some Coronavirus outbreak restrictions, the Trustees of the Mid-Suffolk Light Railway have reluctantly decided that they still cannot reopen the museum to the general public until further notice.
The main issues arising for the MSLR in terms of Covid-19 precautions and, as an accredited museum and a registered charity, are maintaining hygiene and cleaning arrangements, plus the assessment and protection of members of the public and vulnerable volunteers.
The numerous practical control measures, particularly social distancing, would prevent the Middy being the unique part of British Railway history that it is famous for. The old railway had to be economic to run and much of the charm of the Middy is in the size and style of its vehicles and buildings.
Given the nature of the virus and the fact that there are so many related unknown quantities around its development, were to open now, we could not guard against a visitor unwittingly bringing the virus to the MSLR and the consequent cost and disruption of deep cleaning the whole of the railway.
Reasons to be cheerful! The good news is that the Trustees are assured that the Museum will survive the loss of income from the summer programme thanks to excellent financial management and Central Government support. We will also be able to bring into play some volunteer activity, abiding by current strictures of numbers and social distancing, to continue the development of the Middy.
The following projects are up and running: we now have approvals for the provision of better visitor facilities at Dovebrook including a footbridge to the picnic area. The route of the old footpath across the line has also been approved by Mid-Suffolk District Council, so work on the extension of the railway can continue. Plus, perhaps ironically, work on the restoration of steam loco no.1604, is proceeding faster than anticipated as a result of our boiler contractors other work being delayed by coronavirus considerations. 1604 will be ready to run at the 2022 70th anniversary of closure celebrations. Nonetheless public awareness and support are both essential for the continued development of the Middy.
We are constantly reviewing the situation and will provide information on opening as soon as possible.
The Middy will still be here once the crisis has passed.