If you register, you can do a lot more. And become an active part of our growing community. You'll have access to hidden forums, and enjoy the ability of replying and starting conversations.

Spa Valley Railway - Latest News

Discussion in 'Heritage Railways & Centres in the UK' started by matt41312, Jan 15, 2014.

  1. Jonnie

    Jonnie Member

    Joined:
    May 28, 2012
    Messages:
    156
    Likes Received:
    373
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Commercial & Finance Manager
    Location:
    Sussex
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    Yes I am an active volunteer
    Thank you for the encouragement, I'm glad the posts are thought of as worthwhile. They will continue, there isn't much more to say about the Spa at the moment, its ticking over this Saturday and Sunday is a normal weekend with the Bulleid in action again, not sure on the diesel yet. 25th September sees Basil, Sybil and Manuel back in Tunbridge Wells to wreck havoc on our High Weald Belle dining train, whoever knew you could get away with bread rolls being plonked on a table... This train is sold out with 92 customers and further dates are pencilled in for next year.

    The biggest source of income for us outside of events is the dining operation, it is often the difference between profit and loss on an operating day, we're up to 10 different products under our 'Dining in the Weald' brand and they all seem to sell extremely well. Back in 2019 when I thought up the Gin train I had no idea that it would prove as popular as it has and we were only really able to get it underway in the latter part of 2020, every train has sold out and the demand is there for more!
     
  2. Jonnie

    Jonnie Member

    Joined:
    May 28, 2012
    Messages:
    156
    Likes Received:
    373
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Commercial & Finance Manager
    Location:
    Sussex
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    Yes I am an active volunteer
    You may see in the railway press something relating to another Bulleid Pacific coming to join SKP, it was the plan for 257 Squadron to come to the Spa Valley this Winter as a back up to SKP which will be handling the majority (if not all) of the Polar trains, both locos would have then ran together at our Winter Steam Up on the 8th & 9th January.

    Unfortunately 257 Squadron won't be able to pay a visit this Winter (see the SLL website for a detailed report of everything going on with the fleet) but there is no doubt and it is our every intention that we will see an original Bulleid at Tunbridge Wells West in the not too distant future.
     
    jnc, ghost and Dan Hill like this.
  3. Flying Phil

    Flying Phil Part of the furniture

    Joined:
    Dec 10, 2018
    Messages:
    1,551
    Likes Received:
    2,725
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Leicestershire
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    Yes I am an active volunteer
    Shame about 257 Squadron not being able to visit...yet!
     
  4. nickt

    nickt New Member

    Joined:
    Apr 17, 2009
    Messages:
    450
    Likes Received:
    138
    Gender:
    Male
    jnc likes this.
  5. Jonnie

    Jonnie Member

    Joined:
    May 28, 2012
    Messages:
    156
    Likes Received:
    373
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Commercial & Finance Manager
    Location:
    Sussex
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    Yes I am an active volunteer
    An update from the Spa Valley Railway.

    Saturday evening just gone saw 92 diners join us for our second Faulty Towers dining experience, this was a huge success and will be repeated on several occasions during 2022. We even had Basil and Manuel up on SKPs footplate! Financially there is obviously an outlay to running such an experience and it was a gamble taken earlier this year to see whether or not it'd work and I'm pleased to say it did. Even standard dining trains these days aren't always enough to get the public to visit and having these add ons is sometimes the way to draw in customers. Our next Murder Mystery for example is sold out at 80 people already.

    I've certainly found in the nearly 7yrs I've been involved in the commercial running of a heritage railway and the nearly 12yrs in management of them (for those that don't know me I've been involved and had an interest in heritage railways all my life, I was only 2-weeks old when I first had a ride on a preserved line!) it isn't just the trains people come to see, they want something for their money and in our case the multiple dining products is the way we've got people in the front gate. Combining it with a steam engine on 1960s carriages makes it a unique selling point when you compare it to the other dining opportunities within Tunbridge Wells.

    Today was an equally as busy day as a group of four of us, which included our stalwart Chairman Jon Nye went off shunting with 73140 as part of the Beer Festival (1st to 3rd October) set up. This was an opportunity to take the recently restored PMV to Eridge which will be acting as a bar facility for the event next weekend and will then return to Tunbridge Wells West to have the kitchen fitted. It will be going back to Eridge to provide us with a catering outlet and should we ever get the ability to run around back in down there it'll find other uses as a mobile catering facility on rails.

    We also took the MK1 RMB 1864 which arrived in mid-May for a test run. The carriage has undergone a huge amount of work since arrival, all required before we could put it into service. The biggest task was replacing all wheel sets for ones we had in stock, repairs to the body which included half a new end, a new inverter and electrical system to power the buffet element of the vehicle, a thorough deep clean, new bar, COVID screens and a thorough exam. The coach went into the relevant train set this afternoon and will be first in public use on Friday 1st October.

    'Sir Keith Park' spent the day hauling standard passenger trains and as always proved very popular. We all had the great entertainment of observing the use of the local petrol station from our platform and offered coal to those that wanted to try converting their vehicles.

    Our 10th Beer & Cider Festival starts on Friday 1st and continues on Saturday 2nd & Sunday 3rd October, this is now one of, if not the biggest Beer Festival in the South East and has around 170 Real Ales and 35 Ciders this year. It is quite amazing to have seen it grow over the years, I remember the first one back in 2011 when Swanage based M7 30053 visited and we only had about 30 Beers and 10 Ciders I think on offer! Subsequently the event has grown and pre-COVID would regularly attract approx 3,500 visitors over the weekend with many flying in from around the globe to enjoy a pint in our Engine Shed.

    Beers and Ciders can be found at Tunbridge Wells West, Groombridge, Eridge and on both train sets in either bar car 'Kate' on Set A or the RMB on Set B. Live bands, hot food stalls plus a Gin & Prosecco bar, just £20 for a day rover ticket or entry is free to the stations to buy tokens and enjoy a pint or two!

    If anyone on this forum happens to visit next weekend I am firing SKP on the Friday, 06:30 to 17:30 and I'm driving 31430 Saturday and 33002 on Sunday, by all means feel free to say hello! SKP is joined by Douglas on the Saturday & Sunday for the lovers of steam and the diesels in use will be 31430 & 33002 all three days supported by 33063 on the Friday & Saturday. 73140 is available as required.

    thumbnail_IMG_5887.jpg thumbnail_IMG_5882.jpg thumbnail_IMG_5881.jpg thumbnail_IMG_5876.jpg thumbnail_image1-3.jpg
     
    Greenway, Vulcan Works, A1X and 7 others like this.
  6. Flying Phil

    Flying Phil Part of the furniture

    Joined:
    Dec 10, 2018
    Messages:
    1,551
    Likes Received:
    2,725
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Leicestershire
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    Yes I am an active volunteer
    Thanks for the report and pictures Jonnie. What is also good to appreciate, is the fact that you are "relatively" young and became involved definitely "Post BR Steam". We often are told that there will be fewer volunteers and support for heritage railways, as the old enthusiasts get fewer in number. This ignores the many people, like yourself, who are enthusiasts because of heritage steam.
     
    jnc, Vulcan Works, 35B and 1 other person like this.
  7. Jonnie

    Jonnie Member

    Joined:
    May 28, 2012
    Messages:
    156
    Likes Received:
    373
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Commercial & Finance Manager
    Location:
    Sussex
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    Yes I am an active volunteer
    An update from Sunny Tunny as us locals call it.

    We've just brought back our Real Ale & Cider Festival after an absence in 2020 due to reasons we have all become far too familiar with. So, how did it go... Very well is an understatement as it was on par to previous festivals and as if it'd never been away! We saw 1,651 passengers travel on our trains and a further 1,000 visiting just the engine shed and bars all around the railway, after all costs it has generated a very healthy profit which will allow us to complete some vital infrastructure works over the Winter months.

    This Beer Festival has been locked firmly in the Beer calendar since October 2011 when it first started, the first event featured 25 Beers and 4 Ciders, in 2019 it topped 200 cask beers and 35 ciders, for 2021 we managed to get together 166 Casks, 22 of which were Green Hop beers and 35 Ciders. A total of 12,500 pints were drunk with about 850 pints of wastage, which is always something you're going to get at an event of this scale. Thanks to its long running nature we've been able to secure rare beers, for example this year we had two year matured Harvey's Prince of Denmark 7.5% and also three casks of the Harvey's Green Hop, none of which have hit the pumps in the pubs yet.

    Why does it work so well for us? Well, it has 10yrs worth of reputation behind it, we have seen a lot of visitors and I've had a lot of emails in the past couple of days asking how we do it etc but I really do need to stress to people that we started this event a long time ago and it now draws people from all over the world to enjoy the beer and trains. It helps that Tunbridge Wells and Eridge are easily reached via public transport and the town of Tunbridge Wells itself is full of hotels for people to stay in and enjoy a variety of beers etc throughout the event, it a huge economy boost and it has many repeat customers every year. It will return again for its 11th year in October 2022.

    Other recent updates, the Class 101 trailer car we'd had resident for a number of years has been sold, this left yesterday and moved to the Lavender Line. A MK1 BG also arrived from Isfield, this coach is not being restored and has been purchased for the B4 bogies, wheel sets which are in good condition, doors and other spares that can be retrieved, such as the corridor end connections etc. There has been some suggestions it should be restored, there always is with this type of thing but I've come to accept over the years not everything can be saved.

    We have a MK1/2 fleet that isn't getting any younger and whilst we've spent a lot of money on restorations in recent years (TSO 4999, TSO 5037, SOB Kate, FO 3131 and MK2 9414 have all been to Cranmore and had major body overhauls with the under frame side done in house where possible) getting spares or even new nowadays is often the financial difference between something running again and something not. We used four of our spare commonwealth wheels under the RMB to enable it to return to service, the wheels that were under it will need new tyres before they see service again, that's £4K an axle, £16K a coach, it will be done in time but it soon adds up, it thus really does become impossible to save and keep everything working. We also have a BG at Groombridge which is used as a storage vehicle at the moment, the bogies under it are ex-SO 4828 which has had new bogies in recent years to keep it running for years to come.

    'Sir Keith Park' and 'Douglas' are scheduled to both be running this coming Saturday and Sunday, we have two sell out dining experiences taking place over the weekend and this will be the last time SKP is in traffic before a period of down time prior to going into the Polar Express season, which is going to be the most intensive operation ever undertaken on our railway in terms of people.
     
    Flying Phil, CH 19, mdewell and 5 others like this.

Share This Page