Why are family days on heritage railways important?

Since the end of BR steam in 1968 many heritage railways have sprung up to create a living history for everybody to enjoy. Volunteers run many but some have full-time staff because visitor numbers are so high, writes Craig Amess.

Throughout the year, railways have many different events and experience opportunities, providing a great day out, not just for enthusiasts but also for families. However, if the railways were to rely on the enthusiast events alone then unfortunately – in many cases – they simply couldn’t exist.

North British 0-6-0T No. 24564 of 1939 leaving Loughborough at the Buckingham Railway Centre in 2008. BRIAN SHARPE

Many of the galas put on by the railways end up running at a loss, as the cost of transporting planned loaned engines is high and running costs are higher than normal as more locomotives are running more often on intensively timetabled days. Hence the greater proliferation of family days on heritage lines, providing days of fun for children which, in some cases, could be the catalyst of a lifetime of love for railways.

Visiting adults and children are left enthralled by experiencing, perhaps for the first time, a world that has disappeared since the modernisation of the industry in the 1950s and 60s.

Family events are memorable, special days but also a way of helping to keep preserved lines going for future generations to enjoy. Events like this are a way of bringing generations together to share their interests.

On the NYMR in 2014 and rapt by the sight of Eric Treacy steaming past. SARAH PALMER

The railway industry can be very male dominated when it comes to enthusiasts, historically it would have been young boys taking numbers at the lineside. Now railways are just as much for girls as they are for boys. At railways today we don’t just see Thomas the Tank Engine; children can meet and ride with Peppa Pig, superheroes and princesses, Father Christmas and many other much-loved characters.

Some railways even have their own mascots, to provide plenty of entertainment.

For the full article, see the March edition of Modelling – available now!

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