A MUSEUM has submitted plans to make £1.2million of improvements in the next ten years.

East Anglian Railway Museum, at Chappel Station, wants to build a new exhibition and heritage centre, storage and refurbishment facilities and a mock-up station scene.

An outline application has been made to Colchester Council.

If accepted, there will also be half a mile of new track laid to move vehicles and artefacts between bases.

Museum bosses said the investment will help preserve artefacts and boost visitor numbers.

It would also help the local economy and create new jobs.

Volunteers will pitch in to complete as much of the work as possible, and it is hoped that grants can be sought to fund contractors and materials.

New refurbishment and storage sheds will be part-funded by a solar panel company after the museum struck a deal to rent out its roof space.

Lumicity will attach 50kW panels to the roof space for 25 years in a scheme which will cover half the cost of the building.

Ian Reed, trustee and honorary treasurer, said: “A lot of work has gone into deciding if this investment was worth it. All our items need to be inside for security and longevity of the artefacts.

“We have some items that are outside which will need restoring every ten years. If they are moved inside, then they could last beyond 50 years.”

The current heritage centre is housed in a temporary base with a recently extended ten year lease.

Under the plans, it will move to renovated storage sheds where artefacts can be kept in controlled atmospheric conditions to preserve their shelf life.

Exhibits include a railways staff’s strike banner, uniforms, and tickets.

The new centre will be able to house larger models and vehicles and double its display space.

A mock-up station, covered by a canopy and featuring original signal boxes and posters, will be built adjacent to the museum to show exhibits in a working context.

The museum will remain open while the work is carried out.

The new storage buildings are expected to be completed first, with museum staff estimating a 2012 open date, if council planning officers give it the go-ahead.