VITAL life-saving equipment is to be installed at two of Swindon and Cricklade Railway’s stations thanks to a grant from the Advertiser’s parent company.

A cheque for £1,690 was handed over for two defibrillators which can be used to save the lives of volunteers and visitors alike, should the worst happen.

It was an early birthday present for the heritage attraction, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year.

Trustees were due to decide last night which models to buy and where to put them up.

Member Bill Poling who submitted the application, said: “We’re delighted to have won the grant.”

He explained many visitors to the railway and a lot of its own volunteers were older people.

“We sincerely hope that nobody will need the benefit as it means the recipient will have suffered a heart attack. However we must be realistic and recognise that with a hundred ageing volunteers on site regularly and thousands of elderly visitors annually, we must be prepared for the worst.”

He said most of the volunteers were retired people over the age of 65 and they tended to work variable hours at the Hayes Knoll engine shed or at Blunsdon Station.

The plan was to install the units in those two places under lock and key, meaning they would be there for the crews while they were at work and would be available for the public when the railway was open.

Making them accessible to the public all the time was not thought to be practical because of the cost of installing vandal-proof and temperature controlled protective cabinets. Users are talked through the defibrillation procedure so the units can be used by anyone. They will also include special pads so children can be treated.

The windfall was among £300,000 of grants bestowed by the Gannett Foundation on behalf of Newsquest to charities around the country.

Among the 68 successful applications was Lechlade Memorial Hall, which won £6,000 for new kitchen equipment.

“We were glad to be able to give to some exciting projects making people’s lives better in all sorts of ways,” said chairman of the trustees, Simon Westrop. “Year on year, we are seeing better applications with more focused attention on different ways of helping - caring for the present but also building for the future.”

The two biggest awards of £15,000 went to two charities founded in the 19th century by benefactors including novelist Charles Dickens. Known as the Journalists’ Charity and Newstraid, they help people who have worked in the newspaper industry and have fallen on hard times. Another grant went to the Rory Peck Trust which looks after the interests and welfare of freelance journalists.