SWINDON and Cricklade Railway is recruiting a new Father Christmas for its popular Santa Specials later this year.

The heritage attraction runs the festive services for a month from November 25 this year, but its old Santa has had to retire for health reasons.

Publicity officer Adrian Brodie said, “As is the case for most heritage railways, the Santa Specials is the biggest and most important event of the year. They are very significant for the income they bring in.”

And it’s an important role. “Many people think that there are plenty of men at the railway, and that one of those could do it.

“Nothing could be further from the truth. Few if any are capable of doing it. If only it was as simple as one of them donning the suit and beard, and away they go.”

So the railway is looking for someone special to fill the role. The job description suggests a flair for amateur dramatics may be helpful. But more important attributes include, liking children and an ability to get on with people in general.

Someone who has been DBS or CRB checked is preferred although the organisation can arrange for that to be carried out.

The services run at the weekends, with the last trains on December 17, and take families on trains up to the grotto at Hayes Knoll.

They have been a popular feature of the festive season in Swindon for the past 32 years and have ferried thousands of excited children to an audience with the great man himself.

Although everyone is a volunteer, the railway says it will consider paying the right person.

In the meantime the volunteers are preparing for its Halloween Ghost Train weekend on October 27 and 28. The event runs between 6pm and 8.45pm and youngsters will be encouraged to see how many ghouls and ghosts they can spot.

Tickets for Halloween cost £7 for adults, £5 for children and £6 for seniors.

To find out more about playing Santa call 01793 771615 and leave a message or email scr@gmail.com