The Mid-Suffolk Light Railway is the only preserved railway operating in Suffolk and dates from the late Victorian period when an Act of Parliament encouraged the construction of light railways in rural areas away from the main lines.
Now affectionately called "the Middy", the railway opened in 1904 but closed in 1952 due to lack of use, but a short section has been reconstructed capturing the true spirit of 1896. The tiny lineside buildings were made at low cost and miraculously a few have survived on local farms and gathered at Brockford, Suffolk, to recreate the rural railway scene.
In 1896, following a long agricultural depression, the government decided to encourage the construction of railways in rural areas to boost local economies. Until 1896 each new railway line required a separate Act of Parliament before it could be constructed. The new Light Railway Act greatly reduced the cost and time it took to construct new railways, by allowing companies to construct lines to a set of rules and regulations.
Allowable weights were limited to just 12 tons on each axle and speeds limited to 25 miles per hour, and 8 miles per hour on bends. Railways could use lightly laid track and relatively modest bridges to keep costs down. The Act also exempted Light Railways from some of the requirements of a normal railway. For instance, level crossings no longer needed protection by gates, saving the cost of both the gates and a keeper to operate them. Many of the railways built under the Act were very basic, with little or no signalling. Some ran under the 'One Engine In Steam' principle.
‘The Middy’ uses an expanding collection of locomotives carriages and wagons typical of the Edwardian period, lovingly restored by volunteers giving their own time to recreate the line.