Lunchtime on Thursday 7 September saw representatives of the National Railway Heritage Awards, the Oxford Preservation Trust and the contractors involved on the project gather alongside the canal in Oxford for the official unveiling of the Railway Heritage Trust Award for 2022.
Following speeches by Debbie Dance, Director of the Oxford Preservation Trust, Andy Savage, Chairman of the National Railway Heritage Awards, and Tim Hedley-Jones, Director of the award sponsors Railway Heritage Trust (who spoke on behalf of Lord Hendy who was unable to attend), the plaque was officially involved on the side of the swing bridge by David Mather, former British Rail Area Manager for Oxford, and Tom Hassall, Vice-President of the Oxford Preservation Trust who, as trustee, had led the restoration project.
The swing bridge, which dated originally to 1851 and the arrival of the standard gauge London & North Western Railway into the territory of the broad gauge Great Western, had last carried passenger trains in 1951 and freight traffic in 1984. For more than 30 years this important relic of the railway age and of the competition between the early railway companies lay disused and its condition deteriorated. Recognising its importance, the Oxford Preservation Trust, with the backing of a number of bodies including the Railway Heritage Trust, undertook its restoration back to working condition, with work being completed in 2021. The impressive result made the project the winner of the Railway Heritage Trust Award at the 2022 National Railway Heritage Awards; these were announced at Merchant Taylors’ Hall in London in a Ceremony in early December 2022.
The physical unveiling of the plaque was undertaken by, on the left, David Mather, former British Rail Area Manager at Oxford who was instrumental in ensuring the swing bridge survived to be restored, and by, on the right, Tom Hassall, one of the Oxford Preservation Trust’s Vice-Presidents who was a trustee of the charity for almost 50 years and led the trust’s Rewley Road Swing Bridge Restoration Project.
With the unveiled plaque visible in the background, Andy Savage, Chairman of the National Railway Heritage Awards, Debbie Dance, Director of the Oxford Preservation Trust, and Tim Hedley-Jones, Director of the Railway Heritage Trust.
The restored ex-LNWR swing bridge at Oxford with the Network Rail main line north from Oxford in the background. Out of use for many years, the restoration project undertaken by the Oxford Preservation Trust, completed in late 2021, saw the project achieve the Railway Heritage Trust Award at the 2022 National Railway Heritage Awards.