The world’s first digital LED train delighted over 15,000 visitors with festive fun at one of Hampshire's premier visitor attractions, the Watercress Line, as well as countless others who saw the magical train travelling through the Hampshire countryside.
At the end of 2020 we worked with the Watercress Line to help to bring a bit of joy and optimism to people. Despite the pandemic, the railway was able to put on a unique event that allowed people to enjoy an evening out and offered fun for all the family. Our job was to generate as much media interest as possible and ensure the event was seen by people who wanted to escape from the gloom of the pandemic for even just a few hours.
The brightly-illuminated passenger steam train created a magical show with more than 13,000 festive lights as it transported visitors of all ages along the tracks from Alresford and Alton. Passengers wore colour-changing LED wristbands on board the steam train, which was decorated inside and out with thousands of coloured LED lights programmed to flash and change patterns along the route. With a serving of seasonal music and delicious refreshments, the Watercress Line team created an atmosphere of festive cheer for everybody on the 10-mile round trip.
The popular Steam Illuminations event, which ran from December 4 to 23, was a sell-out event, largely due to the head of steam (excuse the pun) we were able to create in the media. We managed all the media relations for the event, which included a press launch day. The press launch was attended by the BBC, ITV and Press Association, plus many more. This turbocharged the reach of the press coverage for the event reaching an audience of over 61 million people in the UK alone and further audiences across the globe.
Despite COVID-19 tier restrictions which halted the event after Christmas, the colourful light show train rides provided fantastic fun for both families and steam enthusiasts. The Steam Illuminations event was supported with a £600,000 boost from the government’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Recovery Scheme and a National Lottery Heritage Fund Emergency Scheme grant of £250,000.
This enabled the Watercress Line to fund staff costs throughout the winter period after trading revenue was adversely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. The funding also allowed the railway to install and adapt equipment at the stations and onboard the trains in line with the government’s COVID-19 safety guidelines.
“We are thrilled that our Steam Illuminations event got us on track throughout December, bringing much-needed and well-received festive fun to so many visitors."