The future of our flagship “Dining with Distinction” product has been secured with the purchase of three additional Mk1 First Open coaches to strengthen the fleet. These coaches arrived during August, and are to be overhauled to the same high standards as our current dining coaches.
Our dining train services have gone from strength to strength since their introduction back in the late 90’s. The opportunity to be transported back in time to an age where dining by train was the height of sophistication, has been a great draw with the product growing to its current format year on year. So much so, that the demand for the service means that it is now time to restore these additional vehicles to enable us to offer; more dates, provide extra seats and also allow coaches to be periodically taken out of service for maintenance. By doing this the railway will be able to offer the advertised service programme with confidence.
The additional capacity will also allow for the expansion of the service during busier periods of the year, namely Christmas and special occasion dates as well as offering the dining train to new markets within the hospitality and functions industry.
The ELR dining train has become an important part of the railway’s day to day operation which has seen the train carrying passengers on 100 occasions during 2014.
The romance of luxury dining on a train has always been in peoples’ hearts ever since the creation of such a service back in the 1800’s. George Mortimer Pullman, an American, who in 1864 built The Pioneer, the first railway carriage designed with true comfort for the passenger. The later creation of the Pullman Car Company in 1882 led to his domination of luxury train travel in the US and later, Great Britain. Rail cars based on the principles of full-service Pullman rail travel were included in many trains across Europe.
After a period of decline in the second half of the twentieth century, the Venice Simplon Orient Express led the way in introducing the travelling public to the delights of luxury trains once again.
The ELR dining train was introduced back in the late 90’s and has evolved and become a part of life on the ELR.
On the ELR the interiors of each of our dining carriages are individual and consist of wonderful marquetry and plush seats along with tables adorned with elegant glassware, crisp linen and beautiful flowers. The pure elegance of the ELR dining train has been at the heart of a success story that has brought a new dimension to the railway’s offer. We can now recreate that great railway tradition of luxury on-train dining year on year. The Pullman style dining on-board makes sure the train is a true reminder of the times gone by as you are hauled through the countryside by our steam or diesel locomotives.
The products offered on this exquisite dining train experience have constantly expanded to take into account the different audiences the railway attracts as well as looking to new markets to satisfy our customers. The increased capacity will help the railway to be able to offer greater flexibility when it comes to accommodating private charter and functions.
The spectacular growth of the dining train has really taken the ELR by storm in recent years as well as receiving various plaudits for its outstanding quality. The North West has a true gem located in Bury, Rochdale and Rossendale and now is the time to push the boundaries to make the product bigger and better.
The refining of the product has included the constant monitoring of menus perfection and to receive the credit it does is a true reflection of the all-round team effort that goes into making the dining train the success it is.
Santa Specials - An Overview
Santa Specials on the ELR have now become the most popular in the UK when compared to other similar railways. In 2013 we attracted over 35,000 visitors and with this in mind we need to make sure every aspect of the service is delivered to the highest possible standard.
In response to customer feedback we have altered the Santa operation to give Santa more time with each child. To achieve this we have reduced the number of coaches in the Santa set, extended the Santa service through to Rawtenstall and moved to a two train operation. This requires 12 Open coaches and 2 Brake coaches, all fitted with electric train heating, to provide two 7 coach sets needed for the service.
Currently we are short of enough electrically heated open coaches to provide the two sets, so these are supplemented by 2 steam heated open coaches, which provide less consistent heating. We have sourced a suitable additional electrically heated open coach, which has been purchased and delivered, moving us a step nearer to providing the two electrically heated coach sets required, eliminating a need for pre-heating the sets with a steam locomotive and providing consistent heating throughout each set with consequent financial savings.
The Santa Specials have been a growing success story since their introduction in the late 1980’s. The popularity of the event means that the railway now carries record numbers of people and has becomethe biggest provider of traditional Santa Special services in the heritage railway industry.
The ELR provides over 100 Santa services each year and so it is imperative that there is suitable coaching stock to fulfil our customer’s needs. The demand has been so much so that there has been a sharp rise in the number of services we offer. 2014 is no exception with our most intense operating schedule to date as we continue to grow the ELR.
The railway’s carriage fleet has evolved considerably over the years and is a great reflection on the dedication and work put into the fleet by the Carriage and Wagon team at the ELR. However in order to keep the product at its best, maintenance and refurbishment plans need to be taken into account. The expansion of the fleet will help to alleviate some of the maintenance and preparation pressures that build up before this major event.
The Santa Special’s dedicated team are always working to improve the customer experience to make sure every visitor leaves with a smile on their face. With this recipe for success in mind the next steps will help the railway to continue to achieve high standards.
Funding Our Diner and Santa Train Expansion
In order to start to assemble the funding required to restore the four new coaches needed for our expansion of the Diner and Santa Train service the ELR has sold surplus coaching stock - coaches which have been displaced by more modern vehicles on the railway.
During the next 12 months various fund raising initiatives will take place in order to help complete the purchase and then overhaul the new coaches. If you feel this is something you would like to be involved in there are various ways you can help us