The Isle of Wight Steam Railway has declared that 2023 was an amazing year, which started off when it won the accolade of the UK's ‘Heritage Railway of the Year'.
Although 2023 was a challenging year for the Island's tourism sector, the railway continued its yearly growth by welcoming a record-breaking 130,000 visitors.
Summer school holiday saw a particularly strong increase in numbers, and there were increased numbers at popular events such as the Summer Steam Show and the Festival of Transport, and 7,600 visitors at its Christmas events.
The Railway is now into closed until 24 March so that planned work on track maintenance and renewals can take place.
Peter Taylor, Chairman, said “In a difficult marketplace which has seen one major Island attraction close, our Railway has continued to appeal through its unique high-quality heritage offer, great customer experiences and value for money. In 2023 we were rightly crowned as Heritage Railway of the Year – and equally importantly retained our Tripadvisor ‘Travellers Choice' rating as determined solely by our visitors.
“Everything we have achieved in 2023, and indeed the last 52 years, has only been possible through the remarkable work of our now 500 volunteers who work tirelessly to sustain and build upon our award-winning railway.
“As an educational charity our work includes a huge rage of activities, not just the running of the trains for visitors and enthusiasts alike. Every pound we raise through visitors visiting the railway is invested back into the railway, enhancing the heritage and the experience for current and future generations”.
Marc Morgan Huws, Interim General Manager says “While 2023 proved to be an amazing year we are acutely aware that 2024 will be another challenging year in terms of the visitor economy and rising customer expectations.
“We already have plans in place to add exciting new events to the existing calendar for 2024 – Fish & Chip Evenings in the Summer and a Gin and Steam event in June – and to take our Santa Special offer for Christmas 2024 to a new level, delivering some magic of Christmas' past with new activities and additional dressing of our stations.
“Work has already started on an £80k project to create a high-quality permanent café and bar in our Events field ahead of Easter 2024 as we continue to invest in the customer experience. At Wootton we hope to complete the initial build of our Goods Shed display facility. Meanwhile ‘on the tracks' 2024 is set to see the completion of the two car Ryde Pier Tram and the return to service of our Terrier locomotive Freshwater after an extensive overhaul”
“Meanwhile our volunteers and small team of staff are busy around our station sites making a special effort to improve the look and feel of our stations ahead of the new season”.