The scenic South Devon Railway (SDR) is joining fellow heritage railways all over the country from as far afield as Cornwall, Suffolk, North Wales, North East Scotland and Northern Ireland in a new nationwide campaign to raise greater awareness of Britain’s heritage rail sector.
Spearheaded by the North Yorkshire Moors Railway (NYMR), who run the aptly-named Moorlander Evening Pullman dining service, the ‘Love Your Railway’ campaign will run for six weeks this summer from July 26th to September 5th.
‘Love Your Railway’ aims to shine a spotlight on not only the important work heritage railways do with regards to historic conservation, education and research, but also highlight how the nation’s heritage railways have all been badly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in terms of reduced capacities and income which have threatened their very existence.
The SDR is collaborating with the NYMR and over 35 other famous heritage railways, including The Bluebell Railway, Crich Tramway Village, Severn Valley Railway and Snowdon Mountain Railway.
Seven heritage railway lines in the South West region, a fifth of the national total, are taking part: Bodmin & Wenford; East Somerset; Gloucestershire & Warwickhire; Lynton & Barnstaple; North Dorset; West Somerset and the South Devon .
SDR Trust Chairman Jon Morton commented: “We’re delighted to support the laudable ‘Love Your Railway’ campaign to highlight the work that heritage lines all over the country do to conserve, protect, promote, entertain and educate people about Britain’s rich 200-year railway history and culture. Heritage railways in the South West, and across the country, have all had a rotten time during the COVID-19 pandemic with restricted operations and mounting financial losses, so we need people to visit us now like never before just to survive and keep the wheels turning.”
Chris Price, General Manager at NYMR, said: “We’re optimistic and excited about the summer ahead, but the last 12 months have been like no other year with lockdowns, reduced capacities due to social distancing, and staff and volunteers falling victim to the virus.
‘There are more than 150 operational heritage railways, running trains over nearly 600 miles of track, which protect, conserve and bring to life part of the nation’s rich cultural heritage, giving enjoyment and learning to thousands of people every year. We want to do all we can to raise awareness of every heritage railway across the country and the challenges we face. All the participating railways will be posting their own social content across the six themed weeks, but we also want to encourage the public to get involved by sharing their favourite memories and inspiring imagery from their visits, using the hashtag #LoveYourRailway.”
The six themed weeks are: Heritage, Education, Volunteers, Family, Sustainability and Future.
The SDR runs along the seven-mile line from Buckfastleigh to Totnes and has been operating for 52 years now since first re-opening as a heritage tourist railway in 1969.