Heritage/Enthusiast Railways Providing Functional Passenger/Freight Service

Jozhua

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I was travelling on the NET Hucknall line yesterday and thought how much it all reminded me of heritage railways with the low platforms, single track sections, etc!

It got me wondering if there are heritage or enthusiast run lines that are often used to carry passengers/freight on journeys not intended to be taken simply for the sake of riding the heritage railway?

I guess some aspects of this would be if they run relatively frequent service all week, serve somewhat major destinations and provide relatively competitive journey times.

Just racking my brain, I'm thinking the Ffestiniog/Welsh Highland railways might be up to the job, or the Great Central between Leicester and Loughborough!

What are everyone else's thought's?
 
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Ianno87

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Does the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch railway still run a school train?
 

Worf

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Used to use the Wensleydale to go shopping when they ran a more frequent service. They also ran trains to Redmire for the military, although not recently I think.
 

D6130

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The Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch and Ravenglass & Eskdale Railways both used to run school trains, although I don't know if they still do. A year or two back, the Leadhills and Wanlockhead Light Railway ran a service for normal passengers - including schoolchildren - while the parallel road was closed.
 

Dai Corner

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Not recently, but


On the 24 th March 1997, EWS (English Welsh and Scottish Railways) began to operate one of their largest 'short term' flows through Taunton. This unique service was to originate from the Mendip Quarries (Merehead and Whatley) and deliver in excess of 105,000 tonnes of stone to Minehead for use in the 'Sea Defence' scheme. The sheer size of the task undertaken on the sea defences required large amounts of hard wearing, non-porous rock to prevent further breeches of the sea wall in future years, by the often violent winter storms which batter this coast each year.

The West Somerset Railway played a key role in delivering this large quantity of rock to Minehead. Both Whatley (ARC) and Merehead (Yeoman) Quarries had rail hubs used for the loading and delivering stone all over the country on a daily basis. With this contract, the WSR were able to provide the missing rail link, making it possible to keep a potential 4250 lorry loads of stone off Somerset's roads in particular the twisting A358 between Taunton and Minehead.

The working, known as the 'Minehead Stones', was operated mainly by a single EWS 'heavyweight' Class 37 hauling a rake of open 'Turbot' wagons which had been specially refurbished for the service. Much of the stone carried we boulders although some smaller material was also carried in mineral wagons as required. The large rocks were unloaded on specially cleared land near Minehead Station. This job fell to a mechanical grab which stock piled the stone into various grades and sizes, before then loading it into lorries for the short trip to the sea front.

Initially, the service from either quarry operated on an 'as required' basis depending on the daily demand for the stone. A few weeks into the contract, the train operated on a daily basis and, very occasionally two loaded trains arrived on the Branch on the same day. Average tonnages delivered each day varied between 500 and 1050 tonnes.

The services operated between two separate periods – 24th March – 17th December 1997 and 6 th January to 16th June 1998. The first train onto the Branch was hauled by 37711. A total of 48 different Class 37s visited the Branch together with two Class 47s and two Class 33s (which appeared double-headed on 1 st October 1997). Heritage traction also played its part when, for example, D1010 'Western Campaigner' took the opportunity to pilot the train from Bishops Lydeard on 27 th March 1998 and steam locos 1450 and 4160 were also used to pilot trains along the branch. Full details of all the locomotives that worked a loaded stone train and other running information are shown in the WSR LOG.

The last loaded train ran on 16 th June 1998 hauled by 37264 carrying a small commemorative headboard. In total, the WSR handled 239 loaded trains (and also a corresponding number of empty workings back off the Branch). This is a remarkable success story and much credit goes to all involved particularly when Stone trains were running on the Branch as well as normal passenger services and also during the winter months of 1997.​
 

70014IronDuke

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IIRC, the Talyllyn, at least in its early days, used to provide a FO service throughout the year, in part to ensure the track and infrastructure were all sound. This allowed locals up the valley to visit Towyn for a shopping visit, I think at special, local rate fares.
 

fireftrm

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Local residents can travel to Pickering on a Monday, for market day, and Whitby on a Friday free of charge on the NYMR
 

70014IronDuke

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Local residents can travel to Pickering on a Monday, for market day, and Whitby on a Friday free of charge on the NYMR

I had been wondering since posting if the Talyllyn service was free too. I also seem to remember reading that LTC Rolt made a point of it to show respect for the locals and keep them on board with the project. This, of course, was back in the 50s when many people did not have cars. I don't suppose anyone would use such a service for shopping today, even if the railway paid them to travel!
 

Ianno87

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Some railways (such as the East Lancs) do a general discount scheme for local residents, which I wouldn't be surprised some use for "normal" journeys (e.g. Saturday shopping in Bury)
 

Ploughman

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Ribble Steam at Preston have a contract for the movement of a type of Bitumen from the Exchange sidings to the unloading point.
The Bitumen delivered by class 70 hauled 100t oil tank wagons a couple of times a week.

I also recall that the railway at Bodmin used to have a connection used by Fitzgerald Lighting.

The NYMR was trialled for timber loading out of Newtondale a number of years back
 

birchesgreen

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A friend of mine used to live in Bewdley (and not really interested in railways at all) used to take the SVR occasionally to go to Kidderminster for shopping.
 

DanNCL

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I used the Manx Electric Railway and Douglas Horse Tramway to get between the ferry terminal in Douglas and my self catering accomodation in Laxey both times I visted the Isle of Man. Despite the heritage nature of the Manx Electric Railway, it definitely appeared to be fairly well used by the locals as a means of A to B transportation.
 

Jozhua

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I used the Manx Electric Railway and Douglas Horse Tramway to get between the ferry terminal in Douglas and my self catering accomodation in Laxey both times I visted the Isle of Man. Despite the heritage nature of the Manx Electric Railway, it definitely appeared to be fairly well used by the locals as a means of A to B transportation.
I can see something like the format of Manx working well - having electric multiple units with fairly low operating costs probably makes it quite easy to run a more frequent service. Lots of tram systems don't get much above 25mph anyway, so I can see them being relatively competitive for local journeys!

I was wondering how practical it would to fund some kind of regular service on these lines that provide a level of practical connectivity, using some of the easier to operate stock such as DMUs. I think the key issue for any relatively long routes would be the 25mph speed limits, but I think there are some heritage lines that have exemptions for this - at least on special services. - Seems like this has already been proposed for the Keighley & Worth:
Keighley and Worth Valley Railway could carry commuters

East Lancs seems like it might be a candidate for "re-opening" too...
 

Gloster

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Back in the 1960s, didn’t the Keighley & Worth Valley buy the two Waggon- und Maschinenbau railbuses with the intention of using them on services intended for shopping trips by locals? I am not sure if they actually did run any such services.
 

D6130

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I was wondering how practical it would to fund some kind of regular service on these lines that provide a level of practical connectivity, using some of the easier to operate stock such as DMUs. I think the key issue for any relatively long routes would be the 25mph speed limits, but I think there are some heritage lines that have exemptions for this - at least on special services. - Seems like this has already been proposed for the Keighley & Worth:
Keighley and Worth Valley Railway could carry commuters
One of the biggest obstacles to running regular commuter/shopper services on heritage railways is the reliable provision of volunteers to staff signalboxes, level crossings, etc. There's a world of a difference between full- or part-time paid staff (expensive) to undertake these tasks and having volunteers (cheap), who will not be so constrained to come in if they don't feel like it. Most heritage lines are staffed by an increasingly elderly group of volunteers who, with the possible exception of the loco and preparation crews, are not used to working much outside the nine-to-five sphere....and running a commuter service will require them to be out of bed and into work much earlier than that.
 

Townsend Hook

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Back in the 1960s, didn’t the Keighley & Worth Valley buy the two Waggon- und Maschinenbau railbuses with the intention of using them on services intended for shopping trips by locals? I am not sure if they actually did run any such services.

One of the WüM railbuses still regularly runs on morning trips often used by locals before the main steam service starts, sharing that work with a class 101 DMU. The second is now owned by the Vintage Carriages Trust who are restoring it at their base at Ingrow West.
 

Falcon1200

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I think the key issue for any relatively long routes would be the 25mph speed limits, but I think there are some heritage lines that have exemptions for this - at least on special services.

AFAIK the only such dispensations are for the likes of the Great Central Railway, for test train purposes; Not unfortunately for passenger-carrying services !

The GWS at Didcot is rail-locked and so receives deliveries by rail, but as these are for the preservation site's own use I'm not sure they comply with the OP.
 

adc82140

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The Mid Hants had a plan to run a handful of services from Medstead & Four Marks to Alton to connect with the then SWT using a Parry People Mover. I know the PPM ran a few tests, but I'm not sure if any passengers were ever carried before the project was shelved.
 

===gricer===

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Up until February 2020 Dartmoor Railway ran a heritage service to Meldon Quarry sharing with the Okehampton station special Sunday summer service by GWR to Exeter.

The mainline service is due to start sometime in late 2021 with 2-hourly daily service to Exeter and the future of the heritage part is unknown ...
 

Titfield

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One of the biggest obstacles to running regular commuter/shopper services on heritage railways is the reliable provision of volunteers to staff signalboxes, level crossings, etc. There's a world of a difference between full- or part-time paid staff (expensive) to undertake these tasks and having volunteers (cheap), who will not be so constrained to come in if they don't feel like it. Most heritage lines are staffed by an increasingly elderly group of volunteers who, with the possible exception of the loco and preparation crews, are not used to working much outside the nine-to-five sphere....and running a commuter service will require them to be out of bed and into work much earlier than that.

Sadly there are many reasons why running regular commuter / shopper services on heritage railways is unlikely to be realistic proposition:

1. Lack of viable demand
2. Unwillingness of commuters / shoppers to pay the higher "heritage" rail fares
3. Lack of resources to operate 363 days a year or even for that matter a "long day"
4. Inability of heritage railways to meet standards of operation expected by commuters / shoppers (delay repay, assisted travel policy, provide alternative transport when service disrupted.
 

Calthrop

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IIRC, the Talyllyn, at least in its early days, used to provide a FO service throughout the year, in part to ensure the track and infrastructure were all sound. This allowed locals up the valley to visit Towyn for a shopping visit, I think at special, local rate fares.
I had been wondering since posting if the Talyllyn service was free too. I also seem to remember reading that LTC Rolt made a point of it to show respect for the locals and keep them on board with the project. This, of course, was back in the 50s when many people did not have cars. I don't suppose anyone would use such a service for shopping today, even if the railway paid them to travel!

At the risk of "splitting hairs" here (I just find the doings of the Talyllyn in its first most-of-a-century, fascinating); my understanding from Rolt's Railway Adventure is that in the first couple of years of the preservation society's running the line (1951 / 52) -- the limited period when Rolt was himself "at the helm" -- there could be no question of a Fridays-only service throughout the year; that, I believe, came a little later. In the very early 1950s, with the railway and its equipment in poor condition and stretched to their limits just to run a couple of trains per day during the summer season: passenger workings year-round, even just one return train per week, could not be thought of.

Per Railway Adventure: Rolt did indeed feel great respect and affection for the locals who -- especially in the lower reaches of the line, further from the parallel road -- for sure, made some use of the railway to travel into Tywyn for shopping, especially on Fridays, their favourite day for same (so far as I know, at that time anyway they were charged fares the same as anyone else); and he went to considerable lengths to try to make sure that in the summer operating season, Friday's scheduled trains ran -- whatever problems might be being had with motive power / stock / infrastructure. In the book he makes -- between the "salt-of-the-earth" local folk, and the holidaymaking "uncouth hordes" who made up the great majority of the trains' passenger complement -- comparisons unfavourable to the latter. This somewhat snotty attitude on his part toward the "trippers" whose fares made it possible for the railway to continue running, does a bit to lessen the overall liking which I entertain for the guy.
 

etr221

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I think that when the TRPS took over the Talyllyn Railway, the initial service provided was the same as that provided in the immediately prior to the takeover.

The classic case of a preserved railway providing 'functional' freight service was the Middleton, which did so for many years after the preservationists took over - and (IIRC) did not provide any sort of passenger service for quite a while.

It is worth pointing out that many heritage railway passenger services are VAT free on the basis that they are providing a public transport service within the meaning of the Act (and has led some to hurry open a second station so that they can do so)
 

Journeyman

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This is a perennial topic that comes up all the time, but as mentioned already, providing useful public transport at times when people need it is seriously beyond the ability of almost all heritage railways. If you were going to provide a regular year-round commuter service, I think you'd need to have paid staff on contracts, as it's entirely beyond the ability of a volunteer-run railway to resource. With that, costs go through the roof, so you'd be screwed if it didn't carry enough people.
 

Dai Corner

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This is a perennial topic that comes up all the time, but as mentioned already, providing useful public transport at times when people need it is seriously beyond the ability of almost all heritage railways. If you were going to provide a regular year-round commuter service, I think you'd need to have paid staff on contracts, as it's entirely beyond the ability of a volunteer-run railway to resource. With that, costs go through the roof, so you'd be screwed if it didn't carry enough people.
The only way it could work would be if the services were operated under contract to the local authority, as with the Ravenglass & Eskdale and Romney, Hythe & Dymchuch school trains mentioned above. Presumably they were replaced by buses as they were cheaper and more convenient?
 

Journeyman

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The only way it could work would be if the services were operated under contract to the local authority, as with the Ravenglass & Eskdale and Romney, Hythe & Dymchuch school trains mentioned above. Presumably they were replaced by buses as they were cheaper and more convenient?
I'm guessing so. Going to school on a narrow gauge steamer is a nice idea and all, but I suspect it (a) no longer meets safety requirements for school transport and (b) now costs a lot more to provide than a bus/coach.
 

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