The Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway’s Santa Specials are set to break records again as ticket sales gather pace with only a month to go before the first ‘Santa Specials’ depart for the North Pole.
The season gets under way from the weekend of 1st December with more than 70 trains scheduled to take excited youngsters and their families to meet Father Christmas. More than half of seats are already taken while some are already fully booked.
But the special steam trains from Cheltenham Racecourse to the North Pole (at Winchcombe) will begin on Sunday 25th November with a very special steam train for around 65 children supported by charities Winston's Wish, Acorns Children's Hospice Trust and Riding for the Disabled. This train leaves Cheltenham Racecourse at 11.00 and is already fully booked.
This is an initiative of the railway's steam locomotive department and enthusiastically supported by the Santa Special team of volunteers.
Steam locomotive department volunteer Chris Blake who is spearheading the special train says: “We bring such a lot of delight for children throughout December but many miss out from the opportunity to enjoy something like this because of severe illness, disability or a family bereavement.
“It is the fifth year we have done this and it brings such a huge amount of pleasure to these special youngsters. It makes a real difference not just to their lives but ours too.”
Last tickets being snapped up fast!
Chief Elf Colin Fewell (the railway’s volunteer commercial director), says: “We expect to carry over 10,000 people on our trains this December.
“Many are already sold out but there are still some seats avaialable – but it really is a case of ‘book now while tickets last’! By booking for the first weekend, December 1st and 2nd – families are more likely to have space on the trains and a longer time chatting to Santa but do book soon!
“And the diesel railcar specials from Toddington appear to be just as popular as the steam services from Cheltenham Racecourse.
“I’m overwhelmed by how popular our Santa Specials are. We simply can’t run any more trains – if we could I’m sure we would fill them too!”
Over 45 steam trains will run right up to Christmas Eve. They start from Cheltenham Racecourse every weekend up to Christmas as well as daily from Thursday 20th December, to the North Pole where everyone gets an opportunity to meet Santa in his specially converted railway carriage while youngsters each receive a quality gift.
In addition, Santa will be travelling on a diesel railcar service from Toddington station along the line towards Broadway as far as Laverton. These trains run on December 8th, 9h, 15th, 16th, 21st and 22nd with 30 trains running altogether.
Adds Colin Fewell: “The atmosphere on the diesel railcar is completely different with Santa walking down the train sitting with families and giving the children presents. It could the the ideal solution for youngsters not keen on going in to a dark grotto!
“All of our trains are all run by volunteers and I think that's what makes the trip such a wonderful experience for families.
“Many families come year after year to enjoy the steam train journey from Cheltenham Racecourse station to the railway's Christmas wonderland at the North Pole with a chance for a chat with Santa Claus himself.
“Our volunteer staff give up their time because they want to. We all enjoy the delight and wonder on youngsters' (and grown-ups) faces – not only when they see the steam engine pulling their train but also visiting Santa in his specially converted railway coach at Winchcombe!”
Free refreshments are offered to travellers at Winchcombe including hot mince pies which are made locally to a special recipe for the railway.
“We expect to get through around 11,000 hot mince pies,” Colin Fewell adds. “To say nothing of gallons of tea and coffee – and sackfuls of carrots for Santa's reindeer.”
Full details of the services, ticket availability and how to book are on the railway's website at www.gwsr.com.
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