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Tuesday 08th January 2013 Terry Dowding – Worcester Locomotive Society


I hope you don't mind me sending this email to you, but your email address is the only one I have for the SDR.

It’s possible that you, and others at the SDR, may already be aware, but I’m sad to report that Terry Dowding, long serving member and former chairman of the Worcester Locomotive Society, passed away last Friday. He had been suffering from ill health for some time. Amongst many things, Terry was instrumental in making arrangements with Richard Elliott for the transfer of Worcester Loco Society’s locomotives and rolling stock to South Devon in 1993.

Perhaps you would please be good enough to pass on this sad news to those at the SDR who knew Terry.


Dave Withey

Sunday 23rd December 2012 The General Manager’s Christmas Message - 2012

With just one day to go now until Xmas and the end of our running season coming up fast too, I just wanted to say a big “Thank You” to everyone who has helped us to run the railway in 2012.

It’s once more been a year of varied challenges and opportunities but, despite a drop in visitors this year of c. 6,000 people, I’m pleased to report that the railway has just about held its own despite the ongoing economic recession and we’ll carry over 100,000 people again.

Our great teamwork has ensured that almost every advertised train ran this year and our team spirit is so strong, visitors often say our operation looks effortless even when things have gone wrong!

Thanks to the efforts of a very dedicated team of staff and volunteers, our Santa trains too have been very popular again too which has been a brilliant achievement and of which everyone should be rightly proud.

But, I have heard gossip again recently that some people (who should know better) seem to think that volunteers are not valued by the SDR Trust Board and management which is not the case as I have said many times before.

The equation is a simple one: No Volunteers = No Railway!

The bad news is that we cannot afford to be complacent and 2013 looks set to be another hard year for us and other businesses.

As a result, we’ll need to work hard to stand still. We must continue to push our value for money credentials, stressing the varied full day out we offer with joint tickets, and this is why the “Three Great Attractions, One Amazing Day” will be pivotal to our continued success.

We have one of the longest running seasons in the country and will be operating on over 260 days in 2013 which is no mean feat! The February event with the Steam Rail Motor at half term will be the springboard for our season, so don’t miss it!

Dick Wood, General Manager.

Sunday 16th December 2012 Santa Train

Dear Sir,
Thank you for the lovely experience of the “Santa Train”.
I had booked for my family of 11, on the 12.30 train 15/12/12.  The children were so excited waiting for the day to arrive.  My Son, Wife, 1 great grand Child had driven down from Bath that morning, others from Saltash and Plymouth.  We settled on the train , when Santa and Mrs Santa arrived and came down the coach it was amazing to see their little faces filled with surprise as he spoke to them each in turn, followed by his happy little Elves, Dr. Foster was clapped, they even sang his verse which pleased him laughing and giggling .
Later seeing Santa in his cave & receiving a present was quite exciting.  Staff who served the refreshments made the train ride comfortable.  Photos were taken, these will bring back happy memories in the future for them.  I must not forget the Train Driver & staff who worked so hard to make the trip so colourful & cheerful.
We must keep the fantasy & mystery alive for the children of the future.
I will never forget the look on the little faces of all my great Grandchildren.
Thank you for all involved and a wonderful day out.
Happy New Year 2013.

C.P. Wood (Mrs)

Sunday 07th December 2012 ‘Carols Down the Line’

Paignton (Palace Avenue) Methodist Church Council wish to place on record their thanks to the volunteers of the South Devon Railway Association who freely gave of their time to ensure this years ‘Carols Down the Line’ ran fairly smoothly apart from the one or two hitches along the way!! Whilst it will be a little while before the final figure raised can be determined provisional figures would suggest that just over £3000 has been raised for charities and good causes – a splendid effort particularly in these times of austerity.

With best wishes,

David Wotton

Sunday 02nd December 2012 To all at the South Devon Railway,

Today we came for the Santa by steam for my son’s 4th Birthday. Wow you did such a great job, we were very impressed with friendly helpful staff and all the effort that went into making it such a special day. We had a lovely day and all the way home all my little boy could talk about was seeing Santa on a big steam train.
You made my little boys dreams come true.
Well done on a super day and such friendly staff.

Mrs T McLaughlin, Saltash.

Wednesday 21th December 2011 The General Manager’s Christmas Message – 2011

With just a few days to go until Christmas and the end of our running season coming up fast too, I just wanted to say a big “Thank You” to everyone who has helped us to run the railway in 2011. It’s been a year of varied challenges and opportunities, but I’m pleased to report that the railway has held its own despite the ongoing economic recession and we might yet have a record breaking season. So, watch this space!

Hopefully, we’ll get to the end of this year without a repeat performance of last Winter’s worst weather, but it’s certainly been worthwhile heating the Santa trains overnight judging by all of the positive feedback we get from happy passengers. Our footplate crews deserve special praise for staying up all night to do this unglamorous, but nevertheless important job.

The last few months have again seen many staff suffer from a rampant evil hacking cough, sore throat and flu-like symptoms which has flattened people, but our great teamwork should ensure that every advertised train runs and with minimal delays. The SDR’s team spirit is strong and we aim to make our operation look effortless.

Thanks to the efforts of a very dedicated team of staff and volunteers, we came very close to a new record for Santa trains too, with some 7,150 seats sold and 98.89% occupancy which is a brilliant achievement of which everyone should be proud.

I have heard recent gossip that some people seem to think that volunteers are not valued by the SDR Trust Board and management which is not the case as I have said many times before. The equation is a simple one – No Volunteers means No Railway! So, if you hear someone talking in this vein whose glass appear to ‘half empty’ rather than ‘half full’ let me assure you that volunteers are valued. Granted, we might not always agree on our priorities and things may be done differently to how some would wish them to be, but seeing it from both sides always helps.

The bad news is that we cannot afford to be complacent and 2012 looks set to be a hard year for all businesses. As a result, we still need to work hard to stand still. We must continue to push our value for money credentials, stressing the varied full day out we offer with joint tickets, and this is why the “Three Great Attractions, One Amazing Day” is so pivotal to our continued success next year.

We have one of the longest running seasons in the country and, with us operating on 259 days in 2012 and some big bills to pay for major infrastructure renewals, such as £50,000 in January alone for the repairs to Southport Leat Bridge near Staverton, we are going to need every penny we can generate.

2012 will be the 140th anniversary of the line opening way back in May 1872, another reason to be proud of the progress of the railway – it may only be seven miles long, but just look at how far we have really travelled in that time! It will also be my 40th year of active work on the railway and the fourth year here as GM – how time flies.

Dick Wood, General Manager.        22 December 2011

Saturday 17th December 2011 Santa Express

We have just had a trip on the Santa Express.

It was absolutely brilliant. From the moment we arrived until we left it was fantastic. That staff are so friendly, nothing was too much trouble. Dr Foster asked our son if he wanted a look at the engine room and that made his day, and my husbands! We were so well taken care of. There were lovely warm mince pies and drinks. Santa was great as well, he took his time and was very good fun, there were a few adults in our party as well and they enjoyed it as much as the children. We enjoyed the singalong too which was a nice touch. The train had a great atmosphere and the staff made it so special

All in all, it was fab. Can't thank you enough and we will definitely be back.

The Green family

Wednesday 5th May 2010 Days Out With Thomas

We would like to thank everyone who was involved with our D.O.W.T. last weekend for the hard work, dedication and splendid enthusiasm they put into the event.

After the monitoring visit on behalf of HIT Entertainment (Thomas' license holders) over the weekend, we were particularly complimented for the way in which we coped with the problems caused by having a "Poorly Thomas" Also, the way that we altered our programme and provided suitable props for a "Poorly Thomas" in such a short period of time was praised.

From the very beginning of the first day to the end of the last, the whole event went without any significant hitches and the very few problems we had were dealt with quickly and without fuss. Everyone right across the whole seven miles of our site worked superbly. Although we do not know the final figures at present, it was yet again a very successful and profitable weekend. Thank you all!

Dick Wood. General Manager
Neil Smith. Commercial Director. 5 May 2010

Tuesday 11th April 2010

Dear Dick

Now that I am back home and the dust is starting to settle from my time away with 70013 (although the locomotive continues its journeys around Scotland), I am taking the earliest opportunity to write, expressing our gratitude to you, and all of the team, on the South Devon Railway for the reception that Oliver Cromwell and support crew received.

Although we only spent a couple of days on the SDR, and the locomotive did little more than stand in the yard at Buckfastleigh for much of that time, the way that 70013 and the whole support crew were accepted into the SDR fold was fantastic.
The lengths to which volunteers and paid staff alike went to ensure our visit was as smooth as possible really were much appreciated. From the moment 70013 crossed from Network Rail metals on to the South Devon Railway, nothing seemed to be too much trouble. The friendliness, support and encouragement from everybody connected with the SDR was little short of amazing.

I sincerely hope that, despite the setbacks over the weekend, the SDR benefited from the brief visit by both 70013 and 44871 and, should a similar opportunity arise in the future, that a repeat visit can be arranged.

Even though we were only with you for a few days, we were made to feel so welcome that the whole support crew felt it a wrench when the time came to depart.

Please pass on our sincere thanks to everybody involved on the SDR for making our visit so memorable.

Best regards

Chris Williams
(On behalf of the 5305 Locomotive Association)

Tuesday 6th April 2010
Notice to all Volunteers and Staff

On behalf of the SDR Trust Board, I'd like to thank all of our staff and volunteers for their dedication and professionalism over the Easter weekend when large numbers of people came to see the superb main line visiting engines which we were very proud to welcome to the SDR.

In particular, I'd like to praise everyone involved along the line for the calm and measured way they handled the derailment incident of Black Five 44871 late on Sunday 4th April which obviously was a disappointment for us all on an otherwise great day for us.

Handling unexpected and adverse circumstances is the acid test for any organisation and, having effectively lost the line below Staverton to Totnes for emergency track repairs, we started Easter Monday morning with "a blank sheet" of paper. It was very pleasing, therefore, to witness the way that everyone involved worked in unison that we were not only able to and pull together a workable train timetable with rail replacement buses, but also had the track-work completed the same day.

Despite the problems we faced, we were very busy on Monday and I have received only good reports so far from members of the public about the way everything had been handled, and that we were able to keep train services running so well.

Finally, I'd like to my personal hearty thanks and a general "well done" to everyone, staff and volunteers alike because we simply could not keep this railway running without you.

Thank you

Dick Wood
General Manager

Feb 2010
Just wanted to ask you if you could put some kind of "Thank you" on the web site from me to everyone for the great gift that Dick Wood presented me when I left the SDR last Friday 26th. They gave me a signed print of Dumbleton Hall puling out of Kingswear, it to me is the best print I could wish for as I was born in Kingswear and my late grandfather and two uncles worked that line when it was GWR. I can remember as a kid it being GWR so long ago. I was touched by the kindness and their generosity of every one that put towards the print, as well as the Mole Valley tokens and all who signed the card. I wish the South Devon Railway and all that work there all the very best.


Chris Cloarec-Pollard.

"The Ex groundsman"

Dumbleton Hall at Kingswear
Sep 2009
To whom it may concern,
I visited the railway last Thursday 24th September and I would like if possible for you to pass on my thanks to all who made my first visit to your railway so interesting and informative.
All your staff working that day where both polite and professional in there approach(even the poor lady in the Cafeteria doing her best following continual power failures).
In particular would you thank the TTI for not interrupting my on train videoing and the Booking Clerk and Station Master at Totnes for entertaining me early that morning.
I would like to have spent more time back there in the afternoon but first Great Western waits for no man so I needed to be back on the train before I could thank them all.
I shall certainly be visiting again and will be passing on this view to my colleges on the SVR.
Thank you all again.
Roy Bennett (SVR Volunteer Working Member - Hampton Loade Station)

Views expressed in letters are those of the correspondent and not endorsed by the South Devon Railway.

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