More than 6,500 enthusiasts flocked to the line to see the largest collection of diesel traction engine ever brought together at a heritage railway, in celebration of 50 years of the preservation of diesel locomotives.
The attendance figures were further boosted by hundreds of shareholders travelling on passes or complimentary tickets, and they represent the highest number of visitors the SVR has ever recorded for a diesel enthusiast event.
The attendance exceeded the hoped-for passenger numbers by 44 per cent, and secondary spend was also up by 35 per cent on the previous year’s event.
Putting together such an intensive and complex event, with 22 locomotives in service and even more on display, was the result of months of careful planning and a wide network of heritage and main line friends and contacts, as the SVR’s managing director Jonathan ‘Gus’ Dunster said.
He added: “There have been quite a few nights burning the midnight oil to bring this together, but yet again, the SVR has shown its true colours and talents.
"My heartfelt thanks go to everyone who’s worked tirelessly to deliver another event showcasing our railway at its very best. We have smashed our target for passengers, and it has been gratifying to see so many people flocking to our event.
“As with the Spring Steam Gala, there are some learning points to take on board and we will action these for future events.
“I was bowled over the by the messages of thanks online, and the sheer number of visitors who expressed their thanks to me in person during the four days of the Festival. Yet again we have put on an event that is at the pinnacle of UK heritage railway endeavours, and we’ve done it with professionalism and pride.”
Whilst acknowledging and celebrating the event’s success, Gus also highlighted the importance of the SVR’s £1.5 million Survival Fund appeal, which it launched earlier this year.
This week the appeal reached £300,000 - a fifth of the way to the heritage line's target.
“The success of both this event and our Spring Steam Gala in April show the prominence of the SVR within the heritage rail sector, and how important it is that we can continue to put on events like these," said Gus.
"Our Survival Fund appeal is going to be crucial in ensuring that happens.
"We’ve received thousands of donations, and we’re hugely grateful for every one of them. But we need thousands more in order to reach our target of £1.5 million.
"This fundraising, along with further successful events and meticulous management of costs, will be what makes the difference to the SVR’s survival.”
For more information on the Survival Fund appeal and to donate, please visit svr.co.uk
In attendance at the diesel festival was Tik Tok star and social media influencer Francis Bourgeois who posted to his millions of followers on social media.
He said: “The railway community is a place where camaraderie and friendship can be found just by sharing a carriage. This weekend at the SVR has been a testament to that – I’ve met so many great people and had an absolute blast. Thank you everyone at [the SVR] for an unforgettable weekend.”