Published: 06:00, 26 August 2021
A campaign has started to save a light railway, started in 1975, which has lost up to £400,000 after being forced to close during the lockdowns.
Volunteers hope to secure £250,000 for the Bredgar and Wormshill Light Railway, near Sittingbourne, which has already had to sell off some of its engines and stock to make ends meet.
The railway was stared 45 years ago by brothers Bill and David Best who acquired retired steam engines and got their friends to help restore them.
Track was laid around the North Downs countryside and it encompasses more than 25 acres and features narrow gauge systems from all over the world.
Last year Mr Best, the railway’s figurehead, died and the attraction was taken over by his eldest son, also called Bill, and his wife Chris.
Mr Best said income plunged when Covid hit and lockdowns meant tourist attractions had to close their doors.
He said: “The lockdowns and closures saw us lose between £300-£400,000 in lockdown.
“We also had to sell a diesel locomotive, a steam engine and mini engine from our collection and we really don’t want any more to go. So we’re wholeheartedly backing this appeal.”
Volunteer David Parfitt has set up a JustGiving page, which so far has seen £1,500 pledged.
He said: “If we can just get enough money to get through the winter, that would give us a fighting chance. There are so many hidden costs. Keeping a specialist engine serviced and maintained can cost anything from £5,000 to £10,000 and this could easily rise to £50,000 if major work is needed.”
Another issue is that while the railway has started plans to become a registered charity, the process could take several months, but the organisation needs support now.
Mr Parfitt explained how the light railway has already been saved once by the sell-off of some of the collection’s valuable items, but visitor numbers this year have been low.
“If we can just get enough money to get through the winter, that would give us a fighting chance."
See the appeal here, or head along for an open day this Sunday at Swanton Street, Bredgar.
For more see the BWLR website here