A FORMER InterCity 125 Buffet Car is to become a community arts café on a heritage railway.

Citizen Songwriters ­– a North-East arts-based social enterprise – has receive the donation of a High Speed Train buffet car from railway rolling stock leasing company Porterbrook, for the project on the Weardale Railway.

The coach is part of the famous InterCity 125 High Speed Train that revolutionised rail travel in the UK, once serving the East Coast Main Line and the route of the Flying Scotsman.

The former first-class LNER Mk3 Buffet Car (no. 40701) retired from 43 years of public passenger service last month, finishing on the East Midland Railway where it had been in operation since retiring from the East Coast Main Line in 2019.

Citizen Songwriters plan to use the buffet car as a community arts café to inspire and engage communities in the rich story of the railways in the North-East along the Weardale Railway – an 18 mile heritage railway line in the Durham Dales.

It comes at a time of social, cultural and economic transformation with The Auckland Project purchasing the heritage railway out of administration last year.

The North-East’s railway history is already a core focus of Citizen Songwriters’ community arts engagement, through storytelling projects with the Friends of the Stockton & Darlington Railway in Shildon.

The buffet car will further their scope of activities in the run up to the bi-centenary celebrations in 2025 of the birth of the passenger railway – a significant cultural and heritage event for the North-East.

Citizen Songwriters plan to curate unique experiences on board the buffet car, inviting schools and community groups to experience the social and mental health benefits of art, led by a host of local creative practitioners in music, theatre, poetry, painting, and photography.

Musician and Citizen Songwriters founder Sam Slatcher said: “We’re absolutely delighted to acquire this buffet car and can’t wait to see it alive with food, arts and community spirit. We look forward to working with the Weardale Railway and The Auckland Project.”

Laura Emerson-Roberts, head of community engagement for The Auckland Project, a partner in the buffet car project, added: “We’re excited to be working with Sam and Citizen Songwriters on this innovative project and can’t wait to engage with communities in new ways up and down the Weardale line.”

Nigel Yule, fleet manager of East Midland Railway, who oversaw the last renovation of the coach, said: “I’ve spent the last 32 years in some form associated with these trains. I don’t think this country will ever have another train quite like this one. T

“They’re probably more reliable now than when they were built. I’m really glad to hear this coach is being saved.”

l The directors of Citizen Songwriters would like to thank to Porterbrook for the donation, as well as Reid Freight and the staff at the Weardale Railway for assisting the move of the coach which arrived at the Weardale Railway on Tuesday, June 8.

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