The East Lancashire Railway has hailed its most dedicated volunteers for clocking up more than 2,000 years of combined service, as it calls for more people to join the railway community.

At its inaugural Long Service Awards, held at Bury Transport Museum on October 20, 58 staff and volunteers were awarded plaques for contributing to the railway for more than half a century.

The four longest-serving volunteers, Lois Veevers- Hatton and Peter Lord for 52 years, and Richard Law and Phil Bailey for 51 years, all received gold awards.

Mr Bailey was part of the team of people, some no longer alive, who back in the late 60’s, rescued the railway from disappearing, so future generations could enjoy it as a living history

Ten volunteers received silver awards for over four decades of service, while the remainder received bronze awards for three decades of dedication to the railway.

Lancashire Telegraph: East Lancashire Railway volunteers are celebrating

East Lancashire Railway Chairman, Mike Kelly, a fellow volunteer himself, said: “Our volunteers have and continue to be the absolute lifeblood of the heritage railway.

“Put simply, without them, we could not function, so it’s only right that we step out to salute their incredible selfless and unwavering service.

“Our Long Service Awards provided the perfect opportunity to celebrate their contribution and to thank them for their dedication that stretches back decades.

“This was more important than ever after the last 18 months which have been incredibly challenging for the railway due to the coronavirus pandemic, which put our future in jeopardy.

“With the help of our super staff and volunteers, the railway has been able to bounce back and continues providing magical moments for everyone who visits.

"However, not everyone has returned from our pre-pandemic teams and we aren’t quite up to full strength.

"We desperately need more people to join our fantastic teams.”

The ELR relies on its committed volunteers to maintain the railway, run the heritage trains and host the events and experiences that their guests love.

There are currently more than 700 volunteers at the East Lancashire Railway who work in a variety of roles and are the cogs that keep the railway running.

Lancashire Telegraph: East Lancashire Railway volunteers are celebrating

From staffing the ticket office to restoring classic locomotives and period carriages, to greeting families.

And for enthusiasts there are plenty of exciting areas of the railway needing volunteers.

Being a volunteer has lots of benefits, including free trips on the line, a free family trip once a year and discounted rates for all other journeys as well as a behind the scenes view on how the help and support keeps the heritage railway open.

Volunteers can donate as much or as little time as they want and will gain lifelong skills, experience and friendships along the way.

For more information on how to volunteer with the ELR, visit: eastlancsrailway.org.uk/support-us/volunteer-with-us.