The future of the Royal Deeside Railway tourist attraction is under threat unless a funding shortfall can be met through donations.
The heritage railway, at Milton of Crathes, near Banchory, is appealing for would-be-passengers to support it financially through some of its toughest times.
It was forced to remain closed this tourist season due to coronavirus lockdown restrictions.
All events on the one-mile stretch of track along the River Dee had to be called off and the hundreds of supporters who would usually visit the track, centre and cafe have had to stay away.
Hopes of being able to reopen in time for the popular annual festive activities look to have been dashed too.
Dismayed Royal Deeside Railway Preservation Society chairman James West said the volunteers had been left disappointed and were now wondering whether 2021 will bring any better news.
“Unfortunately, due to Covid-19 all the train services and events at the Royal Deeside Railway have had to be cancelled,” he said.
“The volunteers were hoping that they would be able to operate their successful Santa Specials as usual, but this is no longer possible.”
Ticket sales for a return journey on the standard gauge steam and diesel hauled heritage railway, lasting around 15 to 20 minutes, are usually enough to keep the charity on track.
But volunteers say 2020 has been a “tough year for everyone”, with their attraction no different.
And with no guaranteed they can restart journeys in 2021 they are concerned for the railway’s finances.
“While we have had no income this year, we continue to pay bills and maintenance costs,” Mr West said.
“Consequently, the railway now has a funding shortfall, and there is no guarantee services can restart in 2021, when they would have been operating through Birkenbaud crossing to the new Riverside Halt platform.”
He said the society was now appealing to the “friends, supporters and passengers who would normally travel along the length of the railway” to support it in its hour of need and donate to the cause.
The original Deeside railway was once patronised by the Royal Family and other visitors to Balmoral Castle.
It closed in 1966 as a result of the Beeching cuts but the preservation society has been working to restore parts of the line since 2003.
For many years, the hope has been to gradually extend the line until it reaches Banchory.
Donations can be made online at www.deeside-railway.co.uk.