A heritage railway in West Yorkshire has reopened to passengers for the first time since England’s second nation-wide lockdown.
On Saturday morning the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway (KWVR) kicked off its brand-new Elf Express festive programme.
Throughout the day Christmas-themed steam locomotives travelled from Oxenhope Station through to Keighley and back, with social distancing measures in place.
Riders onboard the Elf Express were treated to views of elves, teddies and even Santa Clause himself, who waved to passengers from the platform at Keighley.
Ann Cryer, former MP for Keighley and president of the KWVR, said: “It was so exciting to see the railway open up again on Saturday.
“After such a miserable year it was wonderful to see children and families in such great spirits.
“The festive season and our Santa specials are a highlight for the railway every year, and thanks to our fantastic staff and volunteers, 2020 has been no exception.”
With West Yorkshire being placed under tier three coronavirus restrictions, staff at the KWVR were initially unsure whether the Elf Express could run.
Annual Christmas-themed rides usually account for about a third of the railway’s yearly income.
However, around a week before opening management were given the go ahead by Bradford Council.
Trains are running every weekend in the build up to Christmas, though tickets for the event, which had to be purchased online in advance, sold out in November.
Noel Hartley, operations manager at the KWVR, said: “The atmosphere on Saturday was absolutely brilliant. We had hundreds of people come to enjoy our brand-new Elf Express, which we had to redevelop this year to take into account coronavirus restrictions.”
“It’s been a tough year. We were closed in March, which meant that we had no income for five months.
“However, thanks to fundraising, government grants, and the incredible work of our volunteers, the Elf Express is up and running and everyone will continue being able to have a fantastic time.”