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New fundraising campaign looks just the ticket for steam museum

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One of the area’s much-loved attractions is hoping to get more people on board with an interesting fundraising idea to accompany it going full steam on the small screen.

Bressingham Steam and Gardens has launched an On Track campaign on its website, giving people the chance to have their names etched on to a wooden track piece, which will make a display at the museum, in exchange for a donation.

Site manager Alastair Baker said: “I have been amazed by how many people have donated so far, how many have taken up new memberships with us and those who have already bought season tickets.”

Alastair Baker with some of the On Track pieces.Picture: Mark Bullimore
Alastair Baker with some of the On Track pieces.Picture: Mark Bullimore

A not-for-profit attraction, the museum relies on its visitors to help keep it going, and has already seen around 160 pieces snapped up by people wanting to help.

The attraction is also proving popular with TV viewers – thanks to Inside The Steam Train Museum, a documentary series showing on Channel 5 on Thursdays at 7pm, detailing the life and times of the site and the group of volunteers that keep it right on track.

Mr Baker said: “We were approached by the production company, which wanted to make the programme as one of the producers had volunteered with us before.

“They got in touch with the idea about two years ago and we wanted it to be more about the people involved here than just the locomotives, as they are the real thing that makes Bressingham happen.”

The steam museum, in Low Road, has been open to the public since 1961, and has around 100 volunteers helping to maintain it.

The show has already aired two episodes – the first about how the locomotives and its 1897 carousel centre piece, the Gallopers, are looked after and the second about how the team works at special events.

Mr Baker, who has been part of the museum and gardens for 31 years and general manager since 2011, said the filming was done in first takes to show the natural spirit of the place.

He said: “It has been amazing hearing feedback from people seeing what we are really like.

“After the first show went out, we had a call from the production company saying that it was Channel 5’s highest rating programme at 7pm since lockdown started, which is just great.”

The museum and gardens have not been able to fully reap the success of the series, with the UK-wide lockdown meaning that its season – due to start on March 27 – never getting up and running.

Mr Baker, who lives on site, said: “We use the closed season to get sorted. Then, when it gets to January and February, we’re hopefully in a good enough position where we can say to visitors ‘we are ready now’, but that has not happened this year.

“It is very eerie and odd on site not to hear and see the bustling of all the people.”

One of the positives has been the support of the local community.

“I have had emails and calls from people asking about their favourite volunteers, to see if they are okay,” he said.

“And with all these donations so far, it makes it a little easier knowing that people really want us back. People have been incredible, not just financially but with messages, too. It shows how much they enjoy the show, care about the museum and our volunteers, so thank you.”

To find out more about the On Track campaign, click here.

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