HERITAGE volunteers have got up a head of steam clearing decades of undergrowth as they prepare to begin extending the track along its historic route towards the old Cricklade station.

The line shut more than half a century ago but Swindon and Cricklade Railway is working on a plan to re-open it and they will be using sleepers taken up by Network Rail during their own major project to upgrade the Great Western route.

“The track bed is severely overgrown with trees and alike which have been able to take root as the line was closed and lifted on this section by 1961 and we would appreciate any available help,” said Adrian Thompson, one of the volunteers.

He said there was a buzz among the members about the project. The plan is to extend the current railhead at South Meadow Lane half a mile to Farfield Lane and then the remaining one and-a-quarter miles to the station site.

But the old bridge at Fairfield Lane will be an obstacle. “Sadly, as the bridge was blown up the original parapets are not usable so need to be replaced along with the bridge.”

Different engineering options are being considered to raise the bridge back to its original height.

He explained: “As it stands at the moment, the plan is to lay a single line from South Meadow Lane as far as the cutting and infilled bridge.

“This we hope will give the public an idea of what we are hoping to do, sadly the cutting is too narrow to squeeze a platform and run round loop Swindon side of the cutting.”

The extension has been estimated to cost in the region of £2 million and an appeal has not yet been started to raise the money, but Adrian said: “We are looking at various costings to complete the job in the most economical way possible.

“One of the many downsides is we are having to rebuild and replace lots of items including culverts that have been removed over the years by various individuals, this includes all the safety fencing from around culverts and bridges.”

In 2012 the railway extended the track south to the Taw Valley Halt and there are stations at Blunsdon and Hayes Knoll where the locomotives are kept.

The project is one of several being undertaken by the railway. Last year one of its treasured diesel units was destroyed by arson, leaving an £80,000 bill and a major task to restore a replacement vehicle. It was a huge blow to the volunteers who run the popular attraction, which starts its Santa Specials this weekend. Visit http://www.swindon-cricklade-railway.org for details.