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Friday, 21 October 2011

Progress Report 1

The 'Vintage Train' in 2010 on the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway

The first progress report for this new blog. As you may have seen from the home page that it is my intention to visit as many of the narrow gauge railways of the UK as possible over the next few years. Having had a fascination with this mode of transport for at least the last 50 years and visited and travelled on many railways, I decided it was time to be a little more systematic and organised in my travels.

River Irt at Ravenglass in 2010

 Three days ago, I happened to spend a few days in Cumbria and inevitably found my way to the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway. Having visited this railway on two previous occasions and taken a few random and miscellaneous photos I pondered on how else I could mark my return visit. Over a cup of coffee in the cafe at Ravenglass Station, my partner and I speculated on how many narrow gauge railways there were left in the UK for me to visit. I guessed there were around 200 (including miniature railways). On my return home I did a little background research and on the Narrow Gauge Railway Society website discovered their Guide to Narrow Gauge Railways in the UK which revealed there were nearly 500 narrow gauge and miniature railways - and this did not include those which had closed down such as the Southwold and Leek and Manifold.

The Southwold Railway trackbed at Tinkers' Covert
Image copyright Ashley Dace - reproduced under Creative Commons

A plan started to emerge. I decided to visit (or revisit) all the railways listed in the guide, plus the sites of defunct  narrow gauge railways. However, I needed to prioritise. I decided to draw the line at miniature railways with a gauge less than 12" and only those which were open to public access. This was a purely arbitrary and pragmatic decision - but still left me with around 180 railways to visit, plus the sites of defunct railways.

The North Bay Miniature Railway, Scarborough

 My next decision centred on what sort of information I needed to gather during my visits. Clearly this would be dependent on what was available to see on the day. I may use my first few visits to fine tune the sorts of evidence I will accumulate but I'm trying to consider the needs and interests of my intended audience - ie people like me who want a bit of background information and a few enticing images before they visit the railway themselves. In addition to some historical information and some factual stuff on what is there, I will include some personal impressions of my visit - what I noticed, what I felt and how much I enjoyed what I did there on the day.

'Vale of Ffestiniog' Funkey Diesel at Blaenau Ffestinog in 2002

Probably, the end of October is not the best time to start a project like this as many railways close down or run a much reduced (and often diesel powered) service during the winter months. Furthermore, we shall probably be using our trailer tent for accommodation and somehow this loses its appeal between October and April. However, this initial lull will give me time to do some more background research and to start planning our various journeys around the country.

Over the next few months, I will post updates on my planning and include my first few postings of visits to railways which are within easy travelling distance and which are still running winter services.

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