Historic Northamptonshire railway fears it could run out of steam during Covid-19 crisis

Enthusiasts are trying to find 10,000 to keep Northamptonshire's historic railway going during he Covid-19 crisisEnthusiasts are trying to find 10,000 to keep Northamptonshire's historic railway going during he Covid-19 crisis
Enthusiasts are trying to find 10,000 to keep Northamptonshire's historic railway going during he Covid-19 crisis | other
Volunteers' launch gift card scheme as lockdown signals zero ticket sales

Train enthusiasts fear a historic Northamptonshire's railway could run out of steam unless it can find £10,000 to fill a hole in its finances left by the Covid-19 crisis.

The Northampton & Lamport Railway has been run entirely by volunteers since they claimed a stretch of the former line to Market Harborough, which was closed in 1981.

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Heritage trains run over 1½ miles of track at Pitsford most weekends from March to October with plans for a half-mile extension towards Northampton nearly complete.

But cash from ticket sales dropped to zero just as the coronavirus lockdown was announced just as the 2020 season was due to start, costing the Railway thousands in income.

VE Day weekend with a 40s theme would have been one of the busiest of the year and a Teddy Bear Special event planned for the late-May Bank Holiday has also been scrapped.

General manager Adam Giles said: "The unexpected complete loss of income from visitors means we have no money coming in to pay for the unavoidable bills and essential renewals.

"This poses a huge threat to our future.

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Historic locos and buildings have been a feature since the Northampton & Lamport Railway opened in 1995Historic locos and buildings have been a feature since the Northampton & Lamport Railway opened in 1995
Historic locos and buildings have been a feature since the Northampton & Lamport Railway opened in 1995 | other

"Coming immediately after the closed winter season, the Railway’s finances are already at their lowest ebb.

"We are therefore appealing to the public to help urgently raise £10,000. Without this money the Railway will really struggle to get back to full steam when restrictions are lifted."

The Railway is asking for donations via its fundraising page but has also launched its own gift card scheme.

Mr Giles added: "Gift Cards bought now will give the line vital income through this challenging period.

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"People can redeem the equivalent value off ticket prices for a visit in the future. The Gift Cards will be valid for two years and can be used towards tickets for any future NLR event, once the Railway is able to re-open."

Volunteers maintain the Railway's track, signals and collection of historic diesel and steam engines and carriages. Work is under way to restore two former Great Western Railway steam locos and the former signal box at Lamport crossing — which is currently used as a booking office — while the extension of track to Boughton Crossing, with new platforms, was on target for completion this year.

Pitsford and Brampton station, where the Railway is based, was one of eight stops on the line from Northampton to Market Harborough which opened in 1859. The line continued north via stations at Spratton, Brixworth, Lamport, Kelmarsh and Clipston.

The line survived three closures in the 1960s and early 70s before passengers services were finally killed off in 1973.

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Thousands of enthusiasts lined the route when a final train carrying passengers, chartered by the Welland Valley Railway Revival Group, travelled on the line the day before it was closed to all traffic in August 1981.

Three years later the Northampton & Lamport Railway started rebuilding in the old goods yard at Pitsford & Brampton station leasing land from Northamptonshire County Council who bought the line from British Rail and converted it into Brampton Valley Way country park.

The first passengers rode a reopened ¾-mile section in November 1995 and volunteers raised £50,000 to restore another ¾-mile extension in 2002.

Further extensions are planned south to Boughton Crossing and north to Merry Tom Crossing and eventually Spratton.