Belfast Telegraph

Inmates restore historic carriage

Young offenders have restored a prized part of Northern Ireland's railway history in a project organisers say can help set them on the right tracks.

The so-called Brown Van carriage, which had been in a dire state of repair, dates back to 1948 when it was used to transport passenger luggage and freight, and is one of only four such vehicles still in existence.

But after being painstakingly restored by inmates at Hydebank Young Offenders Centre outside Belfast, the historic carriage is to go on display at the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland in Whitehead, Co Antrim.

The Opportunity Youth organisation oversaw the restoration with £10,000 grant aid from the Big Lottery Fund's Awards for All, with the support of the prison service.

Opportunity Youth project manager Ronan McGinley said: "The 'Brown Van' is an authentic part of Northern Ireland's railway history. It put in many years of valuable service hauling parcels and luggage across the North's rail network but in latter years had fallen into a state of disrepair.

"The task of restoring the Brown Van to its former glory was a great challenge for the young men of Hydebank Wood but one they grasped with enthusiasm. Working on this project gave all the participants a real sense of purpose and direction, and they took great pride and care in completing this work.

"In addition, it provided practical experience in metal work, carpentry and painting and decorating which could prove invaluable as they attempt to gain employment when they leave the centre."

Max Murray, acting director-general, Northern Ireland Prison Service, said the project was the first of its scale in Northern Ireland and said it was a great success.

He said: "Such projects are very important to help rehabilitate prisoners and reduce the risk of re-offending by encouraging them to take ownership and pride, whilst at the same time providing them with new skills which can assist their employability after release.

"This in some measure, allows them to contribute constructively to society during their time in custody."

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