The owner of the Watford Miniature Railway says he is “optimistic” that they can get the service up-and-running soon, after flooding damaged an estimated “tens of thousands” of pounds worth of equipment.

The popular attraction at Cassiobury Park was submerged in water from Saturday morning (October 3) and the continued heavy rain on Sunday (October 4) only worsened the situation.

It had damaged things like the track itself, locomotives, rolling stock and other equipment at the site.

Former member of staff, Dave Horton, estimates that the damages could cost “tens of thousands”, but the true cost is currently unclear.

Charles O’Mahoney, the owner of the miniature railway, said that they do not know the extent of the damages just yet, but admits repairs are “not cheap”.

He said: “We are optimistic, obviously we have an engineer background anyway, we are able to rescue the situation as it were.

“At the moment, there is still quite a bit of water around, so we can’t get everything to assess just yet. We’ve been in the shed and we’ve had a look, we are hopeful – but until the water has gone a bit more, we can’t see the full extent of it.”

He added that some of the repairs will require third parties and some can be fixed themselves, but it could be pricey.

Watford Observer:

Some of the damages at the site

Mr O’Mahoney said: “All the engines and the coaches would potentially have some water damage, all the track is underwater and that might’ve moved some of the earth and affected the levels of the track to make it safe to use again.”

Mr O’Mahoney believes the flooding was caused by the River Gade bursting its banks.

He said: “I can categorically say I’ve raised concerns about the river being blocked by fallen trees since 2018 with the management of the park. Essentially nothing much was done, and we can see what the result was.

“Obviously, no one could have expected the rain that we got, and it happened so quickly, but the conditions of the trees would not have helped.

“I think we need the river cleared, it’s quite an over clogged river and it does need to be cleared to make sure there are no major issues.”

Watford Observer:

The track is under water

A letter was sent to Watford Borough Council in a plea for help to prevent further situations.

In response, Mayor of Watford Peter Taylor said: "It is terrible to see the results of the awful flooding at the miniature railway in Cassiobury Park. The flooding experienced from the deluge we have been exposed to has been awful.

"The miniature railways structures all belong to the owner, but I will be contacting him to discuss the implications of the flood and the damage incurred.

"My thoughts go out to everyone who has been adversely affected by flooding over the weekend."

The railway, which has already lost about 50 per cent of normal earnings due to the Covid-19 lockdown, reopened on July 28 following an initial delay as lockdown eased.

Mr O’Mahoney also says that despite the “learning curve” of social distancing restrictions, the number of visitors were roughly the same as he’d expect for the summer.

“There was a lot of people in the park that was glad to get out and do something. But overall, we would have lost about 50 per cent of what we’d normally earn in a year due to lockdown.

“We’re okay I think – it’s going to be a challenging winter, but I think it’s going to be challenging for everyone. And we’re going to try our best to make sure we’re here to stay for many years to come.”

Watford Observer:

Another view of the flooding

For now, it is unclear when the miniature railway will reopen. Mr O’Mahoney says optimistically it may reopen by the October half-term but said in the “worst case” it may not reopen until Easter in 2021 due to the amount of work and repairs that could last until winter.

He concluded: “It’s normally worth coming down in the winter and we try to run it all year, but it is quieter in the winter and if we have a lot of damage it may be best to focus on that rather than rushing and getting the trains running when it’s all quiet.”

Hertfordshire County Council revealed that over the course of Storm Alex there were 335 floods and drainage incidents reported across the county, 102 counts of damaged trees and 30 weather related calls to the Fire and Rescue service.