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‘Arbroath’s loss is Scarborough’s gain’: Angus businessman takes investment south after plan to revive historic miniature railway hits buffers

John Kerr, Peter Bryant and David Humphreys.
John Kerr, Peter Bryant and David Humphreys.

Arbroath’s miniature railway owner has taken over one of Scarborough’s biggest tourist draws after talks around the future of the Angus attraction hit the buffers.

John Kerr has announced the acquisition of North Bay heritage railway in the North Yorkshire tourist town, a 90-year-old holiday magnet which pulls in around 120,000 passengers a year.

It comes after Kerr’s Miniature Railway in Arbroath closed permanently last year.

Mr Kerr said the new “significant investment” by himself and business partner Peter Bryant was “Angus’s loss and Scarborough’s gain”.

KMR ran alongside the main east coast rail line at Arbroath.

The news comes amidst a continuing row over plans to create a £200,000 crazy golf course at Arbroath’s West Links.

Mr Kerr said: “This opportunity came forward late last year and we are delighted to be taking it on.

“Of course we would have liked to have seen the railway in Arbroath survive because it has been in the town for 85 years.

“But the council is not showing any interest and I feel they have led me down the garden path.

“It’s a massive relief that we have taken over the running of Scarborough because there are authorities who will support schemes like this and it has a future.”

Mr Kerr and Mr Bryant also operate the Cleethorpes Light Railway which they took over in 2015.

He added: “We are now running the major attraction in Cleethorpes and the fourth largest attraction in the key tourist town of Scarborough so I don’t think that’s bad going by the age of 25.

Matthew Kerr founded the Arbroath miniature railway.

“Heritage Bay is not just a railway, it has a sky trail and historic water chute so there is masses of potential to develop.

“The railway runs to the sea-life centre and the town has an open-air theatre which has hosted big names such as Lionel Ritchie and Nile Rodgers so it is a really exciting opportunity we have taken on.

“We want to expand its out-of-season trade and the secondary offering and I am confident we can do that.


“It’s just a shame it is Arbroath that is missing out because I would have loved to see the railway continue to thrive.

“We worked hard and put investment into it, but just feel a bit hoodwinked and the council need to open their eyes and see the potential that is there.

KMR closed at West Links in 2020.

“Kerr’s miniature railway still exists, it’s just not running, but I am moving to Scarborough to devote my energies to making Heritage Bay an even greater success.”

For many years the town landmark was run by Scarborough Borough Council ran the railway – a larger gauge track than the Angus set-up –  until privatisation in 2006.

Its then owner David Humphreys and his team made a raft of upgrades including the addition of new rolling stock, station buildings and lakeside attractions.

Plans are in place to re-open the Scarborough railway in April if rules allow.

West Links controversy

Mr Kerr’s hopes of reviving the Arbroath railway and ploughing £75,000 into extending the track fell apart after the collapse of discussions with Angus Council.

KMR was Scotland’s oldest miniature railway.

He was working with officials on a plan that would have seen the railway return as part of a wider West Links redevelopment, including the crazy golf course which has already been branded by one councillor as belonging in the 1960s.

But Mr Kerr received an email from the council saying they were going ahead with the golf scheme but did not intend to take the railway idea forward.

Three generations of the Kerr family have operated the famous miniature railway at the seafront site until dwindling numbers forced its closure at the end of its 85th anniversary year in 2020.

A second tourism operator’s ambitious plan to develop dinosaur park and Scotland’s first artificial caving system at West Links has also fallen through.

Selkie Rocks previously operated at West Links but company boss Iain Lilly said council chiefs had cold-shouldered proposals to develop the ageing seaside attractions.

The authority is putting town centre regeneration funding into developing the fully-accessible crazy golf course at the seafront site.

It has said options for further developments at West Links remain under consideration.