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News reader Nicholas Owen to mark 60th anniversary of Haywards Heath miniature railway

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Miniature railway enthusiasts are inviting the public to help them celebrate 60 years of one of Mid Sussex’s most engaging tourist attractions.

The Beech Hurst Gardens miniature railway track in Haywards Heath ran its first trains in 1954, three years after work began work on the project.

Now, this Saturday (May 10), today’s members will mark six decades since the first train rides took place with newsreader Nicholas Owen, patron of the Bluebell Railway, making a guest appearance to cut a celebratory tape across the track.

Andrew Brock, treasurer of the Sussex Miniature Railway Society, said the continued existence of the railway, which is run entirely by volunteers, was essential.

He said: “We give a great deal of pleasure to lots and lots of people, adults and children alike. And, I think I am right in saying, we are the only tourist attraction in Haywards Heath which, for a town of this size is quite unusual, so we need to keep going.”

Proceedings at Beech Hurst Gardens in Butler’s Green Road on Saturday start at 1.30pm with the ribbon cutting ceremony at about 1.50pm followed by rides commencing at 2pm and continuing until 5pm.

Rides on the locomotives cost £1 but free rides will be given to anyone who turns up with six old pence - the cost of a ride in 1954 - in the correct coinage of the time.

Mr Brock said: “There are a lot of coin collectors around and we’d be interested to see how many people can produce coins from 1954.”

Saturday will feature an original copy of the Mid Sussex Times article from May 8, 1954, which covered the opening event, plus a display of up to seven locomotives used on the railway’s half-mile track, including ones that have run in each of the six decades of its existence.

The railway’s locomotives, which have been build from scratch by members, weigh between 200lbs and 250lbs, giving them enough adhesion to pull the equivalent of between 20 and 25 adults.

They include steam and electric trains that circumnavigate a track bed that was excavated from the steeply sloping Beech Hurst site by the then Cuckfield Urban District Council after it had been left the house and grounds at Beech Hurst and a sum of money for the development of a public recreation ground.

The track layout today is roughly twice the length of the original with an extension opened in 1974 after work by society members including digging a tunnel 14 foot deep and 170 foot long.

On the society’s website it says the method of track laying has been perfected over the years to give what has been described by some as “one of the best tracks in the country”.

The Beech Hurst Miniature Railway runs every weekend from Good Friday to the end of September, between 2pm and 5pm, plus every Wednesday during the school summer holidays.

More details can be found on the Sussex Miniature Locomotive Society’s website at www.beechhurst-railway.org.uk

 

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