South Devon Railway general manager, Ernest Elsworth-Wilson, said: “This Christmas was the third time we have operated The Polar Express and it is gaining in popularity every year; our customer feedback has been tremendous!
“We sold more tickets than ever before and virtually every train was full to capacity.
“The event is organised by PNP Events and we were also delighted to hear how happy they were with how we ran it and how much they’re looking forward to partnering with us next Christmas.”
The 2024 season is now underway with trains running throughout the half term break, until Sunday 18th February, and then the main season starting on Saturday 23rd March.
The railway, which launched a new share issue in December, has a full programme of events planned, including The Mad Hatters Travelling Tea Party in April and, over the Easter weekend, a Transport Spectacular.
Ernest Elsworth Wilson added: “Our events are always very popular and our aim is to encourage our visitors to come to as many of these as possible, by creating days out with a varied appeal and keeping them fresh.
“Last year, for instance, we trialled Murder Mystery trains: these were so popular that we will be running a number of these throughout the season, and we are working on some new ideas too.”
This season will see progress being made on one of the line’s most popular locomotives, 1933-built former Great Western Railway tank locomotive no. 1420, which has been undergoing long term restoration in the railway’s engineering workshops.
Ernest Elsworth Wilson commented: “1420 is one of our favourite engines and has been out of service since 2006. She has been a stalwart performer on our line since it reopened over 50 years ago, so it will be great to see her back at work.
“The share issue we have launched, if successful, will see major improvements to our locomotive and carriage restoration facilities and see the overhaul of more of our historic fleet, including the unique 1946-built Collett loco no. 3205, which was the second engine to arrive on the railway, when preservation started in 1965.”
The South Devon Railway is a 6.64-mile heritage railway from Totnes to Buckfastleigh in Devon. Mostly running alongside the River Dart, it was initially known as the Dart Valley Railway. The railway is now operated by the South Devon Railway Trust, a registered charity.
The branch line was opened on 1st May 1872. Unfortunately the line never made a profit and had a quiet life, mainly being used for goods traffic, such as coal, wool, cider and agricultural goods, and serving the local population. In November 1958, the line closed to passengers, with freight continuing until 1962.