'Crisis' appeal as heritage railway loses £765k in year
- Credit: Bure Valley Railway
After suffering a huge hit throughout 2020 due to the pandemic, a Norfolk heritage railway has launched a public appeal for the first time in its history.
The Aylsham-based Bure Valley Railway is hoping to raise £25,000 so it can replace a boiler on one of its steam locomotives, the No.7 Spitfire.
It came right as the boiler on another loco, Blickling Hall, also had to be replaced.
Andrew Barnes, the railway's director, said having to replace two boilers on the 1994-built trains at the same time, coming on the back of Covid-19, had plunged it into a crisis.
"I don't use the word crisis lightly, and the railway has never gone out publicly with an appeal before," he said.
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"We've lost £765,000 in operating revenue in the past year."
Mr Barnes said the Blickling Hall's boiler was currently being replaced in Darlington.
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The railway can fund these works and had tried to replace the Spitfire's boiler in its in-house workshop, but it failed to pass an inspection so it will also have to be sent to Darlington.
Mr Barnes said: "This was the straw that broke the camel's back."
He said he had been bowled over by the support already shown, as more than £4,200 had been donated since the appeal launched on Saturday.
Mr Barnes said: "Some people have donated £500 which is staggeringly generous. We didn't realise the support that we had."
Although the High Court has ruled that much of the railway's losses should be covered by insurance, Mr Barnes said he thought they would only get a fraction of what was owed.
He said they had also applied for a Covid recovery fund grant, but that would not cover the cost of a capital project such as a boiler replacement.
Mr Barnes said the railway had managed to stay afloat thanks, in part, to model train sales through its website, but they were looking forward to the day they could welcome guests back to its Aylsham to Wroxham route.
Mr Barnes said: "We don't know when we're going to be able to reopen, but if we don't get these locos fixed when we do open we'd only be able to offer a reduced level of service.
"We were originally hoping for February half-term, then Easter, now we're looking at May, if not later. "
To donate, find Bure Valley Railway Boiler Appeal on uk.gofundme.com.