Heritage lines enjoy a record-breaking year in 2016

THE East Lancashire Railway has recorded the highest number of visitors in its 30-year history.

A total of 201,000 visits were made in 2016, achieving its Locum Report target of “200,000 visitors in 2020” four years early.

Bagnall 0-4-2T No. 3023 of 1953 Isaac approaching Woody Bay in the winter sunshine on Santa special duty on December 18, 2016. Despite its short length, the Lynton & Barnstaple Railway carried a record 52,000 passengers in 2016 – making it a prime candidate for the highest number per mile on any heritage railway. TONY NICHOLSON

The numbers are a 25% increase on the previous year and highlight how the railway has grown over the past few years to become the second most popular paid-for visitor attraction in Greater Manchester. Specific areas of significant growth are the railway’s special events and dining experiences.

Events such as Scotsman in Steam, Sci-Fi on the Sidings, The Pirate Adventure and The Princess Adventure brought in 28% more visitors than special events the previous year.

The railway’s steam-train hauled luxury dining experiences saw a 35% increase in 2016, with services running at an average occupancy of 92%, The Dining with Distinction trains are considered to be the best restaurant in Bury and regularly rank among the top three restaurants in Greater Manchester according to TripAdvisor.

The railway received an estimated £1.5-million worth of free publicity over the Scotsman in Steam event in January 2016 and subsequently received a greater amount of interest from production companies, with popular television programmes Peaky Blinders, Tina & Bobby and Deal or No Deal being filmed there last year.

Read more in Issue 225 of Heritage Railway – out now!

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