Angus is to lose a tourism gem after the operator of Arbroath’s miniature railway signalled the end of the line for the attraction.
After 85 years in operation across three generations of its founding family, Kerr’s Miniature Railway at the town’s West Links will close at the end of next month after current owner John Kerr was forced to take the “most awful decision” to call it a day.
From a heyday of carrying as many 20,000 passengers a year along the miniature gauge track which runs alongside the main east coast rail line, Scotland’s oldest miniature railway has seen visitor numbers plummet in recent years – sometimes to only a handful a day.
Founded by Matthew Kerr Snr in 1935, the railway was then operated by his son, also Matthew, before his death in 2006 led to it passing to his widow, Jill and son, John, who said recent years had been a struggle for survival.
Mr Kerr announced the railway’s demise in an emotional Facebook video message which has been met with sorrow and disappointment by families from across the globe who have travelled on the line down the decades.
He has now made a plea for people to enjoy a final trip on the miniature trains before they curtain comes down in September, but gave a glimmer of hope that the attraction may survive under different ownership, possibly elsewhere.
“The railway was put in a difficult position at the end of 2019 and we said 2020 would be the year that it met its fate,” said Mr Kerr.
“I have made pleas in past years that if we didn’t see a rise in passenger numbers then the railway couldn’t go on and this is why we have to get real – it has come to that point.”
He said possible future options could include a relocation or new owner, but the Kerr’s Miniature Railway name would disappear in the heart-breaking decision.
“It is so difficult for me to say that because my family has been running this railway for 85 years and I wanted to see it go on for ever – at least make its century.”
“To give people an idea of the situation we are in, in 2019 we carried 3,500 people and operated on 97 days. Some days the railway would carry just five to ten people, some days over 100,” John added.
“Ten years ago the railway was carrying 13/14,000 people, so in those ten years we have lost 10,000 passengers.
“It is costing me money, but more so emotionally it is too much and I am really struggling to keep my enthusiasm because the railway is simply not what it used to be,” he said.
“It is the most awful decision I have ever had to make in my life.
“We will be running at weekends until the end of September and hope to have some kind of grand finale, maybe in early October, to give the railway the send-off it properly deserves.”