Since the Coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic struck, and lockdown began, heritage railways have effectively been closed, with fundraising activities, gala weekends and even normal running suspended or cancelled.
That has caused major financial problems for most of them.
Some, such as the Severn Valley Railway in Worcestershire and Shropshire, have been fundraising from enthusiasts, offering ‘adopt an engine’ schemes and promoting the sale of souvenirs from their shops.
The Keighley and Worth Valley Railway (KWVR) in West Yorkshire has also been fundraising hard. It’s ‘Worth Saving’ appeal has now passed the £130,000 mark and is aiming at £200,000.
But the KWVR has also found an extra source of income.
Northern Trains, like may other front-line train operators, has reduced its timetable and is running fewer services. It is also phasing out its fleet of Pacers, which have recently become the butt of many jokes, although they have done sterling service for the last 34 years, and currently have dispensation to run only until August 2020 as they don’t meet the Rail Vehicle Accessibility (Interoperable Rail System) Regulations.
Five of the 23 Class 144 Pacers (two and three-car units) not required during lockdown could be stored at the Heaton depot. But where to put the other 18?
The answer was at Keighley on the KWVR, a solution that would solve Northern’s storage problem and give KWVR some much-needed income.
Noel Hartley, KWVR operations manager, explained: “We are storing the Pacers for Northern whilst the crisis is ongoing. It is helping us too, by providing some income for our Worth Saving appeal.”
It’s not the first time the Class 144s have been at Keighley. They used to call there in service until the Airedale line was electrified in the 1990s. And, fittingly, number 144011 is due to transfer to the KWVR for preservation once Northern has no further need of it.