Dean Forest Railway Timeline (1970-Present)
The Dean Forest Railway Preservation Society is formed and initial operations start at Parkend. In an interesting co-incidence, this site's designer is born in the same month.
23rd October 1971
The first steam day is held at Parkend, with brake van rides over 200ft of line.
1970 - 1978
The society purchases several locomotives, including GWR Prairie tank 5541 and a Hunslett 0-6-0 saddle tank which is christened "Wilbert" after the Rev. W. Awdry (after being initially named "G B Keeling" after one of the Severn and Wye Railway promoters) . However, the growth of the Society and the uncertainty of the fate of the remaining line forces a move to southwards to the former colliery site at Norchard, where there is more space to expand.
The last goods traffic on the S&W ceases in 1976, and the line begins to fall into a state of disrepair
With Norchard now ready for operations, the Society relocates from Parkend.
The first public operations at Norchard take place, with a carriage finally replacing the brake van.
The purchase of Norchard site is agreed. British Rail announces that it now longer requires the branch and the DFR enters into negotiations to buy the line. The process is slow and during this period the the Society converts to a Private Limited Company. However the efforts are starting to pay off; in 1983 the company is presented with the Sykes Memorial Trophy for being the most significantly improved Tourist Attraction in the region.
Services are extended to the outskirts of Lydney.
Services are extended to St Mary's Halt, then known as "Lydney Lakeside".
Class 57XX 0-6-PT no 9642 comes to the DFR from the Swansea Vale Railway. This engine is not owned by the DFR, but by the South Wales Pannier Group.
Lydney Junction is re-opened and the "Push to Parkend" begins in earnest.
Progress on the Parkend extension is slower than expected, with capital being the principle hurdle. In order to optimise services on the line, not only Parkend and Whitecroft stations have to be rebuilt, but a second platform at Norchard is required. It is also decided to re-open Lydney Town.
A new station at Lydney Town is opened, just south of the site of the original station.
Passenger services commence north of Norchard as far as Tufts Bridge. It is the renovation of this bridge that is now the next major hurdle in restoring services northwards, with environmental considerations and Foot-and-Mouth disease hindering progress.
Passenger services are extended to as far as Whitecroft level crossing, although the lack of station means that passengers cannot alight or board trains here, and the lack of run-around facility means that most services are done by the DMU set (although a steam autotrailer is occasionally used). The next major task is installing gates on Whitecroft crossing.
The South Wales Pannier Group, owners of 9642, decide to put the locomotive up for sale. The DFR decides to make a bid for it
9642 is sold to Andrew Goodman, (the DFR's bid being unsuccessful), and is transferred to the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway later in 2005.
Work is completed on the Parkend section and a members' day is held on the 3rd to allow members to travel on the new section
The new section to Parkend opens to the general public on the 25th of this month, nearly 77 years since regular passenger services were withdrawn north of Lydney. Whitecroft station still awaits rebuilding at this point.
The Parkend extension is formally opened by HRH Princess Anne. Ex-GWR Manor class no 7802 "Bradley Manor" is used to haul the Royal Train; 7802 being only the third tender locomotive to work the line in preservation (3440 "City of Truro" and 3205 being the other two), and the heaviest locomotive to work on the Dean Forest Railway to date.
The 22nd of April sees the first mainline steam tour to Lydney Junction. Originally planned to work through to Parkend, the last-minute change of motive power from a British Railways Standard class 4 to a LMS "Black 5" means the tour has to be taken to Parkend using 9681 and class 27 diesel no. 27066 as there is no time to check the suitability of the "Black 5" for the line.
Whitecroft station is re-opened.
St Mary's Halt is taken out of use, partly due to a decline in passengers using the station since the re-opening of Lydney Town, and partly due to trespass issues.
The Dean Forest Railway publishes a plan stating the goals for the railway for the next five years. These include infrastructure enhancements that could pave the way for further extensions into the Forest of Dean, possibly even as far as Cinderford.
A proposal to purchase a former station at Griffithstown for possible use at Speech House Road is announced.
GWR 8750 class no. 9682 (sister locomotive to 9681) is purchased by the railway.
The footbridge at St Mary's Halt is re-opened after restoration. It had been out of use for 12 years due to its condition.
The remaining track on the Wye Valley Railway is donated to the Dean Forest Railway for use in their northwards extension.
The Covid-19 Pandemic forces the line to cease operating for the duration.