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Sunday, 1 September 2019

NGRUK Home Page

Snap of Prince and Blanche at Tan-y-Bwlch in the mid 1960s
I have been fascinated by narrow gauge railways for at least the past 50 years - since a family holiday in North Wales when I was a youngster and quite by chance we camped beside the Festiniog Railway. Over the years I have visited several preserved narrow gauge railways and tramped the trackbeds of many abandoned lines. Having just retired from full time work I decided it was time I catalogued more fully my interests and my various wanderings. This blog aims to encapsulate an accumulation of information, images and video clips.

Over the coming years I intend to visit (and re-visit) the sites of narrow gauge railways in the UK accessible to the public and record the outcome of my visits and researches. The outcome will no doubt be idiosyncratic and completely partial - I am, after all, only human!

The accepted definition of 'narrow gauge' includes railways with a gauge of less than 4' 8½". This should therefore include miniature railways. However, as there are nearly 500 railways in the UK which fit this description I have decided initially to concentrate on passenger carrying and commercial railways with a gauge between 12" and 4' 8½".

Below you will find a list of the railways which fit my parameters outlined above. I think I have listed the passenger carrying and commercial lines which have existed or do exist in the UK (with a gauge greater than 12") - however, I have found it is quite difficult to find a definitive list - railways seem to come and go at will. In addition, I have plotted all the railways on a Google Map, to help me plan my visits.

View Narrow Gauge Railways in a larger map

You will notice that this list has around fifty 'live' entries so far out of just over 200 possible railways. I am intending to start from scratch - visiting and revisiting each railway but, this time, being more systematic in the information, images and videos I collect.

 Narrow Gauge Railways in England
Narrow Gauge Railways Railways in Wales

Narrow Gauge Railways in Scotland
  • Alford Valley Railway (2')
  • Almond Valley Heritage Centre (2' 6")
  • Campbeltown and Machrihanish (2’3”)
  • Clyde Valley Railway (2')
  • Craigtoun Park Railway (15")
  • East Links Railway (2')
  • Glasgow Underground Railway (4')
  • Leadhills & Wanlockhead Railway (2')
Narrow Gauge Railways in Ireland
  • Arigna Mines Experience (2')
  • Ballymena, Cushendall & Red Bay (3’)
  • Ballymena & Larne (3’)
  • Ballycastle  (3’)
  • Castlerigg & Victoria Bridge Tramway (3’)
  • Cavan & Leitrim Railway (3')
  • Clogher Valley tramway (3’)
  • Cork, Blackrock & Passage (3’ (originally 5’3”))
  • Cork & Muskerry Light Railway (3’)
  • County Donegal Railway (3’3”)
  • Difflin Lake Railway (15")
  • County Donegal  (3’) 
  • Fintown & Glenties Railway (3')
  • Giants Causeway & Bushmills Railway (3')
  • Irish Steam Preservation Society (3')
  • Lartigue Monorail and Museum (0')
  • Leisureland Funworld Express (2')
  • Londonderry & Lough Swilly (3’)
  • Peatlands Park (3')
  • Schull & Skibbereen (3’) 
  • Stradbally Railway  (Railway Preservation Society of Ireland) (3')
  • Sunshine Peat Co. (2' 6")
  • Tralee & Blennerville Railway (3')
  • Tralee & Dingle (3’)
  • Tramore Miniature Railway (15")
  • Waterford & Suir Valley Railway (3')
  • West Clare Railway (3')
  • West Clare  (3’)
  • Westport House (15")
Narrow Gauge Railways elsewhere
Isle of Man
Channel Islands
    • Jersey Railway (3’6”)
    • Pallot Steam Museum (2' ??)

      Background research
      To inform my visits I have been conducting more generalised background research on the history and development of narrow gauge railways in the UK and Ireland. From time to time I will share the outcome of my researches here:

      Progress Reports
      Over time I will keep posting general progress reports in addition to the postings on railways I have visited. These will be presented here in chronological order.

      You may also be interested in my other two blogs which are slightly interrelated:
      • Swiss Railway Tour - A ten day trip I organised in 2007 to travel on what I considered to be the most well known railways in Switzerland
      • Peckforton Garden Railway - My 15mm scale garden railway depicting a fictional three foot narrow gauge railway supposedly situated in the Cheshire countryside.

      Thursday, 11 October 2018

      The Gartell Light Railway

      In a nutshell

      Gauge:         2' (610 mm)

      Length:       ¾ mile (1.2 km)

      Opened:     1991


      Common Ln,
      BA8 0NB

      Tel.:          01963 370752


      Date of visit:     30 September 2018


      Key Facts

      • The railway is owned privately by John and Christine Gartell
      • It is open through the main summer season (March to October), usually on the last Sunday of each month and on Bank Holidays
      • The line is run by volunteers and the owners
      • The main terminus for the railway is at a former farm adjacent to the now closed Somerset and Dorset Junction Railway. The line then joins the old trackbed of the railway by a flying junction.
      • On Open Days, there are usually three locomotives and trains in steam, with departures every 20 minutes.
      • The railway is fully signalled, with signals and signal boxes rescued from various parts of the country.
      • At the time of writing, the railway has five locomotives: two steam locos, built locally for the line, and three diesels acquired from Southend Pier Railway, Baguley & Drewry and Alan Keef Ltd.
      • In addition to the passenger stock, the railway also has some interesting goods rolling stock, built specially for the line.
      • There is a large restaurant with a good selection of hot and cold food, including gluten free cakes. There is also a small shop with a range of souvenirs, secondhand books and magazines and modelling items.


      My Impressions

      Wow!! What an interesting little railway! This railway is an Enthusiasts' Delight and a credit to the owners and the band of volunteers who run it.

      My initial impression, after turning down an insignificant little country lane, was how well laid out everything was and how well organised and efficiently everything was being run. There was a large car park with easy access to the main station, where we paid our modest entrance fee and surveyed what was on offer in the restaurant. The menu wasn't extensive but more than sufficient to meet our needs - I opted for the all day breakfast which was well cooked and served on a generous plate.

      I then made my way across one of the two footbridges to the departure platform.

      I boarded the train and waited a short while before we received the off.

       My loco was the line's bo-bo diesel hydraulic, Amanda (previously from Southend Pier but rebuilt in the line's workshops).

      We stormed up the 1:32 gradient, passing under the main line, ........

       ...... and then climbed parallel to the main line up the 1:50 gradient .......

      ..... to pull into Pinesway Junction.

      Here, intriguingly, the loco ran round its train, .....

      ....and another train pulled in alongside us. After a pause, both trains pulled out together, the other train descending the 1:50 while we climbed the 1:38 gradient on the mail line to the flyover

      ..... where we passed over the other train.

      ...... which then proceeded onwards to  the main station at Common Lane.

      We pressed on and shortly arrived at Tower View, .......

      ..... where we halted and the loco once more ran round its train.

      After a few minutes' wait, we departed .......

       .....  descending the main line, passing over Common Lane Level Crossing, ......

      ..... passing over the flyover ..........

      ..... and on through Pinesway Junction without stopping.

      We then struck out into open countryside ..........

      ...... before pulling into Park Lane.

       ..... where I alighted to watch the loco running round.

      A few minutes later, .......

      ...... and we were off once more, ascending the 1:132 gradient back towards Pinesway Junction.

      Another train was awaiting us as we pulled in.

       As previously, both trains waited a short while and then pulled out together. We descended, while the other train climbed ........

       ..... until we passed beneath the flyover.

      We then pulled back once more at the main Common Lane station.

       After a cuppa in the restaurant, I made my way over the meadow to Pinesway Junction where I was in time to see Amanda and one of the line's two steam locos, North Dorset Loco Works, Mr G departing in parallel

      A few minutes later, Amanda 'hurtled' non stop through the station beneath the railway's impressive signal gantry.

      After a wait of about ten minutes, the line's second steam loco, No. 9 Jean, powered up the gradient from beneath the flyover hauling the Pines Express.

      After running round, ........

      ..... Amanda pulled in from Park Lane.

      The two trains pulled away simultaneously,  with Amanda dropping down and Jean rising up over the flyover.

      It was then Jean's turn to race through the station .......

      ...... before Mr G, was heard and seen charging up the 1:32 gradient from Common Lane station with John Gartell at the regulator.

      After watching her arrive and run round ......

       ...... I was treated to the spectacle of two steam locos pulling away in tandem.

      I then went back down to Common Lane station to watch a few train movements ........

       ....... and inspect the rolling stock in the sidings. The Baguley Drewry 0-4-0 diesel hydraulic (Andrew) was an impressive looking loco......

       .... and the railway's collection of good rolling stock was charming, .......

      ..... beautifully constructed ........

      ....... and utilitarian.

      After browsing the shop and purchasing some secondhand model railway magazines for a modest sum, I bade my farewell to this wonderful little railway.

      I would certainly like to return one day. Everyone I encountered was welcoming, helpful and busy. Trains departed every twenty minutes and so it would have been possible to travel the railway behind al three locomotives had I wished, and it was possible to visit the signal cabins by request. The sounds of the locos was constantly backgrounded by the clunk of signals - a very satisfying sound.

      This is a gem of a railway which has clearly been created and is maintained with loving care and exquisite attention to detail. There is plenty to occupy and maintain the interest of both the casual visitor and the ardent enthusiast.


      Tuesday, 9 October 2018

      Bicton Woodland Railway

      In a nutshell

      Gauge:         18" (457 mm)

      Length:        1359 yards (¾ mile - 1242m) - 1½ mile journey out and back

      Opened:       1963



      Bicton Park
      East Budleigh
      Budleigh Salterton
      Exeter Devon
      EX9 7BJ

      Tel.:       01395 568465 

      Date of visit:     28 September 2018


      Key Facts

      • The original 1963 trackplan included the station and a return loop through the Pinetum. The extension to the Hermitage was added in 1976.
      • The original rolling stock for the railway came from the Royal Arsenal Railway in Woolwich which, as it was 18" gauge, dictated the track gauge for the Bicton Woodland Railway.
      • The original locomotives were Woolwich (an Avonside 0-4-0T steam loco built in 1915), Bicton (an 0-4-0 Ruston Hornsby diesel built in 1942) and Carnegie (a Hunslet 0-4-0 0-4-0 articulated diesel loco built in 1954).
      • Another diesel loco joined the fleet in 1974 - a Ruston Hornsby 0-4-0 which was renamed Budley.
      • Seven goods wagons were also acquired from the Royal Arsenal and were subsequently converted into passenger carriages. Additional rolling stock was acquired from RAF Fauld and the Wolverton railway works which had 18" railways.
      • In 2000, three locomotives and much of the rolling stock was sold to the Royal Gunpowder Mills at Waltham Abbey and a new locomotive was commissioned from Alan Keef Ltd. - an 0-4-0 steam outline diesel locomotive called Sir Walter Raleigh
      • Four new carriages were also purchased from Alan Keef and Bicton was refurbished to match the steam outline appearance of Sir Walter Raleigh.
      • The journey lasts about 25 minutes
      • There is a well stocked restaurant and shop at in the gardens and plenty to see



      My Impressions

      After paying my entrance fee to the gardens and passing through the shop and acknowledging the whereabouts of the toilets and restaurant, I made my way to the station. There was already a small queue of people awaiting the train's departure which, at this time of year, was every hour.

      I showed my ticket and boarded the train, choosing the tail-end compartment in the last carriage.

      With a toot, the Alan Keef diesel powered, steam outline loco pulled out. We very quickly entered a slightly wooded area on the banks of the dam which had been built for the ornamental lake.

      Passing over the dam, we had a good view of Bicton House standing above the lake.

      We then negotiated a triangular wye junction, .......

      ...... before heading out through the trees of the Pinetum.

      At intervals, the driver tooted the whistle to alert us to points of interest printed on a card which we were loaned at the beginning of the journey.

      At the furthermost end of the Pinetum, the track curved around and back on itself to give us an alternative perspective on the gardens.

      The grounds are extremely well tended and clearly laid out. One day I must return and explore everything more thoroughly; this was a flying visit to give time to travel on the nearby Seaton Tramway in the afternoon.

      We headed back towards the triangular junction ........

      .... crossing over the junction for the loop, and then .......

      ...... taking the other branch at the wye junction.

      We headed up the side of the lake towards the Hermitage, ........

      ..... where the line terminates with a loop.

      Our loco (Sir Walter Raleigh - who was born nearby) ran round the train, .......

      ...... and then we set off once more.

      We took the left-hand branch of the wye, .......

      ...... to cross the dam once more.

      ..... and then pulled back into the station.

      I spent a short while watching the loco run round the train .........

      chatting with the driver and snapping the older rolling stock, which dates from the time when the railway acquired its stock from the Woolwich Arsenal Railway.

      I then made my way back to the car park and thence on to Seaton.

      As can be seen from the photos and video, the railway is well established and follows an interesting route through the grounds. There is plenty more to see; not just the gardens and the house, but also a museum housing artefacts from the locality.

      Given more time, I would have explored further, so it looks as if I will have to make a return visit - something I will look forward to doing.