A miniature railway which has raised £10,000 for Evelina Children’s Hospital since it was launched eight years ago now has plenty of money in the bank to cover maintenance costs.
That’s thanks to people who contributed to a crowdfunding appeal launched by the volunteers who run Riley’s Miniature Railway at the Lavender Line, Isfield.
The volunteers wanted to continue giving every penny from the 50p rides, and other donations, to the children’s hospital and keep the maintenance costs separate and this led to the launch of the crowdfunding appeal.
Graham Lelliott, one of the volunteers said: “We’re quite overwhelmed by the final figure of £1,562 and, even with the Crowdfunder transaction and VAT fees, the overall money payable to us is still an incredible £1,469.07.
“The money will be placed into a specific Riley’s Miniature Railway bank account, nice and secure for use on current and future maintenance issues, and to help support the running and operation of the railway.”
Riley’s is one of the few, ground level, five inch gauge railways open to the public in the UK and considered to be the smallest practical ride on track gauge.
It exists because of a little boy called Riley Lewis who was born at the Evelina Children’s Hospital in London on Christmas Day of 2010.
He was born with six separate heart defects, including a hole in the heart, reversed arteries, back to front valves and various conditions that made his arteries thick, which made it difficult for blood to pump around his body.
One year, three operations and two procedures later, he made it home to celebrate his first birthday.
Riley has needed constant care and monitoring since his birth. He has had several operations and is still to this day very much under the care of the Evelina Children’s Hospital, part of Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Trust.
Grandparents Larry and Sandra Lewis from Bexhill on Sea wanted a way of raising money for the Evelina but knew that a skydive, climbing a mountain, running a race or riding from Land’s End to John o’ Groats wasn’t going to happen.
Having an interest in model engineering, miniature railways and railways in general, Larry and Sandra, were involved with a five-inch gauge miniature railway at Knockhatch Adventure Park in Hailsham.
Then the news came that this railway was to close, and Larry and Sandra had the idea of constructing and running a charity railway where children and families could benefit, with all fares and donations collected going to the Evelina Children’s Hospital.
Several attractions and places of interest were considered, but after a conversation with the management at the Lavender Line at Isfield Station, near Uckfield, their idea was welcomed with open arms.
The Lavender Line realised this would benefit the Evelina, and the Lavender Line itself, and offered a rent free site, meaning all money collected could be sent to the Evelina.
Larry and Sandra were, and still are, very grateful for the Lavender Line’s kindness and support.
The site was surveyed and the best location found to construct the mini railway with track laid at the back of platform two and the station located just to the north of the gift shop.
Track was obtained, while the points from Knockhatch were available for re-use. Donations of ballast, fencing and other materials were gratefully received.
Larry already had a diesel outline battery powered Class 73 loco in his possession, although a passenger and driver’s wagon had to be built.
The railway opened in July 2011, and was constructed and maintained by Larry and Sandra almost single-handedly but with assistance on hand, notably with the construction of two loco/carriage sheds, turntable and station canopy.
Over the years, further locomotives have been sourced and sidings have been added. The track has continued to creep northwards, making the journey longer and longer.
A signal box, tunnel, and girder bridge have also been built and various advertising signs from days gone by can be seen in the station.
Much time has been spent creating flower beds which are full of colour in the spring and summer months. Miniature vehicles and figurines have been added to the line side, all adding interest to the journey and appreciated by all.
Riley’s Miniature Railway has become a welcome addition to the Lavender Line with the word of it being there slowly spreading.
Kids and adults enjoy visiting and riding on the little railway and apart from a disaster back in August 2013 when escaped cows caused considerable damage to the track and line side fencing, the railway has gone from strength to strength.
More importantly though, Riley’s Miniature Railway has proved to be a great way of raising funds for the Evelina Children’s Hospital with well over £10,000 having been collected and donated since 2011. Considering this has been made up from 50p fares per person per ride and small donations, that’s pretty good going.