Train company steams ahead with £3m share plan

Steam enthusiasts in Birmingham are being the unusual opportunity of investing in a specialist train company.

Vintage Trains, which promotes main line steam excursions and operates from Tyseley Locomotive Works, has revealed plans to put Birmingham on the tourism map but it needs to raise £3m to complete its ambitious plans.

It is giving members of the public the chance to be part of its plans by offering community shares in the Main Line steam train company. The move represents the first initial public offering of its kind for more than 100 years.

The company restores and cares for a collection of historic steam engines and carriages to ensure steam locomotives from a bygone era remain in everyday service for people to enjoy.

The company has been running express steam train excursions to traditional British destinations including York, Oxford, the Cotswolds and other tourism hotspots for a number of years, but now needs to raise £3m to secure the future of the historic trains.

The new publicly-owned railway company will create up to 11 full-time roles, and support the leisure aspect of the Midlands Engine by enticing more people to visit the region.

The company also has ambitions to create an apprenticeship and training scheme to preserve and develop locomotive and carriage engineering skills.

It has selected the name Metropolitan Railway Carriage & Wagon Co, a once-famous company that built royal saloons for emperors and princesses in Argentina and China, dining and sleeping cars for the Orient Express, suburban carriages for thousands of commuters around the world, trains for Le Shuttle and the Virgin Pendolino and even the East African coach from which a man-eating lion dragged an unlucky British engineer to his untimely death.

Vintage Trains also has an aim of putting Birmingham back on the map as the original hub of high speed rail innovation, long before HS2. By making steam trains more accessible to everyone, the company hopes it will improve public understanding of railways, engineering, heritage and Birmingham’s importance in the global railway industry.

The company will work with the city and HS2 to deliver a heritage gateway to the city, incorporating both the Grade 1 listed 1832 Curzon Street station and the 1906 GWR restored city Moor Street station terminus, which are only 250 yards apart.

Michael Whitehouse, chairman of Vintage Trains, said: “This offer is for everyone who believes there is magic in the sight, sound and smell of a steam locomotive pulling out of a station or hurtling across the countryside and for everyone who wants to experience the thrill. Together, we will create a new golden age, for new generations and put Birmingham back on the map as the hub for rail innovation.

“We’re really proud of our steam heritage, and you’re going to help us make sure that the skills of the steam age, which were invented in Britain and exported to change the world, live on for generations to come.”

He said that by owning shares, which start from £500, Community Share Members would not only take pride in knowing that they own part of a British steam-operated main line railway company, they would also have voting rights, travel benefits on the company’s services and, after six years, members may also have the opportunity to receive interest payments on their shares and to withdraw their share capital.