The Angus teenager who operates the oldest miniature railway in Scotland has purchased a second railway attraction in England.
John Kerr, 18, who owns Kerr’s Miniature Railway in Arbroath, has taken over Cleethorpes Coast Light Railway, a major attraction in North East Lincolnshire. The young entrepreneur has reassured people in Angus that it’s business as usual for Kerr’s, which has been a fixture at the West Links in Arbroath since 1935.
John is the third generation owner of Kerr’s, taking over the reins three years ago at the age of 15 following the death of his father Matt in 2006.
“I want to make it very clear that Kerr’s Miniature Railway is still very much in the Kerr family,” he said.
“There are rumours going around the town that it has been sold. This isn’t the case.
“Yes, I have bought another railway, but it is a second railway for me. It is being managed by a good friend of mine, Robert Parrie.
“My mother is down very regularly and I am also there a lot of the time.”
John said he “jumped at the chance” to acquire Cleethorpes which boasts 10 locos and 30 carriages.
He bought the attraction, which has three stations over a two-mile track, with his 22-year-old business partner Peter Bryant from Sheffield.
The pair met through a miniature railway website and forum which Peter operated and they have been looking for the right opportunity to go into business together for a couple of years.
John said: “Compared to Arbroath, Cleethorpes is a much bigger set-up. The railway at Arbroath carries around 10,000 passengers a year, in Cleethorpes it’s 100,000 people a year. It’s the number one attraction in the area.
“Kerr’s Miniature Railway is run for the love of it but Cleethorpes can actually be a viable business. It’s a huge operation, with five full-time members of staff and 12 seasonal staff.
“The previous owners Chris and Deborah Shaw wanted to retire but were looking for someone to take on the operation and give the business a new lease of life but were quite picky about who they sold to.
“They were impressed with our aims to keep the character of the railway. Chris has helped us a great deal and hopefully will continue to do so.”
The bright floral decorations at the railway station have also helped Cleethorpes win successive In Bloom awards.
John said that owning two attractions would have benefits for both businesses in terms of sharing parts and knowledge of the work involved.
Plans to extend the track in Arbroath by a quarter of a mile are likely to get under way this winter.
Angus Council granted planning permission last year for more track to be laid and two platforms and a ticket booth added.