There is a new man at Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway, and one of his first tasks is planning the popular Mid Wales tourist attraction’s 2021 operating season.
James Brett has been recruited to succeed retiring Charles Spencer as the railway’s general manager.
The railway lost a significant part of its 2020 season to the Covid-19 pandemic, but was able to operate trains through the summer. These attracted many visitors who provided much positive feedback for the extensive procedures put in place to ensure the safety of visitors and staff.
“We are currently working towards reopening as soon as we are able and our plans naturally depend on the coronavirus situation,” said the railway’s marketing manager Oliver Edwards.
“Our volunteers and staff are giving a lot of thought to how we operate responsibly – our experience in 2020 gave us fantastic learning and great visitor feedback which reflected the preparatory efforts of our team.”
The railway will shortly be launching a new website which will feature a wide range of experiences planned on the line for 2021. Highlights of the season are expected to include the return of the 1902-built original locomotive ‘The Earl’ following a major overhaul at the Vale of Rheidol Railway, first-class rides featuring the line’s Sierra Leone Railways Independence Carriage, vintage train days and a host of further events.
Everyone at the railway is closely monitoring the lockdown situation and Government advice – trains will only begin running when it is considered safe to do so. Services will be announced on the website, www.wllr.org.uk, and the railway’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/WelshpoolSteamRailway.
James comes to the Llanfair line from the National Tramway Museum at Crich, Derbyshire, where he was facilities and infrastructure manager. He was unanimously selected from more than 100 applicants for the W&LLR post.
The railway’s interview panel was impressed by his management of an overwhelmingly volunteer workforce at Crich, during which he successfully delivered several major projects, and his extensive experience gained across the heritage and tourism sector.
“Over the coming months, I am looking forward to getting to grips with the challenges of the general manager role, meeting the team and leading the organisation forward to future opportunities,” said James.
“I was impressed with the team’s careful Covid-safe operations in 2020 – we’ll just have to do the same in 2021 to make sure everyone is safe, comfortable and can enjoy their time at the railway.”
James started at Llanfair on February 1, beginning a handover period with Charles who will step down on March 31. After six years in post, Charles insists he won’t be disappearing – he is a qualified fireman on the challenging line and intends to make regular return visits to “shovel some coal on steam engines.”