Published: 13th November 2015
The railway industry is well known for raising funds for charity and Children In Need is no stranger to benefitting from fund-raising activities by enthusiasts.
This year, one of the more crazy ideas was to operate the Milton Keynes Light Railway at Caldecotte, Milton Keynes, continuously for 24 hours. The 7 ¼ inch gauge track was used by several locomotives running for an hour at a time before being relieved in a passing loop at the station.
The total distance covered was over 100 miles and when scaled up to standard gauge distance, was the same as a train running from London to Thurso!
Keith McLean, the Mayor of Milton Keynes started the event at 5pm and returned at the end of the fund-raising exercise offering encouragement to the volunteers. They drove trains through the night using head torches, carrying at least one passenger at all times. They raised over £500 from fares at £1 each supplemented by a collecting tin. All the operating costs were met by the miniature railway.
The Milton Keynes narrow gauge railway operates big Santa events which operate on December 5/6 and 12/13 between noon and 4pm. Train rides are just £1.
The first main line train to fund raise for this world famous event was organised by Mel Chamberlain who ran Days Out Limited, a charter train company formed in late 1994 and promoted many spectacular trains for several years before running out of money.
The final nail in their coffin was that Railtrack cancelled a train at 48 hours notice in Scotland as they had incorrectly ballasted the track Killiecrankie Tunnel on the Perth to Inverness main line. This precluded the train from running but the hotel bills were not refunded.
This train ran to Watford Junction on November 25 1995 from Merseyside and on the return journey, it became the first steam train to operate from Euston for over 30 years. The train was run in conjunction with BBC local radio Merseyside and Three Counties and brought huge publicity to the railways as well as raising thousands for the charity.
The engine used was the unique British Rail Class 8P No. 71000 Duke of Gloucester now under overhaul at Tyseley after a break of four years raising funds.
In 1993 at the Buckinghamshire Railway Centre, Pudsey and Paddington met in another Children in Need event which was a great success despite the freezing weather. This was the genuine Paddington Bear borrowed from British Rail for the event and it is thought, the only time it met Pudsey!