Santa's little helpers from the Guild were out in force again to support First Great Western's 2014 charity appeal, this year at Newton Abbot Railway Station, from where, special trains were running on the little used branch line to Heathfield in aid of the Dame Hannah Rogers Trust. The Frank Mack ring had been set up on Platform 3 underneath the footbridge, and two quarter peals were rung on the bells on the Sunday before Christmas. A further quarter was rung in hand on one of the trains, and a peal was almost successful the previous Wednesday (the loss of bell control by one of the ringers has been video recorded). .
The line had been out of action for many years, but recently weekly freight trains had been running; therefore it only took the persuasive skills of Rusty Hartley to convince First Great Western that it could easily be brought back to passenger standards. Father Christmas rode on all the trains, as did a sprinkling of bellringers. But the last train of the day stopped at Heathfield Station, allowing families and railway enthusiasts to disembark to take photographs, before running to the very end of the line and returning via the passing loop into the disused bay platform at Newton Abbot. Your correspondent was also privileged to remain on the train as it returned to the depot at Exeter, although I had to take down the Christmas decorations as my part of the bargain. The Dame Hannah Rogers Trust is such a well-respected charity that all the refreshments were donated, as was the cost of running the trains. Congratulations and thanks to all who took part and expecially to Rusty, who was the hard-working organiser of the entire event: so far £5362.91 has been raised for the charity.
Newton Abbot Station (Frank Mack Garage Ring), 21 December 2014 in 31 minutes. 1296 Cambridge Surprise Minor. 1 Lynne Hughes, 2 Sue Sawyer, 3 Wendy Campbell, 4 Lesley Tucker, 5 Graham Tucker, 6 Ian Campbell (C.).
Newton Abbot Station (Frank Mack Garage Ring), 21 December 2014 in 29 minutes. 1296 Cambridge Surprise Minor. 1 Wendy Campbell, 2 Graham Tucker, 3 Lesley Tucker, 4 Lester Yeo, 5 Peter Bill, 6 James Kirkcaldy (C.).
Heathfield Branch (Multiple unit 150 234), 21 December 2014 in 35 minutes. 1312 Kent Treble Bob Major. 1-2 Lynne Hughes, 3-4 Sue Sawyer, 5-6 Tim Bayton (C.), 7-8 Ian Campbell.