Those who have spent decades preserving and promoting Derry’s rail heritage have expressed dismay at the threat now hanging over the Foyle Valley Railway Museum.
George Sweeney, Jim McBride and George Haire from the North West of Ireland Railway Society say they are deeply concerned that the Foyle Road Museum telling the story of Derry’s rail heritage is in danger of disappearing.
Speaking to the ‘Journal’, they claimed Derry City Council had failed to market the railway, despite its featuring prominently in recently unveiled plans for the area.
Mr Sweeney said that despite recent reports over its change of use, there will be no concrete decisions made by its owners Derry City Council until after March 2015.
“We take exception to the fact that it is being said the building is disused,” Mr Sweeney said. “The museum is not being marketed by the council like other tourist facilities. It doesn’t even come up on tourist websites.”
Mr Haire added that the building which houses the museum was developed with £360,000 of EU finding over two decades ago. He said: “When they gave out funding, its express purpose was to build a museum. Who has the right to close the museum?”
Members of the society were instrumental in rescuing the railway infrastructure, trains and artefacts before Derry City Council got involved in the the project and the museum set up. A heritage rail line - developed with assistance from ACE scheme participants - ran out towards Carrigans from 1989 to 2000 but was then closed.
Jim McBride said the museum has not been promoted properly since then. “We seem to be neglecting what would be a key tourist attraction in this city. And what is going to happen to the historic artefacts in the building, they are at risk now?”
A spokesperson for Derry City Council said a number of options will be explored post March 2015, with a report, outlining a recent scoping exercise, to be factored in.
She added that “a review of the Museum contents will form part of the scoping exercise. The future of the railway exhibits will be a major consideration in the assessment of any proposals for future use of the existing building.
“Derry City Council is very concerned with the site and its strategic importance to the Foyle Valley Gateway and the future of this site is central to our strategy to regenerate this area of the city,” she added.