It is at this time of year, as we head towards the AGM, that we like to think about what we accomplished over the past year and what we are hoping for the next.
2016 was an exceptionally successful year for Telford Steam Railway. Easter saw an increase in visitor numbers over 2015, and the trend was due to continue for the rest of the year. In 2015 we averaged 52 passengers a day over the normal running season (excluding special events) and in 2016 we managed to more than double that to 106!
The Café got a makeover ready for the new season, with painting and wall paper being replaced, and some outside picnic seating put in for those lovely sunny days we had.
During 2016 we also started to see the “Mid Week Crew” doing work on the railway infrastructure away from the regular work sessions on Tuesday Night and Sunday. The mid week crew is largely made up of those people who are generally available during the day in the week, either retirees, evening workers or people between jobs. All members are welcome!
The Railwayana Museum in the middle of the tram track was tidied, cleaned, reorganised and reopened in the middle of the year, it houses a lot of artifacts from the area, if you want to have a look around and no one is around, please ask the tram crew to give you a tour.
We also welcomed some overnight guests to the railway, with Muxton and Lilleshall Scouts sleeping out under carboard boxes to raise money for the Salvation Army KIP project.
And Muxton Guides having a sleepover in the sleeper coach.
Our 1940’s event was run over the Saturday and Sunday of the August Bank Holiday weekend and again saw an increase in visitors despite the rain! We made the decision to open on the Bank Holiday Monday, and even though Rocket (Our Peckett 0-4-0ST) was not able to run due to technical difficulties, we had a bumper day with a diesel service.
Our Sleeper Coach got some attention with Recruits from RAF Cosford helping to build a new set of steps, and the inside getting a deep clean ready for groups to start to use it, the first group to try it out thoroughly enjoyed the stay and the walk upto the buffer stops at Lawley to watch the fireworks was a real highlight!
No review of 2016 could be complete without mentioning “The Polar Express Train Ride”. We signed the agreement to host the even in early 2016 not knowing how popular it would be, how we could possibly sell the tickets, where to advertise or when in the year to start selling them. We launched in May, sold nearly 30% of the tickets within the first few weeks, and ended up with us officially selling out of all 14,500 tickets in early September! The number of likes on our Facebook page went from about 200 to rapidly approaching 5000 now which is brilliant as it means we have reached a significant number of families who will hopefully come and visit us in the 2017 season. At this point it is very important that we thank all the Volunteers and Staff who made the event as big a success as it was, we quite literally couldn’t have done it without them!
Another important situation cropped up last year, as many of you will know Telford Steam Railway has aims to extend the line down through Doseley, Coalbrookdale and onwards to Buildwas (the site of the Ironbridge power station). 2016 saw the announcement that the power station had stopped generating and that demolition would commence in 2017. With the power station being decommissioned, the Permanent Way from Madeley Junction to the power station (which forms the final couple of miles of our original branch line) will be potentially available for us to link up to. At the time of writing there are ongoing discussions between interested parties with respect to long term plans for the line and power station site.
Work has already started to get ready for the 2017 Season which starts Easter Weekend. We have a programme of work to improve the track following the heavy usage it got over Christmas, and we have a number of new pieces of stock which will be restored over the year.