FULL STEAM AHEAD AS WHITEHEAD RAILWAY MUSEUM OFFICIALLY OPENS
Whitehead Railway Museum was officially opened today, Wednesday 25th October, 2017. This new visitor attraction, developed by the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland (RPSI), will transport visitors back to the steam train era through top-class interpretation and interactive exhibits featuring historical steam engines and carriages, and also preserve its relevance for future generations.
The project was made possible by £3m funding from Heritage Lottery Fund, the European Regional Development Fund under the European Sustainable Competitiveness Programme for Northern Ireland and administered by Tourism Northern Ireland with additional support from Mid & East Antrim Borough Council, Ulster Garden Villages and Tourism Northern Ireland.
The funding has enabled RPSI to develop a visitor attraction which provides an up-close and hands on visitor experience. Visitors will be transported back to the steam train era and given an insight into the social history of railways. They will be able to see a range of historical stock which were tucked away in sheds including an engine from 1879 and carriage from 1911, observe restoration work in progress and learn how a steam engine works.
The funding also helped to develop an interpretative centre, a new carriage gallery, a new foundry, new machine workshop for restorative works and the installation of a magnificent 60ft locomotive turntable.
Children will also enjoy the museum experience as they can dress up in period costumes, interact with exhibits and the very little ones can sit on a wooden train. The beautifully refurbished station building and platform includes a period-style signal box and a period-style tea room.
Canon John McKegney, Chairman of the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland (RPSI), said:
“The RPSI started to develop the museum concept back in 2007, and work started on site in 2013. We are delighted to have arrived at the stage of officially opening Whitehead Railway Museum. Our key aims were to develop our heritage engineering skills and build a visitor attraction around what is the last surviving traditional railway workshop in Northern Ireland. The museum enables us to show off our hidden treasures and has the potential to turn Whitehead into a major tourist destination. This is an exciting day for our volunteers as the opening of Whitehead Railway Museum gives the Society an important new dimension. This project would not have been possible without funding from Heritage Lottery Fund, Tourism NI and the European Regional Development Fund along with additional support from Mid and East Antrim Borough Council and Ulster Garden Villages but also the commitment and determination of our staff and RPSI members from across Ireland. We are grateful to our funders and look forward to Whitehead Railway Museum expanding the Society's reach and giving it a new sense of purpose.”
Chair of Heritage Lottery Fund NI, Anna Carragher, commented:
“It is wonderful to be here to celebrate the official opening of Whitehead Railway Museum following five years of redevelopment and expansion. Thanks to National Lottery players, this attraction will bring to life the story of our railway heritage to new audiences in new and engaging ways. We are delighted to support this wonderful asset for Mid and East Antrim which will undoubtedly be enjoyed by visitors from across Northern Ireland.”
Michele Shirlow, Tourism NI Board Member commented:
“Whitehead Railway Museum is a first class addition to our tourism portfolio, it allows visitors to be transported back to the steam train era through top-class interpretation and interactive exhibits. The authenticity and experiential aspects of the museum are to be commended and are sure to attract national and international visitors alike, encouraging them to stay longer and spend more in this area.”
For further information on Whitehead Railway Museum, RPSI and key events visit www.steamtrainsireland.com, Facebook: WhiteheadRailwayMuseum, Twitter: RPSItrains. The Museum is currently open to the public Thursday, Friday and Saturday 10am-4pm. During the Hallowe’en week will open from Tuesday 31st October through to Saturday 4th November 10am-4pm.