100 years in the making

In 2017, a group of Railway Housing Association staff and residents sat down to begin planning our centenary celebrations in 2019.

100 years in the making

All sorts of ideas were thrown around for how we could mark our 100th year, but we had three main objectives:

1. To link as many events as possible to our railway heritage
2. To involve as many of our residents as possible
3. To make events/activities cost neutral where possible

I am pleased to say that all three objectives were met. The vast majority of our events were linked to the railway, whether it was our signature event on the amazing Wensleydale Railway, holding our AGM at the National Railway Museum, and even brewing a railway-inspired centenary beer.

Hundreds of our residents were involved in events/activities. Around 100 people joined us on the afternoon tea train on the Wensleydale Railway, including John Baker, the resident who suggested linking our biggest event to the railway.

We welcomed more residents to our grand day out in Darlington, as well as National Housing Federation chief executive Kate Henderson. The beer we had brewed was shared and, looking even wider, hundreds of people are now finding out more about Railway Housing Association and its history at an exhibition running at the Head of Steam Museum in Darlington.

Each of our sheltered housing schemes were also given money to mark the centenary in a manner of their choosing. Most held scheme parties with entertainment, food, and refreshments.

So, in one form or another, 2019 was quite a year, one enjoyed by so many people. And we couldn’t think of a better way to cap it off than by winning the Best Housing Development at the Chartered Institute of Housing Northern Housing Awards. This was for our scheme known as The Sidings, which runs alongside the east coast mainline and included the sympathetic conversion of a Grade II listed railway engine shed from 1844.

So perhaps it was in the stars that we were meant to win?

It’s hard to believe that, after two years of planning and implementation, we’re now at the end of our centenary year. It’s a little sad too because it was such a special 12 months.

However, I am honoured to have been the chief executive as we celebrated our centenary. Not many people will ever get the same opportunity.

None of this would have been possible, however, without the generous support of local organisations, notably our local building society, Darlington Building Society, which sponsored the afternoon tea train and other suppliers and contractors that paid for the brewing of the beer or the sheltered scheme events. We are very grateful for all their contributions.

It’s been quite a (train) ride, if you will pardon me the pun, but now it’s time to look forward, not only to 2020 but to the next 100 years.

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