Concept and aims

The Looe Valley Line in Cornwall has a fascinating history dating back more than 150 years. The Devon and Cornwall Rail Partnership decided to use this as a new marketing angle to attract even more passengers to visit the line and to enhance the journey for all who make the scenic trip.

To achieve maximum impact, the partnership wanted to tell the story of the line in an accessible and innovative way. Ideas for this included video documentaries, a mobile phone app, a mini-website and ‘augmented reality’ interpretation boards at stations. Equally importantly, they wanted to involve the local community in developing the content in order to tell previously unheard parts of the story.

 

What happened

The partnership held drop-in days where staff conducted video interviews with residents to capture their memories of the line, also garnering information via ‘CreativiTea’ outings on the train and requests in the local press and on social media.

Given the project’s target audience of busy tourists and day trippers, it was decided to create a mini four-part documentary series designed to be accessible, ‘bite-sized’ and fun. To front the films, the partnership approached rail explorers Geoff Marshall and Vicki Pipe, also known as ‘All The Stations’, to take advantage of the pair’s large online following and long-held affection for the line.

The group also wanted to bring the line’s heritage to life and devised a mobile phone app as a companion to the trip, offering descriptions of major landmarks alongside historical images, anecdotes and videos. Interpretation boards were installed at the line’s six stations that work alongside the app to enhance people’s journeys. The boards at Liskeard and Looe stations were made interactive thanks to augmented reality technology. Using the app, passengers can hold up their phone and bring to life a ‘talking portrait’ of Horace Holbrook, superintendent of the line in 1908. The interactive portrait is also included in the partnership’s Looe Park & Ride leaflet (110,000 copies) to reach another target audience. The final resource was a mini-website, www.looerailheritage.com

The second phase of the project, which remains ongoing, is promotion of the new resources. The films were all unveiled at a premiere evening at a packed Liskeard Public Hall, which also featured a book signing and Q&A with All The Stations, who promoted the project via their own popular social media channels. The documentaries were also highlighted via Facebook advertising, targeted at local day tripper audiences as well as rail and history enthusiasts in key cities including Bristol, Birmingham and London, and adverts in Railway Magazine. A key element was cross-promotion between the resources, with the documentaries concluding with a recommendation to download the app, and the app directing people to watch the community interviews via the website.

 

Results

The project has enjoyed a great reception from the public and the media, featuring as a front-page splash and double page spread in The Cornish Times. The documentaries have been watched more than 10,000 times across YouTube, Facebook and other media, receiving positive comments from as far afield as San Francisco.

The app has received 100% five-star ratings, with one reviewer commenting: “Very immersive – looking forward to planning a trip to Cornwall around this app.” Organisers of a local heritage walk are now inviting all their participants to download it, and when a delegation from the Department for Transport visited the line they commented: “All branch lines should have an app like this.”

The project is set to expand even further, with funding now secured to develop a heritage information centre at Liskeard Station, drawing upon and promoting the progress achieved so far.