IT WILL be all aboard at last for children with special needs when Coate Water Miniature Railway unveils a coach tailor-made for little ones with disabilities.
After a four-year fundraising campaign to secure the £5,000 necessary for the specially commissioned carriage, the North Wilts Model Engineering society, which runs the local attraction, will officially inaugurate the wheelchair-friendly train on Sunday.
The need for a dedicated coach became clear after a visit from Brimble Hill School pupils back in 2010.
While some children were able to hop in the carriage and enjoy a ride their wheelchair-bound classmates were unable to join in the fun.
“This will be the culmination of four years fundraising,” said Ken Parker, North Wilts Model Engineering Society committee member.
“In 2010 children from Brimble Hill School came for train rides, not all being able to sit on our coaches and therefore unable to have a ride.
“Several of our members saw the disappointment on their faces. We thought about building one ourselves but the easiest way was to buy one ready built.
“Partly as a result of this visit we investigated whether there was available a carriage suitable to carry wheelchairs.
“Being successful in our search, fundraising started the following year, and the coach was finally purchased in 2013.
“We also had to build a special coach house for it because it’s one and a half times bigger than our other coaches, 70 cm by three metres.
“Either side can be folded down so a wheelchair can be wheeled straight into it. If they have a carer, the carer can sit in front of them.”
The coach will be inaugurated by Swindon mayor Theresa Page at noon on Sunday.
The coach has been used on and off since last December for training and for a few visitors with disabilities, including Brimble Hill pupils two weeks ago.
The official unveiling will coincide with the annual Dragon Boat Race due to take place at Coate Water.
“It has been a long time in the making,” said Ken, 72, from West Swindon.
“It’s been held up because we needed to put the Rotary Club’s specific logo on it.
“So we had the idea to time it for the Dragon Boat Race.
“But Brimble Hill School came two weeks ago and tried it. They were over the moon when they all had a ride.”
To find out more about the railway visit northwiltsmes.wix.com/coate-water-railway