Hundreds of people have bought a stake in a national treasure after one of the biggest heritage attractions in the West Midlands’ biggest opened a £3 million share issue.
Severn Valley Railway gave enthusiasts and serious investors a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity by offering up to three million shares at £1 each last month.
And, after six weeks, the sale has passed the £750,000 mark.
The popular steam and diesel railway, which follows the River Severn for 16 picturesque miles from Kidderminster to Bridgnorth, attracts more than 200,000 visitors every year.
Money raised from the share offer, will be spent on restoring Bridgnorth station, a Grade II-listed building, to its Victorian glory, alongside on-going essential restoration and infrastructure work.
Future projects also include SteamWorks – a visitor centre and spectator gallery looking into an improved Motive Power Department building to see locomotive restoration in progress.
Severn Valley Railway chairman Nick Paul said: “I am delighted by the rapid and wide response to the 2012 share offer from both new and existing shareholders. It is reassuring that our plans for the railway are being endorsed and supported financially.
“Parents and grandparents appear to be buying shares as Christmas presents for family members this year.”
Disastrous summer floods in 2007 put the railway’s future in doubt but it has bounced back and unveiled bold plans to improve facilities and inspire Britain’s heritage railway engineers of the future.
Share offer income, alongside support from funding agencies, will also finance the restoration of the Great Western Railway locomotive Hagley Hall, which has not worked for more than 23 years, and a set of historic carriages.
The share offer will be open for a year under the EIS or up to such time as £3 million shares are sold.
Nick Ralls, SVR’s general manager, said: “We have an investment programme worked out which will exceed £10 million and will see us expanding our charitable fundraising efforts.
"We did a share offer in 1984 and we have had funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the European Regional Development Fund.
“We have around 13,000 shareholders and our shareholding was around £4.7 million at the end of 2011.’’