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Gloucestershire Business News

Steam railway signals a return

The Dean Forest Railway will be steaming again for passengers from August 1.

In common with other heritage railways, the Forest's major tourist attraction will be back in action, but with systems in place to enable social distancing to continue, according to government guidance.

General manager Duncan Rowe said: "Over the last two weekends of July, we will be rehearsing a new routine of one-way systems and reserved seating. 

"Our society members will act as passengers and customers, alongside the volunteer train and station crews. This will make sure we are 100 per cent ready for the public on August 1.

"Whilst we are in this transition stage, passengers will only be able to board our trains at the main centre, Norchard. Trains won't be stopping at Whitecroft or Lydney Town."

Alastair Clarke, the railway's operations director, said: "We recognise that one of our particular highlights is to experience the sight and sound of steam engines. But we will be using diesel locomotives on one day of the weekend, whilst our midweek service will be carried out by diesel railcar. Being without income for nearly five months means we have to run this temporary reduced service at less cost to ourselves."

Tim McLennan, commercial director, said: "Visitors should buy tickets online through the Dean Forest Railway website. This will guarantee a seat, but if you come to Norchard without a pre-booking we will of course do our very best to get you on board.

"Shortly after lockdown, we established an emergency fund with a target of £50,000 to help cover our fixed costs. We are delighted to have raised over £41,000 so far. Like other heritage railways, we have had to cancel this year's special events like the steam gala and the diesel gala. These both contribute essential revenue and we were looking forward to extra-special gala events in our 50th anniversary year. Mind you, 2020 was 50 years since forming the original Preservation Society, whereas next year it will be 50 years since running our first train, so we will be more than happy to celebrate our 50th anniversary in 2021!"

To help Dean Forest Railway Society reach its fundraising target, go to www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/dfrs-emergency-fund  or text DFRS to 70191 to donate £10.

Picture credits: Steve Thomas and Rob Harris

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