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Thursday, 7 July 2022

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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.

      Cleethorpes Coast Light Railway


      In a nutshell

      Gauge:       15" (38.1cm)

      Length:      1,150 yards (1,050 m) or 2,130 yards (1,950 m)

      Opened:     1948 - Original 10¼" gauge railway opened
                          1949 - Railway extended
                          1972 - Line extended and changed to 14¼" gauge
                          1991 - Gauge changed to 15" and refurbished
                          2007 - Railway extended 


      Cleethorpes Coast Light Railway
      Lakeside Station
      Kings Road
      North East Lincolnshire
      DN35 0AG


      Date of visit:     3rd July 2022

      Key Facts

      • The original line opened in 1948 as the Cleethorpes Miniature Railway in 1948 as a 10¼" miniature railway. It was relocated to its present site and extended in 1949.
      • It was re-gauged to 14½" in 1972 and provided with two steam outline locos built by Severn Lamb
      • In 1991 the railway was privatised, renamed the Cleethorpes Coast Light Railway and regauged to 15". A National Lottery grant led to the acquisition of stock from the Sutton Miniature Railway, including the original 1907 Bassett-Lowke locomotive 'Mighty Atom'. The Sutton locos have now been sold to the Windmill Hill Railway in Lancashire
      • A new 800 yard (730m)  extension from Lakeside Station to Humberston North Sea Lane was opened in 2007,
      • The railway now has five steam locomotives including a replica of Effie, an Arthur Heywood minimum gauge loco which ran on the Duffield Bank Railway in 1874
      • The railway is open every day from April to October
      • There are shops at both termini and hot food, beverages and alcoholic drinks available at Lakeside Station


      My Impressions

      There is an enormous Pay and Display car park adjacent to the main Lakeside Station and so, after parking the car, I made my way to the station to buy a ticket. A train was just departing and so I had twenty-five minutes to kill. As it was lunchtime, bought a cup of tea and a hot dog from the food outlet.

      By the time I had finished, the train had returned and so I made my way to the platform to board it. On the leading end of the train, ex Fairbourne Railway 0-6-0DM Rachel was ticking over awaiting the signal to depart.

      We soon set off with around half the seats full. Within a short while we passed the storage sheds for the locos and stock .......

      .... before passing through the sea wall and out on to the promenade.

      We chugged along beside the prom for around half a mile ......

      ..... before passing through the sea wall once more .....

      ..... and crossing over the boating lake.

      Within a short while we pulled into Cleethorpes Kingsway Station.

      Rather than using my return ticket, I decided to stroll back alongside the line. After watching the departure of the train, hauled this time by a heavily disguised 1944 Lister 0-4-0DM loco.

      Around twenty five minutes later, the train returned ......

      .... so I made my way towards Lakeside Station to await its next passing.

      At Lakeside, I was able to peruse the shop and bought a couple of informative and well illustrated booklets about the Sutton Miniature Railway.

      I was intrigued by the extension which, during my visit, was not in use. I understand that it usually comes into operation during the school holidays when the railway also runs at least one of its steam locomotives. It looks like I may have to make a return visit.

      With its interesting history and heritage, this is a railway well worth a visit. Even at the time of year I visited, the railway was well patronised - mostly by families with young children. The staff seemed to be very friendly and the railway well-run and, with plenty of nearby attractions and with food and drink available on-site, it is a place well worth a visit.


      Tuesday, 5 July 2022

      North Ings Farm Museum

       In a nutshell

      Gauge:          2 foot (610cm)

      Length:        600 yards (548m)

      Opened:       1972 (Private railway) - 1990 (Public railway)


      Fen Rd, 
      LN4 3QB

      Tel.:        01526 833100

      Date of visit:     3rd July 2022

      Key Facts

      • The railway was first established in 1972 to provide transportation for the farm's chicken and egg production facilities
      • By 1981, poultry farming on the site had ceased and the railway and collecting agricultural equipment became a hobby
      • In 1990, the local council suggested that the museum's collection of artefacts should be opened to the public
      • The railway has eight industrial diesel locomotives and two further locos on loan from the Talyllyn Railway's Narrow Gauge Railway Museum
      • There is also a freelance vertical boilered steam locomotive which is currently out of action awaiting a new boiler
      • The three passenger coaches were acquired from the Abbey Light Railway after its closure in 2012
      • The signal box, which is prominent on the site, was acquired from Holmes Yard at Lincoln, where it was used as a paraffin store. The lever frame inside the box is from  Skellingthorpe near Lincoln.
      • The farm site is a treasure trove of farming and construction machinery and industrial narrow gauge wagons
      • The museum opens on the first Sunday of each month from April to October.
      • The modest entrance fee allows you to roam freely over the site and have unlimited rides on the railway.
      • Hot and cold drinks and biscuits and confectionary are available


      My Impressions

      After Google maps navigated me down various narrow winding lanes I had very little idea of where I was. Fortunately, there was a reassuring sign at the end of a farm track informing me that I had arrived and, furthermore, that the museum was open.

      There was a pleasing air of informality about the museum with the owners and volunteers clutching mugs of tea, discussing the relative merits of dog clutches and the intricacies of gearboxes, or demonstrating and explaining the exhibits to visitors.

      I was invited to wander the sheds and the grounds at my leisure. I started with the sheds, wherein were stored an impressive array of industrial locos .....

      ...... tractors of various vintages ......

      ..... and a lightweight Commer truck.

      The grounds proved equally intriguing, with a vast array of industrial narrow gauge wagons and locos in various states and stages of renovation.

      After a chat with the staff who were keen and well informed to answer any questions I posed, I took a ride on the train.

      After curving round beside the signal box, the train made a descent .......

      ..... to the nether regions of the site.

      We wound our way through the lush undergrowth ....

      .... passing by the lake and then made a 1:35 climb back up towards the main part of the museum

      ......  and passed through the station (Pear Tree Junction), .....

      before repeating the journey and then arriving back at the start.

      I spent a very pleasant morning at the Museum and gained considerable knowledge of industrial locomotives and the history of the museum from the well informed and helpful staff who were in attendance.

      I can thoroughly recommend a visit if you happen to be in the area on the first Sunday of a summer month. It's far more interesting than an impersonal, regimented and formalised railway museum. Particularly if you want to get down to the nitty gritty of how these things work.


      Wednesday, 29 September 2021

      The Wells and Walsingham Light Railway

      In a nutshell

      Gauge:          10¼" (260mm)

      Length:       4 miles (6.4km)

      Opened:      1857 (Standard gauge) 6 April 1982 (present railway)


      Wells & Walsingham Light Railway
      Stiffkey Road
      NR23 1QB

      Tel:         01328 711630

      Date of visit:     24th - 25th September 2021

      Key Facts

      • The railway claims to be the longest 10¼ inch gauge railway and the smallest gauged public railway in the world
      • The trackbed for the line was once the standard gauge railway which ran from Wymondham to Wells where there was a terminus
      • Wells on Sea Station was also the terminus for the Heacham to Wells branchline
      • The original railway was built quite cheaply and so follows the undulations of the landscape and hence includes some fairly stiff gradients (up to 1 in 66)
      • The Wells and Walsingham Railway was established by Lieutenant-Commander Roy Wallace Francis  (1922 - 2015) a former British naval office
      • The railway's principal locomotives are two 2-6-0+0-6-2 Garratt steam locomotives (Norfolk Hero and Norfolk Heroine) and a Bo-Bo diesel loco (Norfolk Harvester)
      • The railway runs five trains each way during the summer season and four trains each way during the spring and autumn
      • There is a shop with a small range of refreshments available at Wells on Sea station
      • There is a large, free car park at Wells and the village (pay and display) car park at Walsingham is a five minute walk from the station


      My Impressions

      I started my visit by going straight to the main station at Wells, where I familiarised myself with its layout and facilities.

      The ground floor of the signal box includes a shop and a café serving a basic array of drinks and snacks.

      Immediately behind the signal box is the engine shed and turning to the opposite end of the platform is the carriage shed. Spare stock is also stored on the siding behind the platform loop.

      There is a large grassy car park, picnic facilities a play area for children and a gift shop selling locally produced paintings, ornaments and clothing accessories.

      Ere long, a steam whistle announced the imminent arrival of a train from Walsingham.

      I watched the train disgorge its passengers and the rather magnificent Garratt loco (Norfolk Heroine) run round its train.....

      A few minutes later, the train departed for Walsingham

      Most of the passengers decided to sit in the open topped carriages to make the most of the gorgeous late September sunshine with which we were blessed during my visit.

      The following day, I revisited the line. This time going straight to Walsingham station where a large group of passengers was patiently awaiting the arrival of the first train of the day.

      Once more, Norfolk Heroine had been rostered ......

      .... and, after running-round, ........

      ...... she made a swift and efficient departure with quite a heavy train.

      I hastened back to my car and then sped up the road, parked and was able to observe the train passing through Wighton

      Returning to the car, I was then able to watch the train climbing the bank out of Warham

      Another short car journey and I was able to catch the train's arrival into Wells, where the loco ran round and took on more coal and water.

      Before long, the train departed once more.

      I then drove down to Wells harbour where I found a very pleasant eatery and bought a few essential supplies, before returning to the station for my afternoon's adventure. .......

      ..... a cab ride!

      Despite its diminutive size, the cab, while cosy, was sufficiently large to accommodate myself and the driver who described in detail the actions required to keep the locomotive performing at its optimum.

      A 1 in 80 gradient out of the station is followed by a very short 1 in 440 gradient .........

      ...... then another 1 in 76 gradient - all within the first mile!

      There then followed a 1 in 66 decent then a 1 in 96 ascent, and so the driver (who acts as fireman) has his work cut out ensuring the correct balance between fire and water level, as it runs from one end of the boiler to the other, maintains sufficient steam pressure for the climbs, without wasting steam on the descents.

      In addition, there are five ungated level crossings and two intermediate halts to contend with so the train's speed has to be optimised for the conditions and there is much rather creative use of the whistle to alert drivers and warn potential passengers of the train's imminent arrival.

      After three miles, there is a long and steady 1 in 80 climb .........

      ...... into Walsingham station, where a knot of passengers was awaiting our arrival.

      After a sprightly run-round, we departed ......

      There was time to admire the surrounding landscape which, at this time of year is quite picturesque with the lengthening shadows from the afternoon sun.

      The passengers also seemed to be enjoying the sunshine and vistas of the Norfolk countryside - not to mention the ride!

      As we approached Wells, I was alerted by the driver to a local avian resident perched on a branch just above the track.

      On cue, the buzzard swooped down the track ahead of the train before swerving off to the left. A rather poignant and impressive end my rail-borne experience.

      We slowly and, to my mind, rather majestically, coasted into the station.

      This is an experience which will live with me for a long time. What a lovely little railway in a beautiful setting and an extremely picturesque part of the world. 

      I can thoroughly recommend this railway for a visit. There is plenty to see and do in the area for all ages - and I can also endorse the quality of the dressed crab sandwiches available from the eateries in the town.