East Lancashire Railway spread festive cheer by donating 16,000 mince pies to charity

Date published: 20 January 2021

The East Lancashire Railway (ELR) brought some much-needed festive cheer to local hospitals, community centres and food banks at Christmas by donating over 16,000 mince pies to them.

Heywood Foodbank, Rochdale Soup Kitchen and Middleton Foodbank were among the 11 organisations to receive the donations from the heritage railway, based in Bury and Greater Manchester.

The gesture comes after the ELR was forced to cancel its cherished Santa Specials services in December - an annual fixture in the railway’s calendar for 30 years - which would have seen families enjoy a steam train ride to Rawtenstall through the Irwell Valley, with a chance to meet Santa and his elves.

ELR hosted Elfmas: Letters to Santa, an alternative station-based event in the final week before Christmas, but with reduced capacity due to social distancing, they wanted to make sure the surplus mince pies didn’t go to waste. 

Mike Kelly, ELR Chairman, said: “Despite our disappointment at not running Santa Specials, we were determined to spread Christmas cheer and inject a little more joy into the lives people hit hardest by the pandemic. 

“We’re committed to offering support to our community in any way we can, and in this case it was by donating mince pies that we weren’t able to use on the Santa Specials.

“Last year was incredibly challenging for East Lancashire Railway. On top of closing from March to August, the pandemic meant we were unable to host many events we had planned for 2020. 

“But Christmas is such an important time for most people in the UK, much the same as at East Lancashire Railway, so we wanted to do our bit to ensure people could celebrate it after such a testing year.”

The donations came after ELR itself has had to turn to the community for support, with trains halted for much of 2020. The railway is now closed until restrictions are eased, and once again the public can help ensure it can reopen again by donating to the ELR Support Fund.

Spring, subject to easing of restrictions, will see the ELR play host to the most iconic steam engine in history - when The Flying Scotsman returns to its tracks for the Easter weekend.

The celebrated locomotive will be the star attraction in a bonanza of steam’s golden age on the heritage railway between Good Friday (April 2) and Easter Tuesday (April 6).

ELR donated mince pies to the following organisations:

  • Heywood Food Bank
  • Middleton Food Bank
  • Fairfield Hospital
  • Rochdale Food Bank
  • Rochdale Soup Kitchen
  • Oldham Food Bank
  • Coffee4craig 
  • The Wellspring Food Bank in Stockport
  • The Booth Centre, Manchester
  • Nazareth House, Prestwich
  • Blackley Fire and Rescue

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