South Devon Railway Trust secures National Lottery support for its ‘SOS’ emergency funding appeal

The South Devon Railway (SDR) has announced today (Tuesday 8 September) that it has received confirmation of a significant National Lottery grant of £124,800 from The National Lottery Heritage Fund for a number of exciting heritage projects, all of which will help the scenic seven-mile former GWR branch line recover from the enforced closure of the railway during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The  grant was awarded through The National Lottery Heritage Fund’s Heritage Emergency Fund which aimed to help heritage organisations survive and recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The SDR has previously had National Lottery support for the replacement deck of Nursery Pool Bridge in 2002.

The Heritage Emergency Fund grant will fund a number of separate projects and to provide immediate help with the costs of re-opening the line by covering certain items, such as the wages of essential staff brought back from furlough to prepare for trains returning. In the SDR’s case, this will be for re-starting services with the ‘Polar Express™’ trains for the Christmas period. The costs of this task were identified as £78,097 up to the end of November, which is the date limit set by the Emergency Fund.

Details of the return to work will be communicated directly with the staff involved with regards to the order, start dates and priority tasks. We also have to ensure workplaces are COVID-19 safe and have appropriate risk assessments in place.

The National Lottery grant will also cover the costs of SDR projects stopped by the CV19 loss of income, but which are essential to protect the railway going forward. To this end, the SDR’s bid included £24,523 for essential work identified to upgrade the railway’s museum at Buckfastleigh and enable it to re-open.

1420 on a Sunday milk train in 2004.

There was a further £22,180 within the grant total towards moving the overhaul of iconic former GWR steam ‘auto’ loco No.1420 forward to cover the manufacture of the remaining firebox boiler plates and a new foundation ring.

These are critical to enable the SDR to build the new boiler using their own skilled staff and keep our loco restoration timeline on track to maintain future operations.

The grant is made possible by money raised by National Lottery players, and is a considerable boost to the SDR which sadly has been unable to run any trains for over six months now.

The SDR has also applied for a further grant from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS)’s Culture Recovery Fund too for a further £332,000 towards ongoing costs, and which is currently under review.

The South Devon Railway is the oldest heritage railway in the West Country having re-opened in 1969, and usually welcomes up to 100,000 visitors every year. It is a registered charity and has a small number of paid staff and over 600 volunteers who run the railway every day from March to October, plus at Christmas and New Year too.

The SDR has an extensive, well-equipped workshop which repairs the line’s own locomotives as well as undertaking complex, contract engineering jobs for other heritage railways and owners, plus main-line Train Operating Companies too. As a result, it is well placed to make the new boiler plates for GWR loco No.1420 and bring the popular steam engine back to life soon.

Commenting on the grant award, SDR Limited Chairman Jon Morton said: “We are naturally thrilled to have received this fantastic grant support thanks to National Lottery players which is a timely shot-in-the-arm for us, and we are confident the projects will help get the much-loved South Devon Railway running again soon.”

Notes to News Editors:

Further details about the South Devon Railway are available from Dick Wood (see below) or from our website:

About The National Lottery Heritage Fund

Using money raised by the National Lottery, we inspire, lead and resource the UK’s heritage to create positive change for people and communities, now and in the future. #NationalLotteryHeritageFund

The Heritage Emergency Fund is now closed for applications. Extra advice and support and longer-term skills and capacity building initiatives has also been made available for the heritage sector. Read more about The National Lottery Heritage Fund’s response to the Covid-19 emergency.

About the National Lottery

  • Since The National Lottery’s first draw took place on 19 November 1994, more than £40 billion has been raised for good causes in the areas of arts, sport, heritage and community.
  • National Lottery players contribute around £30 million to good causes every week.
  • The National Lottery has made more than 5,500 millionaires but its primary purpose is giving to good causes – over 565,000 individual grants have been awarded across the UK, that’s the equivalent of 200 life-changing projects in every UK postcode district.

For further information, images and interviews please contact SDR PR & Business Development Manager Dick Wood on 07711 552947 or email:


South Devon Railway Limited, Registered Office:
The Station, Dartbridge Road, Buckfastleigh, Devon, TQ11 0DZ
Registered in England No. RS008114
Community Benefit Society No. 8114

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T: 01364 644 370

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