Derry's Destined members become tour guides as Foyle Valley Railway Museum reopens
The renovation, refurbishment, and repairs to the Foyle Valley Railway Museum have now been completed, with Mayor Sandra Duffy unveiling the new clocktower on the iconic Derry building.
Derry charity Destined said the works were undertaken to provide additional space for the delivery of services and programmes to adults and young people with learning disabilities in a safe, healthy, and comfortable environment.
The Mayor Sandra Duffy led the celebrations by starting the clock on the clock tower.
Destined has been based in the Foyle Valley Railway Museum since 2016 having secured a 50-year lease from Derry City and Strabane District Council. The charity is responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of the building and the preservation of rolling stock and railway museum artefacts contained in it.
Several refurbishments have taken place since 2016 to address some of the repairs identified in a condition report commissioned by DCSDC prior to the handover of the premises to Destined. The group also commissioned a Disability Access Audit and the refurbishments included works identified in that report.
Refurbishments to date include the installation of a lift to give disabled access to training rooms and offices, building a new toilet block to include a modernised disability access facility and new ramps to support access to those with mobility problems and wheelchair users.
Automatic doors have also been installed while there is now non-slip flooring at the reception lobby and new flooring throughout the first floor.
The extensive works undertaken also include air conditioning in several rooms that don’t have window openings, installation of gas heating throughout the building, the installation of a number of hearing aid loops, provision of aids for visually impaired people and use of appropriate signage for people with learning disabilities and autism.
As well as the laying a new car park with associated groundworks and tarmacking, the interior and exterior of the building has been refreshed and re-painted, with guttering and downpipes replaced along with all shutters timberwork on the roof, tiles and lead flashing damaged by vandalism.
There is now new carpets and flooring throughout.
Destined said all of these refurbishments were designed to provide a facility to provide inclusive access to museum visitors, including people with disabilities and to also create an environment that was pleasant and clean for the Destined volunteer Tour Guides.
The works have been carried out over the last six years in a series of phases, as funding became available. Although the group sought to reduce and minimise disruption during the works it became inevitable that there would be closures of the premises due to compliance with health and safety standards.
Caroline O’Hara, Museum Manager said: “We are delighted to have finally completed all the refurbishment work to make the building water-tight and accessible to people with disabilities.
“We are now re-opening the Museum to the public and are taking bookings for guided tours. Foyle Valley Railway Museum Tours Guides are Destined members with learning disabilities who have all completed accredited and World Host Training.”
Last year the group launched a new Interpretive Centre in the museum that includes video recordings of people’s memories and experiences of the railways across the North-West.
Destined thanked the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Derry City and Strabane District Council, Community Finance Ireland, Urban Villages Initiative – Executive Office and the Ulster Garden Villages fund for all their support towards the Project. The group also thanked Foyleview Builders for ‘a very professional building programme’.