Urgent appeal to support the Wells & Walsingham Light Railway
Like many small owner-operated railways, the Wells & Walsingham Light Railway has never had the huge resources of charities or council-owned heritage railways. For over 35 years, the WWLR has dedicated itself to offering a wonderful journey through the glorious North Norfolk Countryside; making memories for thousands of people.
The nostalgic sights and sounds of steam travel, the friendly welcome and the chance to get off the conveyor belt of modern life has made the WWLR the charming place it is. Generations of families from far and near keep coming back and hold a special place in their hearts for us.
We are a small family business in many ways. The Francis family love the railway and see it as the continuation of our founder, Commander Roy Francis’ legacy. They take no money from it, rather it has always been the other way around at times. The wider family is our intimate team of staff, volunteers and supporters. They work with enthusiasm and great loyalty in what has become a close knit bunch of friends.
We are working together through this challenging time to make sure that the WWLR continues steaming for years to come! We don’t have reserves and rely entirely on passenger traffic each year to maintain the high standards of engineering, maintenance and safety. We have plans in motion to spread the income streams and reduce the reliance on passenger traffic for some of our essential project work but this is a year away at least.
We are part of the North Norfolk Community and as well as asking for help we are offering it too. If any locals from Walsingham, Wighton or Warham don't have transport we will offer heavily reduced fares to travel to Wells and back for shopping.
The winter storms this year significantly affected the February Half-term with wind speeds above our safe operating limit most of the week. The impact of Coronavirus is likely to be catastrophic. Even if public events aren’t banned the likelihood is that very few people will use the tourist attractions or holiday accommodation of North Norfolk.
We are doing all we can to plan ahead and build resilience in the business. We believe that we have the advantage with open carriages and have ensured good standards of hygiene for staff, volunteers and visitors throughout our operation. We are selling one of our 1880s GER/LNER six-wheeler carriages; not because we want to but because we feel we have to make that sacrifice for the business. Cost control has been of paramount importance and continues to be so. We are in discussions with the bank and are pleased to see the Govt announce help for small businesses. We are launching this public appeal, holding fundraiser events and pushing our second hand books as much as we can.
We are asking for your help.
We want this lovely little railway to continue for years to come and need your help to do that. Anything you can give would be gratefully received and recorded appropriately. We aim to build a fund that will allow to survive should we have to close or if passenger numbers drop off significantly.
Your support at this time of crisis could make all the difference.
We feel that the WWLR is worth saving and hope you do too.
Nick Champion (Managing Director) & team