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PUBLISHED: 07:00 25 September 2009 | UPDATED: 09:59 13 July 2010

An artist's impression of the Oliver Cromwell steam engine using the planned new crossing at Sheringham - which could be open next March if a final £30,000 can be found.

An artist's impression of the Oliver Cromwell steam engine using the planned new crossing at Sheringham - which could be open next March if a final £30,000 can be found.

Richard Batson

An historic steam engine hisses and trundles across a seaside street at Sheringham.

By RICHARD BATSON

An historic steam engine hisses and trundles across a seaside street at Sheringham.

It is a vision that could become a reality next March - if a final £30,000 can be found to top up the funding pot.

Bridging a 100m gap between the commuter Bittern Line and the heritage Poppy Line at Sheringham would enable thousands of tourists to pour into the area on board special steam trains.

A tramway-style reconnection of a line severed by the Beeching branch line axe in the 1960s would see star steam locos from all over the country hauling into the resort between 12 and 20 times a year, said project director Steven Ashling.

It would not only benefit the North Norfolk Railway heritage line, but also the local town and surrounding district through the influx of extra tourists.

But the £140,000 scheme is about £30,000 short of its target. A summer appeal saw fund-raising boosted from £55,000 to £112,000, mainly with support from rail enthusiasts across the country.

Pledges have included £25,000 from the county council because of the recognised economic gain.

Now the fund-raising spotlight has turned on the local councils and community as campaigners look to find the last slice of cash to enable work to go ahead this winter.

Mr Ashling gave an update to North Norfolk District Council and made a plea for them to give a £10,000 grant to help reach the target, because the railway was keen to do the work this winter.

Without it the scheme might have to be put back a year, because they did not want to do work during the busy summer period.

A railway board meeting will discuss the project's progress and timing this weekend.

If the board is happy with the funding situation the well-known Oliver Cromwell loco is already pencilled in to make the maiden journey across the re-connected rail link on March 11 next year.

If not it might have to be delayed and Mr Ashling feared that would cause a loss of momentum with the long-running project.

Whatever happens, work costing £26,000 to relocate power cables under the road is due to take place in October.

The artist's impression of the Cromwell on the crossing, comes from a new book, Tales of Sheringham Level Crossing, by David Madden, a former general manager of the railway, with all profits going to the crossing appeal. The £5 paperback is available from the Sheringham station.


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