2019 has been a year of change on the VoR. Aberystwyth station has seen a complete transformation with new station facilities, booking office, toilets, platforms, coal stages, water columns galore! It will also be a year tinged with sadness as we said farewell to Peter Rampton, Company Chairman for many years. Peter, along with business partner the late Tony Hills, purchased the railway from British Rail in 1988. For the last 30 years he has shaped the development of our railway ensuring “the Rheidol” is a world class tourist railway.
Thanks to all those who supported us this year – either as a passenger travelling on the trains, attending one of our events or visiting our shops / cafe, we hope to see you again next year!
So much has happened in 12 months. Here are just a few 2019 highlights…
· All 3 locomotives 7, 8 and 9 operated throughout the year for the first time the railway has had the full set operational for many years.
· The refurbishment of Carriage No 11 has made tremendous progress, we are looking forward to launching it into traffic in 2020.
· For the first time ever, all trains in 2019 were wheelchair accessible.
· We held a hugely successful Steam Festival weekend which drew large numbers of visitors. We will have another in a couple of years’ time.
· Three locomotives which had been hidden from view for decades were on display during the steam festival, Hunslet “Nesta”, Maffei Brigadelok No 4766 of 1916 and Borsig No 5913 of 1908
· 2019 saw massive changes to our Aberystwyth station, the locomotives moved from the Great Western Shed into a new running shed in the workshop building and new ash pits, coaling stage and water column came into use.
· A brand new platform, new large booking office and shop. We are particularly proud of the toilet facilities which have been fitted out into a traditional style and have been very well received by our visitors. All are painted in classic Great Western Railway salmon and dry stone colours. Little details such as the speartop fencing and the lamp columns add to the image.
· The new station, funded by Welsh Government’s Tourism Attractor Destinations programme was officially opened by Welsh Government Minister Lord Dafydd Elis Thomas, AM.
· A new car park was constructed at Devil’s Bridge to cater for increased levels of patronage.
· We have had numerous TV appearances including most recently on ITV Coast and Country
· Our new station was entered into the National Railway Heritage Awards, the entry was highly commended, losing out to the development of London Bridge. Tough competition!
· A new 3 road museum and heritage rolling stock storage shed is being constructed in Aberystwyth.
· After more than 30 years in green, diesel No 10 was re-painted from into a grey livery, and looks superb.
· Two additional apprentices and a new machinist joined our engineering staff.
· We welcomed two excellent students from a local school for work experience
· We have run numerous charter trains including photographic special and weddings
· NGG13 Garratt No 60 continues to make good progress in the workshops. This locomotive will enter service in 2020. We hope lots of people will come and enjoy a ride behind our newest member of the fleet.
· The workshops are carrying out the complete restoration of Baldwin 794 (590) for the Welsh Highland Heritage Railway. This locomotive will steam in 2020.
· We were delighted to win the contract to overhaul “The Earl” for the Welshpool and Llanfair Railway. It will return to service in 2020. It was interesting to see The Earl parked next to one of the VoR locos.
· We were awarded the TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence for the 6th year in a row.
· Our Marketing & Sales stand has visited a number of major events the length and breadth of the UK, helping to fly the flag for Mid Wales.
· Our Permanent Way gang have worked hard to keep the track in tip top condition and ensure the vegetation gets cut back so visitors can enjoy the spectacular scenery. Sadly “Rolo” the dog, who has been a regular on the gang for the last 15 years passed away. He will be much missed by the staff.
· Our volunteers have worked hard to keep the railway looking spick and span. The little details make a big difference, and we are really greatful for all of their efforts.
These are just a few of the things which have happened on the line in the last 12 months. Here’s to 2020!
Photography from John R Jones and VoR Collection