The Rail Riders club reopened in February this year, after registering all of the logos of the former club (that closed in 1991) as trademarks, with the help from the Department for Transport and the National Railway Museum, ensuring the original name and logos could be used. It is a true piece of rail history that has been brought back to life.
The club is now open to all age brackets and will be similar to the old club by having quarterly Rail Express magazines, discount vouchers for model shops, book shops and railway cafes and so on. With a huge list of benefits and options when you join, we spoke to Simon Buxton and found out the latest on the railway club for everyone.
What is the history of the Rail Riders Club?
In 1981 British Rail rebranded the Great Rail Club which started in 1979 to Rail Riders. Both were clubs for children aged 5 to 15 year olds. The club was operated on British Rails behalf by Michael Benn and Associates based near Wetherby in Yorkshire.
There was a model railway based at York Station called Rail Riders World which members got free access.
As a member of the club, the kids got 3 issues per year of the Rail Riders Express magazine, discount vouchers for travel on British Rail, event days and discounts at heritage railways and some museums.
There were mileage competitions and club merchandise. In 1981 British Rail agreed to name 47406 Rail Riders which was named by member 47406. 47406 was later painted in the then new Intercity livery and was the first class 47 to be painted in this our scheme. To celebrate the increase of membership numbers the loco gained the clubs logo as a creat above the nameplate.
The club averaged around 80,000 members, however when the Wagonwheel promotion ran the membership rocketed up to 125,000. In 1988 the clubs logo was redesigned to look more like the then new class 91s. The club was closed in 1991.
Why is the Rail Riders Club important to rail fans?
The original club was so important as it gave all the young members a railway club of there own and with the added attraction of the travel discounts and being part of something. Regarding the revived club, as a former member I had fond memories of it and so do alot of the former members, we noticed that there was no general railway club offering what the former one did. All the original members are all middle aged now and most still love to travel on railways, and due to the club alot of former members have gone on to work on the railway so it had a big influence on them, we wish to do the same. We want to promote rail travel and the hobby.
What does a Rail Riders Club membership cover?
Our clubs membership cover discounted travel on 49 heritage and min railways. Discounts at 8 model railway shops and over 28 railway themed businesses online. We have also secured a partnership with Bishop Trains to offer members discount vouchers to be used for the National Rail netwotk. Members are issued a minimum of 3 £5 off vouchers.
The members get access to the members section of our website and a members only Facebook group. Also in the membership pack when they sign up, they get the official club handbook, voucher book, membership card, pen and badge. They will also get in there 12 month membership 4 issues of the clubs magazine Rail Riders Express. We have also got a locomotive named after the clubs magazine DB Cargo 66175 Rail Riders Express, which members take photos and videos of while it tours the country.
We have two levels of membership. A 1 person rate for anyone of 16 years of age and a family membership for 2 adults and upto 3 children. The family membership entitles them to 5 £5 vouchers for use on the National Rail network.
How many people have signed up for Rail Riders since it began?
The club officially opened on the 29th February this year and we currently 620 members but this is growing all the time, this has been achieved in what is probably the worst time to launch a club that promotes travel on railways due to the lockdown of the country.
How are you looking to expand in the future?
We have loads of plans for the club, due to the lockdown of the country we had to cancel our launch event and naming ceremony of the clubs loco, so this will be one of our first events, we are in discussions with a few railways to have event days next year and we are in discussions with several railways about being partners with us to offer our members discounted travel. We would like to expand this to overseas railways too. We are in talks about running a railtour next year which is in the early stages of planning. We want to expand our offering to members on the discount front at model shops and other railway themed outlets. We have a few things in advance stages of planning that we cannot go into details at the moment, however we are planning to make it even more appealing to be a member of this iconic club.
What's the best thing rail fans seen while using their membership?
Due to the lockdown our members have not had much chance to get out and use the travel discount, however there is certainly a buzz when they do see the 66175 running around the country, we get lots of photos sent to us. When it ventured down to Cornwall we got tagged on Facebook and Twitter post with video and photos. We do have a member that has nearly saved his membership joining fee in the first 4 months from an online business.
How can rail fans get involved with the club?
We have regular contributors to the clubs magazine with photos and articles. We even have 2 dedicated pages for there photos, sightings and stories. As I have said above they regularly photo the loco and also share images of the former club. Some have suggested outlets to get in touch with and other suggestions for the club. Once we can have events again they can get involved with those days and also when we do some railtours. If people wish to join the club they can see all the benefit on our website www.railriders.club.
While we are predominantly a railway enthusiasts club, you don't have to be one to be in the club, as long as you like travelling on both the National network and heritage railways then we are the club for you.
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