Heritage railroad

A heritage railway (United Kingdom, Australia and Canada), preserved railway (United Kingdom and Australia), tourist railway (Australia), or tourist railroad (United States) is a railway that is run as a tourist attraction, in some cases by volunteers, and which typically seeks to re-create or preserve railway scenes of the past (though not all tourist railways are heritage railways).

Historic heavy and light rail

Heritage railways are usually railway lines which were once run as commercial railways, but were later no longer needed or were closed down, and were taken over or re-opened by volunteers or for-profit organisations. Many run on partial routes unconnected to the commercial railway network, run only seasonally, and charge high "entertainment" fares. For example the return fare from Porthmadog to Blaenau Ffestiniog on the 13-mile Festiniog railway is some £20.20 and between Caernarfon to Porthmadog £34.00 on the Welsh Highland Railway. As a result they are primarily, indeed exclusively, focused on serving the tourist and leisure markets, not local transportation needs. However in the 1990s and 2000s some heritage railways have professed to provide local transportation and to extend their running seasons to cater for commercial passenger traffic. In the United Kingdom, however, no heritage railway offers a year round daily or commuter service.

Typically a heritage railway will use steam locomotives and original rolling stock to create a supposed "period atmosphere", although some are now concentrating on more recent "modern image" diesel and electric traction supposedly to re-create the post-steam railway era.

The first heritage railway to be rescued and run entirely by volunteers was the Talyllyn Railway in Wales. This narrow gauge line, taken over by a group of enthusiasts in 1950, is recognised as the start of the preservation movement in the United Kingdom, following the founding of the Massachusetts-located Edaville Railroad by Ellis D. Atwood in 1947.[1] There are now several hundred heritage railways in the United Kingdom. This large number is due in part to the closure of many minor lines in the 1960s under the Beeching Axe. These were relatively easy to revive. The first such standard gauge line to be preserved was the Bluebell Railway, though the Middleton Railway (which was not a victim of Beeching) had been preserved prior to this. The world's second preserved railway, and the first outside the United Kingdom, was the Puffing Billy Railway in Australia. This railway operates 24 km of track with much of the original rolling stock built as early as 1898.

Heritage railways differ in the intensity of the service that can be offered. Some of the more successful British heritage railways, such as the Severn Valley Railway and the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, may have up to five or six steam engines working, operating a four-train service daily. The Great Central Railway is the only example of a preserved British main line that operates with a double track, and can operate over 50 trains on a busy gala timetable. Other smaller railways may run for seven-days-a-week throughout the summer with only one steam engine. However, following the privatisation of Britain's main-line railways, the line between not-for-profit heritage railways and for-profit branch lines may appear to have blurred. The Wensleydale Railway is an example of a commercial line run partly as a heritage operation and partly (at least in intent, if not in reality) to provide local transportation. The Weardale Railway is a similar attempt to provide a commercial heritage line, so far with mixed success. The Severn Valley Railway has even operated a few goods trains on a commercial basis. In addition, a number of heritage lines now see regular freight operations. The Puffing Billy Railway operates a busier service than it regularly did in its pre-preservation working life.

In the 50 years since the Bluebell Railway reopened to traffic, the definition of private standard gauge railways in the United Kingdom as preserved railways has changed and evolved as the number of projects, length, operating days and function has altered. The 1970s distinction between narrow gauge, standard gauge and steam centres alone is no longer necessarily fit for purpose. The situation is further muddied by the huge variation in company structure of the ownership of the railway, its rolling stock and other assets. Unlike community railways the tourist railways in the UK are vertically integrated, although those operating in the main as charities have their charitable and non-charitable activities essentially separated for accounts purposes.

In the Americas

In the United States, heritage railways are known variously as tourist, historic, or scenic railroads. Most are remnants of original railroads, such as the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad (Colorado & New Mexico) or the Heber Valley Railroad (Utah). Others are reconstructed railroads, having been scrapped at one point and then rebuilt with tourism in mind, like the Sumpter Valley Railroad (Oregon), the Virginia and Truckee Railroad (Nevada), and the Wiscasset, Waterville and Farmington Railway (Maine), or can be entire railroads, preserved in their original state using original structures, track, and motive power, like the Nevada Northern Railway (Nevada) and the California Western Railroad (California), and the Delaware and Ulster Railroad in New York that runs in the Catskill Mountains.

Some do not fit in the above categories, like Rio Grande Scenic Railroad, which is a sub-operation of the San Luis & Rio Grande Railroad. The SL&RG is primarily a freight operation, on former Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad track, but owns and operates a steam locomotive and a fleet of passenger cars, most of which are painted in D&RGW colors.

The Train of the End of the World in southern Argentina is a (narrow-gauge) steam railway in Tierra del Fuego Province in operation since 1994.

La Trochita (El Viejo Expreso Patagónico), in English known as the Old Patagonian Express, is a 750 mm (2 ft 5 1⁄2 in) narrow gauge railway in Patagonia, Argentina using steam locomotives. It is 402 km in length and runs through the foothills of the Andes between Esquel and El Maitén in Chubut Province and Ingeniero Jacobacci in Río Negro Province.

Many heritage railways in the United States also function as living history museums, hosting annual reenactments of historic activities. In addition, they may feature an archive or library of railroad-related materials.

See also


External links

  • UK Heritage Railways
  • International Working Steam
  • Scenic railways in France mainline and tourist routes
  • UK Heritage Railway Photographs
  • National Preservation UK's leading heritage railways forum
  • Hungarian Interactive Railway Museum, Budapest
  • Henry Williams Limited
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