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Spa Valley Railway - Latest News

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

  1. Johnb

    Johnb Nat Pres stalwart

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    I think we attend photo charters for many reasons, one is the social aspect, the banter, seeing old friends etc. second there is control, if the exhaust blows down or something else goes wrong the organiser can ask the crew to do it again. In other words we can control everything apart from the weather! It’s also possible to access parts of the line well off the beaten track as you suggest. Beyond that I think that individuals have different interests. For me it’s about recreating past scenes as accurately as possible in the 21st century, a Standard 4 Tank on the Cuckoo Line is the motive power that would have worked the line in the 60s but not with Mk coaches but it’s still a representation of a Southern cross country line of the period. Nothing can represent the GC better than a 9F hauling minerals in the GC, the previous charter I attended this year.
    Others will have different thoughts but a Hall or a Castle on the Worth Valley does nothing for me, I did do the Pannier up there as the scenery is somewhat reminiscent of the Welsh Valleys.
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2024
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  2. David likes trains

    David likes trains Member

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    Can't add too much to what John said, different photographic opportunities being an attraction is how I would sum it up - so that doesn't necessarily have to be the train itself. It just so happens that on this occasion the locomotive and rolling stock is something you may well see on a public service on this line. However unlike a public service it'll take you around to different spots for the purpose of photographing and videoing it. Also with it being an event dedicated to photography you can get many more opportunities than a normal running day, which can be a draw for photographers who need to travel some distance to get down to Kent. A charter was run a few years before with this same loco on the Spa Valley, however that time it was facing the other way around and it was a very hot day in summer! Doing another event in February gives you a different season, and happily on this occasion we had some pleasant weather.
     
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  3. John Petley

    John Petley Part of the furniture

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    Standard tanks did occasionally work Mark 1 stock over the Cuckoo Line, but the most common appearance of this combination, (judging by the photos in the various books I own covering what would be my local line if it still was open), was on Eastbourne-Heathfield local workings which consisted of just two coaches. By and large Bulleid stock was more common in the final years. Still, I do agree with you - 80078 on a rake of 4 Mark 1s on the Spa Valley is about as near as we can get not only to recreating the trains that ran on some Southern secondary lines in the 1960s but more specifically, to recreating the "feel" of the last trains on this most scenic of all the LB&SCR's branch lines.
     
  4. Jonnie

    Jonnie Member

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    Hello everyone,

    An update on how the remainder of February did and a breakdown per day of events recently.
    • Tuesday 13th February – 207 visitors, loss of £518.05, steam and diesel, no dining. 187 standard tickets, 20 Virgin Experience Days VED.
    • Wednesday 14th February – 131 visitors, profit of £177.40, diesel only, no steam, only 10 people for the Cream Tea. 113 standard tickets, 8 VED.
    • Thursday 15th February – 295 visitors, profit of £727.28 (made possible by the Magic Express), diesel only, no steam. 267 standard tickets, 28 VED.
    • Saturday 17th February – 424 visitors, profit of £6,778.06, this was made possible thanks to £4,440 ticket sales in Murder Mystery tickets and £2,275 in Cheese Train tickets. 251 standard tickets, 80 Murder Mystery, 65 Cheese Train, 28 VED.
    • Sunday 18th February – 209 visitors, loss of £1,162.27. The Cream Tea helped stop it being a greater loss with an income of £1,150.00. 142 standard tickets, 59 Cream Tea, 8 VED.
    • Saturday 24th February – 325 visitors, profit of £1,760.33. Boosted by income of £1,675 from the Fish & Chip lunch train and £1,600 from the Whisky train. 205 standard tickets, 68 Fish & Chip lunch, 40 Whisky train and 12 VED.
    • Sunday 25th February – 195 visitors, loss of £215.85. Cheese train prevented this from being a greater loss with an income of £2,205.00.
    Secondary spend has been ok recently and so far, visitors since the beginning of February amount to 3,549. Day Out With Thomas is still selling very well and is on track for a near sell out if sales remain as they are.

    This weekend is the last chance to see the GCRs Standard 2MT 78019 in service before it returns to the Great Central after a 4-week hire, after that 34072 is scheduled to provide the steam services for the coming weeks. The Class 25 D7535 which has been out of use for a number of reasons over the last few months returned to service on Sunday after some additional repairs.

    Thank you everyone for your continued help and support in running the Spa Valley Railway.

    Kind regards,

    Jonnie Pay
    General Manager
    Spa Valley Railway
     
  5. The Gricing Owl

    The Gricing Owl Member

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    Thanks @Jonnie again for that detail. It shows where the money is coming from, and fully explains the programme of events such as Cheese, Fish & Chips etc that are in your calendar for 2024.

    Although the standard tickets sales do make a contribution every day when, I imagine, the cost of running the trains that don't host the various events would only be a portion of the costs associated with steaming a loco/running a diesel. As the steam loco in particular would neeed to be in steam anyway for the trains that do host the events.

    I plan to be in one day over the coming weekend for a last look at 78019, and then 34072 back in service will see my regular visits continuing.

    Bryan
     
  6. Gladiator 5076

    Gladiator 5076 Resident of Nat Pres

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    I thank you for this data Jonnie and I do believe that this is a prime example of what could be used to explain to many of the "run it and they will come" or "we are moving away from what HR's are meant to be" brigade of how difficult it is in 2024 to turn a profit.
    I have seen a few on here, but more on other forums who push the belief that nothing should be undertaken that is not historically accurate. People complaining that railways should not be running lights trains or Polar Express operations. Not get involved in non railway activities such as ice rinks or Peppa Pig Fish & Chip trains etc. There are even some who argue that locos only applicable to the line, or at least region should only be used.
    It is in many ways the same sort of scenario that is argued with mainline tours where many argue for how it should still be how it was in the 1990's, not where the market resides now.
     
  7. Jonnie

    Jonnie Member

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    This might be a controversial statement, but I think as enthusiasts we have had the best of it and whilst there is a future for heritage railways we either adapt to the modern world or we suffer and run the risk of closing.

    When I say the best of it, I mean the costs now are astronomical compared to what they used to be. You see it in the press that coal is exceeding £400 to £600 a ton in some instances compared to £150 per ton only a few years ago, I don't think the price of coal is ever going to go back to what it was as we now rely on importing it and the cost of that isn't cheap. We are now in a world where burning coal or diesel is seen as a negative thing, no matter how you paint the picture of a glamorous steam engine you only have to see the news with protestors out in force. We've recently had a very smokey batch of coal and I think we've all seen those images online recently, how long will that be accepted before people say things I've no idea.

    As I've said before, the price of moving locos has gone up from what it was. I was chatting to Allelys earlier and I made a comment that the last time they sent me a Deltic it was £7,300 one way, now it is excess of £11,000 one way.

    Diesel fuel, that used to be 45p a litre for red diesel is now always around 85p and has been for well over a year, so the cost of running diesel locos has doubled fuel wise. The cost of steaming fees, diesel loco mileage or daily hire fees is increasing but that's because these locos are 60+ years old or they do their 10yrs and need an overhaul. The cost to repair them, materials, labour, whatever it is, those expenses are a lot higher than they used to be.

    Where do we then offset those costs, onto the customer, but how far can you push that on standard travel? We sell an all day ticket to adults for £15 but on a 5-mile line where you can get 50 miles of travel roughly per day how much higher could I push those prices? I know if it came to it I'd have to but then will that just put people off and these go somewhere cheaper or turn to Groupon/Travelzoo.

    Dining trains have increased in cost to operate, the cost of chicken or cheesecake as stupid as that might sound is a lot more than what it was, albeit we're talking pounds not tens of, but that increase impacts on what we can sell tickets at.

    Our revenue for dining trains in 2023 is below if you're interested:
    • Fish & Chip Lunch – £29,900.00
    • Cream Tea – £14,715.00
    • Fawlty Towers – £39,912.00
    • High Weald Belle Lunch – £41,780.00
    • Afternoon Tea – £32,350.00
    • Ploughmans – £11,140.00
    • The Kent Gin Train – £8,810.00
    • The Kent Whisky Train – £1,840.00
    • Real Ale Train – £1,560.00
    • Fish & Chip Supper – £12,747.50
    • Murder Mystery – £58,115.00
    • Steam/Diesel Driver Exp – £10,634.00
    • The Kent Cheese Train – £15,120.00
    Total Dining receipts: £278,623.50
    Total Dining profit: £168,535.51


    Standard Train Travel (this is just ordinary travel tickets, it does include events too):
    Tickets we sold: £197,218.00
    Voucher income: £40,304.64
    Total: £237,522.64

    Some people might think I'm being a bit too open about things but in my opinion what have I got to hide? You can find most of this data or get a good idea of it via Companies House anyway, I tell our volunteers internally all the time and ultimately, I want to give my spin on the reality of running a heritage railway from a finance perspective - not easy!
     
  8. alexl102

    alexl102 Member

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    Your openness is much appreciated, and gives a really interesting insight as others have said.

    May I ask how the cost of running 257 Squadron rather than say 80078 or 828 compares? I've seen it said on other forums that a Light Pacific that's not being thrashed is incredibly economical to run but surely it must be a bit more expensive than a smaller loco?
     
  9. Jonnie

    Jonnie Member

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    The biggest cost running a Bulleid is the getting it ready and hot. Once it's hot and you're just maintaining a fire it's not that much more coal hungry than a smaller loco.

    I've fired 34053, 34072 and 34092 at our railway and each time it's having a nicely covered grate, not a huge backend you see sometimes, but you can sit down and watch the countryside for 5 miles.

    Smaller engines are working harder and need regular firing on our line whereas the Bulleid is like driving a Ferrari around a town centre.
     
  10. Johnb

    Johnb Nat Pres stalwart

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    When I had an illicit footplate ride on a rebuilt back in 67 I was given for shovel and told to earn my ride and given the advice to make sure I put most of it at the back especially in the corners. It was a rough rider, after getting four shovel fulls spilt over the footplate it was suggested I should give up! The same firing technique now seems to apply on Clan Line, thick fire at the back, thin at the front. Obviously a lot different with a light load on a heritage railway, rather than 600 tons of Pullmans at 75 mph.
     
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  11. ruddingtonrsh56

    ruddingtonrsh56 Well-Known Member

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    Tbh there are many different locos where the ideal fire shape is thick at the back, and thin at the front. Pretty much any Great Western loco wants to be fired that way
     
  12. Matt37401

    Matt37401 Nat Pres stalwart

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    Also describes how my hair’s going atm :eek:
     
  13. The Gricing Owl

    The Gricing Owl Member

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    A fabulous day on the Spa Valley Railway today, photographing and travelling behind 34072. Started at 75F and as everwhere else, made very welcome by the guys getting 34072 ready for the road. Then to Forge Farm Crossing, Groombridge station for coffee and a snack from the station kiosk. Repeated at Eridge after catching the train there - not only that but as I joined the 14.10 Ex TWW, 14.45 from Eridge, a group of Morris Dancers got on board as Captain Mainwaring, Privates Godfrey and Pike along with the Vicar, the Chief ARP Warden et al disembarked! Calls of 'take that man's name Wilson' and 'you stupid boy' fitted the scene very well! Trains all looked quite busy. Early edits of some photos below.

    Bryan B

    080-34072-75F-09Mar-2024.jpg

    081-34072-Forge-Farm-Crossing-10.50-Eridge-09Mar-2024.jpg


    082-Capt-Mainwaring-Godfrey-Private Pike-et-all-Eridge-off 14.10-TWW-09Mar-2024.jpg

    083-34072-Fairview-Lane-Bridge-16.10-Eridge-9Mar-2024.jpg
     
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2024
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  14. 6026 King John

    6026 King John Well-Known Member

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    I remember bumping into the real ARP warden (Bill Pertwee) at the Mid Hants some years ago. I think he was a steam enthusiast.
     
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  15. 5944

    5944 Resident of Nat Pres

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  16. Matt37401

    Matt37401 Nat Pres stalwart

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    Just as long as you weren’t a ‘Bladdy ‘ooligan’ :)
     
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  17. The Gricing Owl

    The Gricing Owl Member

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    Hard to keep away when there is an original condition Bulleid running, but unlikely to be able to get there next weekend. So I spent large parts of the today standing/walking in water, holding an umbrella in one hand and trying to take photos with my camera in the other hand! A couple of today's shots attached.

    Bryan

    011-34072-Fairviewlane-Bridge-12.05-Eridge-10Mar-2024.jpg


    019-34072-approaching-Forge-Farm-Xing-14.45-Eridge-10Mar-2024.jpg
     
  18. Big Al

    Big Al Nat Pres stalwart Staff Member Moderator

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    Your decision to openly share financial information on here rather than lose it all in annual reports is an interesting one. Speaking personally I think it is an admirable thing to do and, at a stroke, removes the mystery of how a heritage railway runs a business in these times of escalating costs for raw materials and transportation costs generally. What it also does is show that catering and 'entertainment' in its many forms adds so much to the bank balance that it cannot be ignored.

    Over on the main line, this also explains why operators push dining options so much on their trips. Enthusiasts get all excited by what may be up front but actually in these scenarios you can begin to see the importance of catering when income is the priority. By contrast, on heritage lines, and the Spa is an excellent example, the 'up front and personal' dimension to the Railway with lots to see on operational days and nice short journeys, means there is much to make it worth a visit.
     
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  19. richards

    richards Part of the furniture

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    But being so open doesn't necessarily translate into sales/profits, as Jonnie has highlighted that their recent event wasn't as successful as they hoped.

    All this information may be of interest forum members but what will actually get them off their backsides and make them turn up/pay??
     
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  20. Big Al

    Big Al Nat Pres stalwart Staff Member Moderator

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    There is no answer to that question but doing nothing is hardly an option and the readers on here are only a fraction of the market.

    The good thing about the Spa at TWW is that it is in the middle of everything and located in a pretty vibrant town so the passing trade at, say Sainsbury's, cannot fail to notice they are there. And the ride is just one reason for going as has been demonstrated by the support of the 'add on' events other than galas.
     

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