Something very special is how a Government Cabinet Minister described the Lynton to Barnstaple Railway during a visit today (Thursday). Francis Maude MP was at the heritage railway attraction during a tour of various social enterprise projects in the region. At Woody Bay Station he met volunteers, toured the carriages and steam engine workshops and heard about the ambitious plans to eventually reopen the line from Lynton right through to Barnstaple.BrilliantThis year could be an exciting time for the railway, as the trust which runs it hopes to submit a planning application by May to take it into Phase 2, extending the existing track another four miles from Killington Lane all the way to Blackmoor Gate and Wistlandpound. Its brilliant, said the minister. Whats inspiring about this is the scale, I had no idea. They are not daunted and are willing to take a long term view, just quietly getting on with it to put together something very special that actually has a real benefit to the local economy. The narrow gauge railway to Lynton lasted a mere 37 years, closing in 1935, but its absence has left a gap ever since and enthusiasts hope reopening it will not only bring more tourism to the region, but real benefits in transport and jobs. A real differenceExtending the line create some 100 jobs for the area, the trust believes. Mr Maude was invited to visit by Peter Heaton-Jones, who works with the charity: We are both here because of our passion for this, not for any campaign reasons, he said. I am doing all I can to try and see what funding we can get, because if they can really get this going it will be such a difference for the whole of North Devon and tourism. Ian Cowling, trust director and the project manager for the proposed extension said he believed the minister had demonstrated a genuine interest in social enterprise and the project. He was quizzing me and others about the railway all the time, about how it works, he said. I found him very attentive and he did want to look at some detail and some explanation of what the railway used to do. The narrow gauge railway to Lynton lasted a mere 37 years, closing in 1935, but its absence has left a gap ever since and enthusiasts hope reopening it will not only bring more tourism to the region, but real benefits in transport and jobs.