The last freight train passed through Ecclesbourne Valley Railway in 1989 and was left unused for a decade, however a 200-strong team have worked hard to restore the line from a derelict site to a popular tourism hot-spot.
Benjamin Field, 18, from Brassington, and Oliver Hodgkinson, 19, from Mickleover worked as volunteers to restore the 1959 railcar that the Prince travelled on during his visit and spoke with him during the train journey.
Benjamin said: “We are so honoured to meet Prince Charles. We worked on this because we enjoyed it but the fact that he has heard about the project and wanted to see it for himself is amazing.”
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This car is the last one of 27 which were built that is still in operation and was relaunched after a restoration project which finished in 2013.
Oliver said: “It wasn’t just us, everyone from the ticket sellers to the train drivers have worked so hard to make this dream a reality.”
To turn the abandoned wasteland into a thriving community has taken 300,000 hours of volunteers time and cost £1.25m to replace three miles of tracks with 5,000 sleepers and bring the remaining nine-mile track up to passenger standards.
Chris Marsden, 57, had come to the station as her son was one of the volunteers who met the Prince.
She said: “I don’t think I could be any prouder than I am now.”
His Royal Highness was met by children from Wirksworth Federation Infant School and Wirksworth Church of England Infant School and spoke to the headteacher Jo Poyser.
She said: “This is a great opportunity for the children, they can see the station from the playground and have seen how it has developed and now to have the Prince here is fantastic.
“He said it was lovely to see the children here and wished me a lovely half term holiday.” Patrick McLoughlin, MP for the Derbyshire Dales and Secretary of State for transport said; “To have royal recognition for the hard work that has turned this site around is a great boost for the area and tourism.”
Before boarding the railcar to travel the milk and honey line, so named because of its history carrying farm produce, Prince Charles spoke to farmer Bill Dilks.
Bill said: “We both have an interest in organic farming and we chatted about that. He was a very nice man and it was a real pleasure to meet him.”