By Geoff Courtney
THE ‘no seats available’ sign went up early on the Kent & East Sussex Railway at Christmas when, for the very first time, every one of the railway’s 67 Santa Special trains was sold out in advance.
Indeed, there was no seat available by the end of November, three days before the first special on December 3, followed by trains on eight more days leading up to Christmas Eve.
The packed trains carried 7½% more passengers than the previous year with bookings running a month ahead of 2015, a result that thrilled general manager Shaun Dewey. “We were delighted that the Santa Specials proved to be so popular,” he said.
“We have a new commercial team, and a big ‘thank you’ goes to them as well as all the staff and volunteers – and of course Santa and his elves – who together made these days so special for kids both big and small, young and old.”
Operating steam locos included three of the railway’s stalwarts – GWR 0-6-0PT No. 1638, SR USA class 0-6-0T No. 30065, and 2-6-0 No. 376 Norwegian – while ‘Terriers’ Nos. 32670 and 32678 simmered in the shed yard at Rolvenden ready to provide back-up were it to be needed.
Read more in Issue 224 of Heritage Railway – out now!