We are currently preparing to reopen the railway for the 2021 season, although like many businesses we are not exactly sure when this will be due to the current Covid restrictions! However when we reopen the first day will be free rides for everyone, to cheer everyone up after the pandemic and celebrate being able to open again.
Once we are able to reopen we plan to run weekends and school holidays until the end of October, plus daily in July and August. Winter opening will be decided nearer the time.
This year we are looking forward to having two more locomotives on the railway! The steam locomotive Chiltern Shuttle, which has lived at the railway for nearly 40 years, will be back this summer following a thorough ‘nut and bolt’ restoration including construction of a new boiler. We also have a new diesel locomotive Eric James, which we bought last year and will be coming into service after an extensive rebuild.
Following the significant flooding over our Gala weekend last October, we are planning to restage the gala in the summer. If all goes well we hope to have four or five steam engines (including visitors) for this ‘Flood Fighting Gala’.
Over the weekend of 3/4 October the railway was significantly flooded, with water over 2 feet deep in many places. This level of flooding is completely unprecedented in the railway’s 61 year history, and was caused by a number of fallen trees blocking the River Gade. Maintenance of these trees is the responsibility of Watford Council, and they were first reported as an issue in February 2018.
Unfortunately we have suffered damage to the engines, coaches and track, and require some time to repair the damage. Therefore the railway is currently closed.
We hope to have a limited reopening at Christmas, with a full reopening from Easter 2021 – subject to any Covid restrictions in place at the time.
A crowdfunder has kindly been set up for the railway for those who have offered donations to help with repairs; if you wish to make a small donation you can find it at http://bit.ly/37tVLY0
We hope 2021 will be a better year than 2020, and look forward to seeing you when we are back up and running!
To help keep everyone safe, we have some new measures in place at the moment:
🚂 Payment now taken at a kiosk by the entrance. £2 per person, under 2s free. As always we will accept cash but if you could have the exact fares ready to help reduce cash handling that is much appreciated. We also now have card machines so (provided they behave!) we can also accept card and contactless payments.
🚂 There is a one-way system on the platforms, entrance at the ‘normal’ end, exits at the far end. N.B. the exits are currently onto grass
🚂The platforms and queuing areas outside have footprints marked at 2m intervals to help you with social distancing.
🚂Hand sanitiser stations are on the platforms for your use.
🚂One group only per coach, and we will have seats covered or marked out of use to help with social distancing. We have also fitted screens to the end of most coaches.
🚂The trains are regularly treated with ‘Zoono’, which is an anti-viral treatment that lasts for up to 30 days on surfaces and is used on the mainline railways and the Underground. We also have regular additional cleaning throughout the day.
🚂Diesel trains only at the moment – steam will be back but not just yet.
🚂Please bear with us as we get into the swing of things in the ‘new normal’, we will have reduced capacity but will do our best!
We’d love to see them when they’ve been coloured in – and here’s the best bit! We will give away a 20-ride ticket to each of our four favourite coloured in pictures. Simply post a photo of the finished work of art on our Facebook page, or email it to us, and we will pick four winners when we reopen.
Following recent Government guidance, we have reluctantly taken the decision to close the railway during the current Coronavirus outbreak.
As many of our regular visitors know we always try to keep the trains running whatever the world throws at us – but at the moment the health and well-being of our staff and customers is most important.
We will reopen when it is safe to do so and will of course update here when we know that is.
Please keep yourselves safe during these uncertain times – and we will hopefully see you again in the near future!
2020 started with the WMR team heading off to Yorkshire on a busman’s holiday!
A number of us went off to dismantle the Orchard Farm Lakeside Railway, which sadly had closed. However this has yielded some useful equipment for us here in Watford, which we have detailed below.
New Diesel Locomotive
One of the most attractive parts for us is a bogie diesel hydraulic locomotive, of a similar size to Conway Castle. To keep the trains running reliably all summer we really need a third working diesel as back up to Conway Castle and Nikki Louise, and this will provide exactly that.
It was part dismantled and removing it from the garage it was stored in was, shall we say, challenging! However there is not much work required to get it running and therefore we plan to have it running down the park this summer; work is already underway in our workshop.
You can read further details about the diesel here.
New Steam Locomotive
We have also gained another steam locomotive, based on those used on the Ffestiniog Railway in Snowdonia.
Marri has worked very hard over the last two years and we do need another steam locomotive to help take the strain. Although we do have Pilgrim and Chiltern Shuttle, these are privately owned and therefore will tend to run a little less. Therefore a second railway-owned steam locomotive will help ensure we can keep steam in regular operation all year round.
The new steam loco is currently in parts and does need quite a bit of restoration/rebuilding work, which won’t start until Chiltern Shuttle has returned from her restoration later this year, so it will be a year or two before she is running down the park.
You can read further details about the steam locomotive here
As many know our station is very open and therefore at the mercy of the elements – when it rains (even a little) everyone gets wet! Some form of shelter to keep waiting passengers dry is part of our plans to improve the station (more details of our plans here), so this canopy proved a perfect acquisition.
We have also been offered (from another location) a station building, which we hope can be sited to provide a small shop and event space, adding to our station facilities. Both the canopy and station building will require a number of permissions to be gained, so we expect it will be next winter at the earliest before we can erect them.