Eight-year-old railway enthusiast Josh Davies has joined the battle to save the Llangollen Railway – by raising nearly £500 by cycling, walking and running 60 miles over his Easter holiday.
Josh has been an avid steam fan since he was very young, inheriting his interest from grandfather Graham, a former Cambridge University professor.
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His proud dad Steve, a former fund manager who is now a business performance coach working in London and the Cotswolds, said that Josh has a substantial Hornby and wooden railway which has gradually taken over his bedroom, his family’s spare room and a part of a hallway during lockdown – and representing a third generation of enthusiasts, is now determined to help rescue a full-size line.
Steve said: “He is an avid subscriber of Heritage Railway and read about the difficulties of the Llangollen in the magazine and asked what he could do to help.
“Whenever he visits his grandparents in Aberdovey, we include a trip to the Talyllyn, the Fairbourne or the Ffestiniog and he is understandably very keen to visit the Llangollen as and when they reopen.
“We discovered the Vintage Trains operation at Tyseley through your magazine so have become shareholders in that venture and were able to go up and visit before the pandemic. He was on the first train running at the Gloucestershire Warwickshire line when it reopened and his next target is the Swindon & Cricklade Railway now that it is back running too.”
As reported in issue 278, Llangollen Railway plc appointed administrators Cowgill Holloway Business Recovery LLP on March 26 after declaring itself insolvent to the extent of £350,000 – including £250,000 of contractual liabilities from the engineering works – and so cannot legally continue to trade.
On April 28, the Llangollen Railway Trust – which as an independent body is outside the administration, announced that it has bought some of the railway’s assets along with the right to use the line, in a deal with the administrators – and now hopes to reopen the line for public services in mid-summer.
A trust statement said: “This was the first key step towards recovery and thoughts now turn fully to the task of preparing for reopening as we continue on our journey to protect and preserve this beautiful part of our heritage. Talks have been initiated meanwhile with the Welsh Government, Business Wales, Denbighshire County Council and the National Heritage Lottery Fund, all of which have been positive.
“The Safety Management System will have to be rewritten to some degree and fresh approval sought from the Office of Rail & Road. Liz Parkes of the North Yorkshire Moors Railway has been helping us in this regard and we are very appreciative of her support.
“Looking ahead to the preparation for the reopening phase, £100,000 approximately is needed to cover necessary overheads, for which we hope to attract at least some grant funding. It remains too soon to speculate when reopening might be but we are targeting the end of July or early August currently.
“We have been very encouraged and gratified by all the support received in our fundraising efforts and thank everyone who has contributed. Including promises, funds raised to date are approximately £85,000.”
However, no bid for the entire assets of the plc was accepted by the administrators, and so the remainder, including several coaches plus plant and machine tools, were sold at an online auction on May 12 – with some items bought by the trust using the money raised or donated by supporters.
Restaurant Miniature Buffet No. W1864 was sold to the Spa Valley Railway in advance of the auction and left Llangollen on May 4.
Clwyd South MP Simon Baynes was given an update on the crisis during a visit to the line, and said: “I fully back the efforts of the Llangollen Railway Trust team to refocus the trust as an outward-looking organisation centred on delivery of a high-quality visitor experience, and I fully support their fundraising efforts to secure the long-term future of our much-loved Llangollen Railway.”
Meanwhile, work has continued on the line’s new Corwen terminus despite the crisis. The signalbox steps and balcony are now complete and inside, all the boarded-up windows of the signal box have been replaced with newly-repaired glazed sliders, a block floor has been added to the basement, woodwork has now been completed and the stairs has been painted in GWR brown. The electric light and power installation has been completed.
Work has started on laying the first row of blue engineering bricks for the platform waiting room. Meanwhile, the trust is planning to send Josh a pack of travel vouchers as a “thank you” for his sterling efforts.
*Anyone wishing to join Josh and others in supporting the railway are invited to visit llangollenrailway.enthuse.com and click the Donate button, or its Facebook page. Alternatively, cheques payable to Llangollen Railway Trust Ltd may be sent to The Station, Abbey Road, Llangollen LL20 8SN. For taxpayers, the railway can apply for 25% Gift Aid.Enjoy more Heritage Railway reading in the four-weekly magazine. Click here to subscribe.