THE Severn Valley Railway has hit its £397,000 target to carry out extensive repairs to the 142-year-old Falling Sands Viaduct.

The Falling Sands Viaduct appeal was launched in April last year to match National Lottery Heritage funding to carry out the complex and costly repair works to the damaged viaduct, which risked the railway line being closed altogether due to cracks and erosion in the brickwork.

And just 10 months later, the charity has reached its goal thanks to generous donations from local businesses who will all feature on a giant donation wall erected at the Highley Engine House later this year.

Director of development at Severn Valley, Shelagh Paterson, said: "The appeal name of ‘helping hands for Falling Sands’ summed up the spirit of everybody pitching in to do their bit, and that’s exactly what’s happened.

"We knew we’d attract a great deal of interest and support, but we really didn’t expect the amazing response we have had.

"Our original fundraising target was £275,000. As last Christmas approached, this had increased to £397,000. However, thanks to the thousands of people who’ve responded we have raised our target amount in just 10 months."

As well as carrying out the extensive repairs to the viaduct, Severn Valley will be creating an innovative mobile exhibition in its recently-restored Stove R van to bring alive the history of the railway from the original construction of the Falling Sands in the 1870s.

Shelagh added: "The restoration part of the project will begin early in January 2020. Contractors will remove the track, ballast and sandstone rubble from the viaduct.

"They’ll install efficient drainage channels and add a modern, waterproof membrane, before putting everything back together.

"Once the structure has properly dried out, damaged bricks will be replaced and the mortar repointed. We hope that the entire restoration will be completed by autumn 2020.”