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John Jones


MANAGING DIRECTOR OF THE DARTMOUTH STEAM RAILWAY AND RIVER BOAT COMPANY


Every February the distinctive sound of a steam engine whistle echoing across the River Dart signals the start of the early holiday season. The Dartmouth Steam Railway and River Boat Company brings hundreds of thousands of visitors into the town every year ,significantly boosting the local economy. The company owns the majority of tourist boats on the river with an impressive fleet including the UK’s only working coal-fired paddle steamer. Steph Woolvin had a chat with managing director John Jones about life in the signal box…


F


rom his desk up in the signal box at Kingswear station John Jones can keep an


eye on the trains out of one window and the boats from the other. He has been in charge of the railway and river boat company for the past year and says running a heritage businesses certainly has its ups and downs: “Some of our locomotives are nearly 100 years old and that means they need a lot of TLC! But no two days are the same, manage- ment in this company muck in with everyone else - we drive boats, sort finances and even dress up as pantomime characters!” They have been running trains on the popular line between Paignton and King- swear for over 40 years bringing millions of tourists into Dartmouth eager to buy souvenirs, ice creams and lunch. John says local businesses know how it works and get ready for the crowds: “In the height of the summer hundreds of people spill out of each train and onto the ferry every couple of


hours. I know several shop and cafe owners who encourage their staff to take a break as they hear the whistle as they know in 20 or 30 minutes they will be swamped!” Those vis- itors will usually have arrived on one of four steam engines - the oldest is Hercules built in 1920, then there’s Goliath, Lydham Manor, and Braveheart - the baby built in 1951! Although, locals may have spotted a couple of other locomotives on the line recently as the company have rented engines from other railways around the country. “Some of ours have been taken out of service due to ongoing repairs. We are currently investing a great deal in the refurbishment project so we don’t have to rent anymore - in fact we could be the ones renting out some of our engines.” The company’s Train of Lights which hit


national headlines in 2018 as the first ever illuminated steam train in the UK has been so successful they are already planning its


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