A public launch of the ELR50 festival - a series of nostalgic events marking 50 years since the chairman of British Rail Dr Beeching wielded his axe on many of Lincolnshire's rail lines - was held at Skegness Railway Station today (Thursday).
Guests gathered on the platform for the arrival of the 10.45am East Midlands Railway train from Nottingham, which displayed the name 'ELR50 Visit East Lincolnshire' to promote the festival across the country wherever it goes.
The train - a Class 158 - was officially named by Butlins resort director Chris Baron.
He told the crowd: "When I started this job I didn't think naming a train would be part of my cv.
"I realise, however, how important Billy Butlin and the railways are. There is no doubt he would never have come to Skegness had it not been for the railway.
"Billy was devastated when the Beeching report came out and he fought long and hard with a lot of people to make sure Skegness station stayed open.
"The station is still key to our success. We attract 500,000 visitors a year and a percentage come through here so we know how important it is."
Later in the year, steam travel is to return to East Lincolnshire as part of the festival’s main event - with the arrival of the ‘Royal Scot’ steam train, one of the world’s most famous steam locomotives which was rescued from the scrapyard in 1962 by Billy Butlin.
It will be returning to the resort with a special train from London’s King’s Cross on Saturday, September 19 - celebrating the bygone era before the Beeching report.
Skegness, Mablethorpe and Sutton-on-Sea will have their own events, fondly recalling the days when thousands of holiday trippers made their way by train from regions such as the East Midlands and South Yorkshire.
An exhibition is planned at Batemans Brewery Visitors Centre in Wainfleet, in August, with the story of Lincolnshire’s railways and featuring hundreds of priceless relics from almost every location in the area . There will be displays of old cars, Lincolnshire Road Car buses, and commercial vehicles.
Collectors from all over the UK looking for a bargain are expected to flock to Talisman Railwayana’s auction of items at Batemans on September 19.
Organiser Howard Johnston said the festival is a dream come true for him. “When I lived in Boston I had the pleasure of travelling the line. I’m retired now but my business is event organising and with, the anniversary coming up, I wanted to give something back,” he said.
“There is a lot organised already and many exciting things to come.”
One of the main benefactors of the festival will be the Lincolnshire Wolds Railway, based at Ludborough Station, which is is reinstating a section of the old main line to Louth.
The Railway will be running special steam-hauled trains most weekends over its restored section of old East Lincolnshire main line between Ludborough and North Thoresby, just north of Louth.
Surplus funds raised by ELR50 will help its four-mile extension towards Louth. A large guest steam locomotive will be running from August 29.
THE BEECHING REPORT
In the 1970s, East Lincolnshire was dealt the devastating blow of the loss of 100 miles of its network, including the Great Northern Railway’s Peterborough-Grimsby main line via Boston and Spalding, as well as the branches from Firsby to Lincoln, Willoughby-Mablethorpe and Woodhall Junction-Horncastle.
Today, only the Nottingham-Skegness line survives, but is thriving under the new management of East Midlands Railway, one of ELR50’s major supporters.
* For full story and more pictures, see next week's Skegness Standard.