The 20-mile West Somerset Railway (WSR) is joining fellow heritage railways next week all over the country from as far afield as Cornwall, Suffolk, North Wales, North East Scotland and Northern Ireland (NB: see full list under Notes) in a new nationwide campaign to raise greater awareness of Britains heritage rail sector.
Spearheaded by the North Yorkshire Moors Railway (NYMR), 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 WSR 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 too, viz: Bodmin & Wenford; East Somerset; Gloucestershire Warwickshire; Lynton & Barnstaple; North Dorset; West Somerset, and the South Devon .
WSR plc Chairman Jon Jones-Pratt commented: “The WSR is pleased to support the ‘Love Your Railway’ campaign to highlight the work that heritage lines, such as ourselves, 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 very difficult time during the Covid-19 pandemic with severely restricted operations and mounting financial losses, so we need more people to come and visit us this Summer just to survive and keep the wheels turning for the future.
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 in Britain, 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 media 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 will follow the following topics in this order, viz: Heritage, Education, Volunteers, Family, Sustainability and Future.
The WSR’s two main support charities, the West Somerset Railway Association (WSRA) and West Somerset Railway Heritage Trust (WSRHT) are both supporting the ‘Love Your Railway’ campaign via the WSR plc, and some of their activities will be featured in the coming weeks.
WSRHT Chairman, and WSR plc director, Steve Williams comments: “The West Somerset Railway Heritage Trust is delighted to have the opportunity to contribute to the ‘Love Your Railway’ campaign. As one of the two principal support charities on the WSR, the Trust is already taking a leading role in preserving, maintaining and managing a range of heritage items and activities across the railway, including museums and restoration of important heritage carriages.”
WSRA Chairman Mike Sherwood said: “The WSRA is pleased to be supporting the WSR plc in this great initiative for the railway heritage movement in the UK.”
The two attached pictures of the WSR are redolent of the 20-mile line which runs from Bishops Lydeard, near Taunton, to Minehead on the Severn coast, and it has been running for 45 years now since first re-opening as a heritage tourist railway in 1976.
Both images are courtesy of local photographer Don Bishop and should be credited to him please, featuring former GWR steam loco 41xx Class No. 5199 crossing Ker Moor and No. 7822 ‘Foxcote Manor’ both leaving Blue Anchor station for Minehead with classic seaside views of the sea and cliffs behind.
For further information on the WSR, please contact: WSR Assistant General Manager Kerry Noble on 01643 700408 [email protected] or PR & Business Development Manager Dick Wood on 07711 552947 [email protected] or [email protected]
The full list of 37 railways participating so far in #LoveYourRailway includes and those in the South West are highlighted below:
Lincolnshire Wolds Railway
Photo Credit 5199 seen on Ker Moor taken by Don Bishop