East Lancashire Railway (ELR) is joining organisations from as far afield as Cornwall, Suffolk, North Wales, North East Scotland and Northern Ireland* in a new nationwide campaign to raise awareness of heritage railways.

Spearheaded by the North Yorkshire Moors Railway (NYMR), ‘Love Your Railway’ is a six-week summer campaign from July 26th to September 5th, which aims to shine a spotlight on not only the important work heritage railways do with regards to conservation, education and research, but highlight how they have all been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in terms of reduced capacities and income.

ELR is collaborating with NYMR and over 35 other famous heritage railways, including The Bluebell Railway, Crich Tramway Village, Severn Valley Railway and Snowdon Mountain Railway.

Mike Kelly, Chairman of ELR, said: “The past year has been one of the most challenging in our history, and now more than ever it’s vital that we do everything we can to raise awareness of our beloved railway and the amazing work our volunteers do every day.

“We know this is true for many other heritage organisations and so we are honoured to be a part of the ‘Love Your Railway’ campaign, alongside some fantastic railways across the country. I hope that through this initiative, more people across the country get to see the opportunities for an amazing day out that our railways can offer them.”

Chris Price, General Manager at NYMR, said: “We’re optimistic and excited about the summer ahead, but the last 12 months have been like no other year, with lockdowns, reduced capacities due to social distancing, and staff and volunteers falling victim to the virus.

“There are more than 150 operational heritage railways, running trains over nearly 600 miles of track, which protect, conserve and bring to life part of the nation’s rich cultural heritage – giving enjoyment and learning to thousands of people every year.

“We want to do all we can to raise awareness of every heritage railway across the country and the challenges we face; all the participating railways will be posting their own social content across the six themed weeks, but we also want to encourage the public to get involved by sharing their favourite memories and inspiring imagery from their visits, using the hashtag #LoveYourRailway.”

As the only heritage railway in the North West, ELR is one of the region’s top tourism attractions, welcoming around 200,000 visitors annually. Operating along a 12.5-mile line between Heywood in Greater Manchester and Rawtenstall in Lancashire, it offers endless opportunities for a magical, multi-generational day out, giving visitors a chance to travel to destinations including the beautiful Burrs Country Park, The Irwell Sculpture Trail and the independent boutiques, restaurants and bars of both Ramsbottom and Rawtenstall.

The six themed weeks of the campaign are: Heritage, Education, Volunteers, Family, Sustainability and Future.