top of page


Culture Recovery Grant

£641,000 grant from Government’s Culture Recovery Fund

The East Lancashire Railway (ELR) has received a vital new lifeline as it battles to rebuild its finances - with a £641,600 grant from the Government’s Culture Recovery Fund.


Due to the coronavirus outbreak, the cherished heritage attraction is facing an unprecedented six-figure loss this year with revenues projected to be down by as much as half in 2021.


The first national lockdown deprived the railway of vital visitor income between March and August, plunging its future into uncertainty.


And now after having to cease operations for a second time this year, it faces a renewed fight for its survival.


East Lancashire Railway Chairman Mike Kelly said: “We’re immensely proud of the timeless experience the East Lancashire Railway provides for hundreds of thousands of visitors a year - thanks to the dedication of our volunteers and staff.


“However, the coronavirus outbreak has plunged our entire, long-term future into jeopardy.


“This year alone we have been forced to make redundancies and we’re now facing a cliff- edge scenario with a 50 per cent drop in revenues, resulting in an historical six-figure loss, alongside a projected 50 per cent decline in revenues for 2021.


“As a charitable organisation, we are left in a perilous position as we wrestle with these unprecedented financial and operational challenges.


“The loss of the ELR to the North West and the wider Heritage Transport family would be catastrophic on any level, which is why we’re so incredibly grateful for the financial award from the Culture Recovery Fund for Heritage.


“Right now with the railway again forced to close, it feels like the Culture Recovery Fund is the cavalry coming over the hill to save us.


“This incredible level of support helps cover our operational costs for a precious few months and gives us an important breathing space to try and rebuild the railway’s finances.


“The lifeline also helps us to keep running services and ensures the railway remains Covid- secure so that we can preserve this unique heritage experience for our many thousands of visitors of all ages and secure an enduring legacy for future generations to come.”


The Government’s £1.57billion Culture Recovery Fund was established to ensure that jobs and access to arts and heritage in local communities are protected in the months ahead.


In the North West, 21 heritage organisations will receive over £9million in funding allocated by The National Lottery Heritage Fund and Historic England on behalf of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.


The grants will be used to meet ongoing costs and support reopening and restarting activity when it is possible to do so safely.



One of the last acts undertaken before the Railway again entered into lock-down was the laying of wreaths from the East Lancashire Preservation Society and the East Lancashire Light Railway Company at the war memorial located on the over-bridge at Bolton Street Station, Bury.

Santa Special

The National Lock-down and the ELR

Due to the Government update (issued 31 October), ELR services will not operate from 5 November to 2 December inclusive. Customers with bookings for this period, will be contacted directly.

Those with bookings for Dining and Santa Specials will be offered an alternative date. To speak with a customer service advisor, call 0333 320 2830 (10 am to 6 pm, 7-days a week).

Subject to further changes, planned services in December will still go ahead: Dining with Distinction (Thursday, 3rd December) and Santa Specials (Saturday, 5th December).

Standard 4MT 80097 - Ewood Bridge - (C) Liam Barnes

Working Members' Travel Passes

To All Working Members,

I am pleased to advise that with effect from the 1st November the Company are reinstating free travel for Working Members.  

I want to thank everyone for their patience and understanding as we continue the struggle to secure a safe financial pathway to survival.

When members are intending to travel it would be helpful if they could pre-book their trip using this dedicated email address

I know that not all working members have email or a printer, so, alternatively, members need to go to the Booking Office at Bury Station and present their travel pass. If a working member has not yet received their travel pass they can they can show their Working Members ID Card.

To all ELRPS Members

With affect from 1st January 2021 ELRPS members will be able to use their annual quota of concessionary travel trips. ELRPS members are asked to present their concessionary travel card to book a trip at the Booking Office at Bury Station or alternatively to a TTI Inspector on the train. 

Best Wishes
Tracey Parkinson
General Manager

Standard 4MT 80097 - (C) Emma Seddon

ELR will remain open to visitors following Tier-3 announcement for Greater Manchester and Lancashire

The railways’ scheduled passenger services, as well as the Halloween Ghost Train, Santa Specials and Dining trains, will all continue to operate following government and local authority guidelines.

However ELR’s two pubs, Bufferstops in Rawtenstall and The Trackside at Bury Bolton Street station, will both be closed.

Next weekend the notorious Irwell Grimm will be haunting tracks from Bury to Irwell Vale as the Halloween Ghost Train returns.

The ‘Monster Squad’ will be taking over the tracks, telling stories of the famous spooky character - known to haunt the ELR tracks and the East Lancashire region.

From October 29th to the 31st, families can experience a 65 minute journey from Bury to Irwell Vale, filled with fancy dress, spooky stories, ghoulish characters and lots of tricks and treats - and are encouraged to attend in their creepiest attire.

Guests will be invited to help the Monster Squad solve the mystery of the Irwell Grimm, who will be spooking customers along the way. There will be the opportunity to take socially distanced selfies with the Monster Squad, if anyone is brave enough.

ELR chairman Mike Kelly said: “It’s been a difficult time for everyone at ELR as we’ve waited for confirmation on the move to tier three.

“It has been widely acknowledged locally that we have successfully run a Covid safe railway since our reopening in early August. We’re very pleased to still safely welcome visitors to the railway and I can reassure everyone that we’ve put all the necessary measures in place to ensure our stations and trains are fully Covid-secure.

“It’s clear that this year's events are going to be a little different compared to previous years, due to social distancing measures put in place, but we’re confident that they are going to be just as exciting and fun filled experiences in the best traditions of the East Lancs Railway.

“There will be a more station based interaction than visitors to Halloween or Santa Specials last year may remember, but with the help of our amazing staff, volunteers and supporters - the events will be as much entertaining as they always have been.”

ELR is fully Covid-secure, with new processes including NHS Track and Trace and temperature testing are in place and Covid seating arrangements for all our visitors. These stringent safety measures have been recognised with the Visit England ‘We’re Good to Go’ Charter Mark to acknowledge ELR is meeting all government and public health Covid-19 requirements.

Tickets for Halloween and Santa Specials must be purchased in advance, so to book your place with confidence visit

We're Good to Go

ELR Covid 19 Update – 13 October 2020

Following the introduction of Tiered restrictions the ELR will of course adhere to any regulations that may be introduced which will impact on our operations.


As from tomorrow (14 October) both Lancashire and Greater Manchester are in Tier 2, which means for now we can continue with our planned activities, while the rule of six will continue to apply outdoors. Of course this situation is being kept under constant review.

Our activities going forward include:

Weekend running – we would ask anyone planning to travel on a Saturday or a Sunday to pre-book to help us with social distancing. If we have too much footfall from pay on day visitors, they run the risk of not being able to travel on their preferred train if it is full – Pre-Book Train Tickets

Half Term Running – The ELR is pleased to provide trains during school half term to give families a day out to experience heritage railway operations. Trains operate over both weekends and mid-week, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Again please help us with planning and pre-book – Half-term calendar and timetable

Halloween – The spooks are still coming out and wanting to play on the ELR – Check out ticket availability so you don’t miss out – Halloween Ghost Trains Experience

Dining with Distinction – This popular activity is now back in full swing so check out the website for dates and menus or buy vouchers for loved ones, friends and family – Dining with Distinction

Santa Specials – The ELR is the home of Christmas, and Santa’s on-board! Why not join us to celebrate Christmas together this year, book now for the – Santa Experience

ELR Crisis Fund – The support so far has been fantastic and thanks to all the donations we have received which has provided a vital lifeline, but we need your continued support to get to £200,000. Please donate what you can to help the ELR survive this crisis – ELR Crisis Fund

bottom of page