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Friday, 1 January 2021

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.

      Wednesday, 18 December 2019

      Snowdon Mountain Railway

      In a nutshell

      Gauge:          2'  7½"(800cm)

      Length:        4 2/3 miles (7.5km)

      Opened:      1896


      Tel.:         +44 (0) 1286 870 223

      Snowdon Mountain Railway
      LL55 4TT 


      Date of visit:     20 September 2019

      Key Facts

      • The Snowdon Mountain Railway is the only rack assisted railway in the UK
      • There has only been one accident on the line, on the day it first opened when one passenger died after the first downward train became derailed probably because it was overloaded
      • The line was constructed between December 1894 and February 1896
      • The rack system used by the railway was devised by Roman Abt, a Swiss locomotive engineer. Two racks are positioned between the rails, staggered by half a tooth to ensure there is always a complete tooth on the pinions engaged with the rack
      • The locomotive is not coupled to the carriage, so that the carriage would not be dragged down the mountainside if the locomotive became derailed
      • Gripper rails are fitted to either side of the rack to prevent the pinion from disengaging with the rack
      • Each locomotive and carriage has a manual brake which operates on the pinion
      • The locomotives also have a compression brake which uses air in the cylinders to slow the descent
      • The locomotives and carriages also have automatic brakes which engage if they exceed a certain speed
      • The railway has eight steam locomotives, five of which were built for the line's opening.
      • There are also four diesel hydraulic locomotives, powered by Rolls Royce engines
      • The line has ordered a diesel/battery hybrid locomotive which is intended to enter service in 2020. The batteries will be recharged on the descent.
      • There is a cafe and visitor centre at the summit (3560ft (1085m) above sea level) which was opened in 2009
      • There is also a cafe and toilet facilities at Llanberis station
      • During the winter or bad weather, trains will only run to Halfway station
      • It is advisable to book in advance as the number of tickets are limited each day


      Source: By MickMacNee at en.wikipedia - I created this work entirely by myself., Public Domain,

      My Impressions

      The last time I travelled on the Snowdon Mountain Railway was over fifty years ago, so I was anxious to see how things had changed.

      We arrived at Llanberis in good time to pick up our pre-booked tickets. While waiting we indulged in a cup of coffee and a snack, sitting outside in the early September sunshine.

      There was a good selection of food available at the cafe and so we were spoiled for choice.

      There was time to watch the departure of one of the diesel hauled trains ......

       ..... and our train being marshalled from the sheds. We were booked on one of the vintage steam services. We figured that as this was likely to be a one-off, we would travel in style.

      Before long, we boarded. Although not first in the queue, we were able to get a good seat at the rear of the carriage close to the loco.

      After crossing the Waterfall viaduct, we soon left the treeline......

      ......  and reached the first station / passing place at Hebron.

      After passing a downward diesel train, we progressed further, the mountain scenery becoming more rugged, until we reached Halfway Station, where we paused to wait for another downward train.

      Our guard/train manager took the opportunity to point out some of the scenic features observable from our vantage point ......

      ..... until the downward train passed us on the loop.

      We continued upwards, allowing a fine view of the downward train and the emerging landscape towards Anglesey.

      As we laboured further up the mountain, the views began to open out, here looking towards the Rivals on the Lleyn Peninsula.

      As we approached Clogwyn Station, the train traversed a stretch of line on a ridge, which permitted views down to the left of the Llanberis Pass in the valley below. Apart from the summit, this is probably the most spectacular view on the trip.

      We paused again at Clogwyn Station to await another downward train which we could see approaching from further up the line. There seemed to be a considerable number of people walking the path from Llanberis to the summit, hardly surprising as the weather was unseasonably warm and the sky very clear.

      Eventually, the train came nearer, passing over the curve on which the first passenger carrying train derailed on the line's opening day.

      Then it was our turn to tackle the last section of the railway to the summit. The views opened out even more, giving a fine view out of the whole island of Anglesey .......

      ..... and along the north coast of the Lleyn Peninsula ......

      ....... before our train gently eased itself into the station at the summit.........

      ............  where the loco was given a well deserved rest

       We were given 30 minutes at the summit which allowed plenty of time to browse through the souvenirs and walking equipment in the shop, ...

      .... grab a cuppa and a pie in the cafe .......

       ...... and join the crowd at the summit.

      The views from the summit were spectacular in all directions.

      Looking North West ........

      ...... looking East

      ...... South West .....

      ..... South East.

      .... and West.

      It was very blustery at the top and so it was somewhat of a relief to re-board our train and start the descent. With our destination visible in the distance .....

      ..... we passed many walkers toiling their way towards or away from the summit.

      At Hebron, we met another steam heritage train making its way up towards the summit.

      Eventually, we arrived at Llanberis ......

      ...... where our train was shunted back into its siding.......

      ..... and we could watch the departure of another train towards the summit.

      Passing through the railway's shop on the way towards the exit, I bought a handy little guide on the railway's history but avoided the temptation of buying a snow globe or fridge magnet.

      I was impressed by how efficiently the railway is operated and also by the enthusiasm and willingness of the staff to help and/or discuss the railway.

      The stock was scrupulously clean and well maintained, particularly considering the age of the steam locomotives and the heritage carriages. The fare is not cheap, but then it is a unique experience in the UK and presumably the cost of maintaining the track and railway infrastructure.

      It is possible to take a one way journey, but I would advise you to check the long term weather forecast. We were extremely fortunate in having booked the perfect day for viewing the landscape. This was partly luck and partly due to careful scrutiny of the weather forecasts by my partner - who, incidentally, funded the trip as part of an unexpected Christmas present two years ago. It took us that long to find the ideal conditions in relation to weather and our availability. A previous booking we had made a year earlier had to be cancelled because steam hauled trains had been withdrawn owing to fire risk during the drought at the start of the 2018 summer season.

      It pays to be patient!


      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.