Downton Abbey rail line in £300,000 fundraising bid to aid lockdown recovery

A steam railway that has starred in Downton Abbey and Poirot needs £300,000 to help it recover from lockdown.

The Bluebell Railway has hosted big names including Daniel Radcliffe and Dame Maggie Smith during its 60-year history.

But now, with the coronavirus pandemic slashing income for attractions across the UK, the heritage rail line in East Sussex knows that the recovery period will be “critical”.

Fundraising organiser Trevor Swainson said: “Surviving the lockdown was the first priority but the recovery period once the Bluebell Railway reopens is also critical.

“We will have little revenue but most of the payroll and overheads will be incurred.

“Therefore, it has been decided to launch a major fundraising campaign to support the recovery period rather than funding the survival period.”

The Bluebell Railway launched an initial appeal in March after it closed because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

It asked supporters to donate and the appeal has raised more than £60,000 so far.

It is now extending the appeal with targeted requests and is hoping to raise at least £250,000 more.

Alongside the appeal, the railway has created a specialist website to allow people to scout for filming locations.

The railway has been dubbed “The Line to the Stars” because of its involvement in so many productions.

Mike Hopps, a member of the railway’s filming team, said: “We pride ourselves on being able to offer the very best experience for film production companies with a dedicated department which specialises in supporting filming activities.

“Our stations are ‘walk-on sets’ and for more than 50 years have been the backdrop for hundreds of feature films, TV dramas, fashion shoots and music videos.”

– The fundraising appeal can be accessed at