TOURISM boss Sir Gary Verity officially marked the restoration of a railway carriage which is paving the way for the latest extension of a heritage line.

The Wensleydale Railway has ambitions to restore the line up to Aysgarth station and as part of the scheme volunteers rescued railway coach 55345 which had been parked in a siding at Redmire and have spent months restoring it.

Members of the Aysgarth Station Project backed by a £5,000 grant from the Richmondshire Community Opportunities Fund and the Wensleydale Railway Trust have carried out the work.

Sir Gary, chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, officially opened it. He said: “I’m delighted to unveil this wonderful railway carriage which has been painstakingly restored by a dedicated team of local volunteers and businesses.

“The carriage will be a huge asset for the Wensleydale Railway, which is one of the longest heritage railway routes in the country, and plays such an important role in tourism. There are some excellent facilities being developed at Aysgarth and I hope this will pave the way for the service’s expansion.”

Aysgarth Station Project Chairman Neil Barker said: “We began this with great enthusiasm and after four months of very hard and sometimes frustrating work, the results are impressive. We still have some minor jobs to do but will be ready to use 5345 as the Aysgarth meeting room and café for next season.”

Mr Barker said they are keen to attract new volunteers to help with the project. The 22 mile long Wensleydale railway is one of the longest heritage railways in the country operating between Northallerton, Leeming Bar and Redmire in the main season, and is considering an extension of the line from Redmire to Aysgarth Falls.

General manger Nigel Park added: “The carriage will be an asset to the Wensleydale Railway and shows our ongoing commitment to a presence in the Upper Dale.”