SOUTH DEVON RAILWAY BEATS THE RECESSSION WITH RECORD BREAKING SEASON AND CARRIES NEARLY 112,000 PASSENGERS
Whilst 2010 was a grim year for many UK businesses, it was a record season for the picturesque steam-operated South Devon Railway (SDR) which carried nearly 112,000 passengers for the first time in its 19-year history and also bought the freehold of the seven mile line to permanently secure its future.
After the last Mince Pie special train ran on New Year's Eve, the SDR had clocked up its best ever operating results, beating the two previous best season's figures in 2007 and 2009.
In December alone, some 10,000 passengers rode on the line's Santa, Carols and Mince Pie trains setting a new record for Winter traffic.
And, when the railway's managers totalled up the year's final passenger figures, they showed that that 101,168 adults and children, plus another 10,821 children aged under five, rode the line in 2010 bringing the total carried to a whopping 111,989, a 3.7% increase on the previous record set last year of 107,895.
Achieving over 100,000 passengers for the third time in four years is a major milestone for the largely volunteer run line, being an increase of just under 1% on the other previous record figure set in 2007 of 100,449 visitors on like for like statistics.
The impressive figures show that the former Great Western Railway branch line is going from strength to strength as one of Britain's oldest heritage steam railways having first opened over 40 years ago in 1969.
The SDR has painstakingly recreated the "Golden Age of Steam" over the ex GWR branch line which was first closed to passengers 53 years ago in 1958 just before the infamous Beeching axe swung in the 1960s and shut down many rural routes across the South West
The highly scenic former Great Western Railway branch line, which runs down the glorious valley of the River Dart from Buckfastleigh to Totnes, was sold off by the Dart Valley Railway company in 1991 as being "uneconomic" but the SDR is now proving otherwise.
As one of Britain's oldest heritage steam railways, the SDR has now chalked up a grand total of 1,655,943 passengers since it took over the line 19 years ago, with increasing numbers every year.
Passing through some of the West Country's most delightful rural scenery, the SDR prides itself on the quality of its heritage experience and literally transporting visitors back in time to the heyday of the old GWR.
South Devon Railway Trust General Manager Dick Wood said: “Naturally, we're all very proud of achieving our best ever results with a record number of passengers carried in 2010 and some major milestones passed in the last 12 months.
“We finally secured the freehold of the railway in February and significantly expanded our impressive range of engineering services to the heritage railway sector in August with the acquisition of Roger Pridham's boiler repair business from Tavistock, including building a new boiler shop here at Buckfastleigh.
“We have achieved success by broadening the SDR's nostalgic appeal to visitors of all ages and providing better visitor facilities. We will have also promoted the railway as a great "three-in-one" great value-for-money day out along with our linked attractions at the award winning Totnes Rare Breeds Farm and Buckfast Butterfly & Otter Sanctuary.
"We know that our visitors come back again and again to enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of steam in the Devon countryside and to soak up this nostalgic and most relaxing form of transport.
“The SDR operates nearly all year round and we have a number of great special events to look forward to. In 2011, we will mark the 20th anniversary of the SDR trust taking over the line from the Dart Valley Railway with a special Cambrian themed event at Easter.”