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Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Kirklees Light Railway

In a nutshell

Gauge:   15 inch

Length:  3½ miles

Opened: 1991


Kirklees Light Railway
Park Mill Way,
Clayton West,
Nr Huddersfield
West Yorkshire

View Larger Map
Tel:      01484 865727

Date of visit: 9 September 2012


Key Facts

  • The railway follows the route of the former Clayton West branchline which closed in 1983
  • The original branchline served two collieries
  • At present, the railway owns four steam locomotives and two internal combustion powered locos
  • Two of the steam locomotives are articulated. "Hawk" is a Kitson Meyer 0-4+4-0 loco based on a design built by Andrew Barclay Sons & Co and is considered to be the most powerful 15" gauge loco in the world. "Owl" is a twin 'V' cylindered 0-4+4-0 geared locomotive based on a 1920's design by the Avonside Engine Company Ltd.
  • The railway is run by a small team of permanent staff and dozens of volunteers.


View Kirklees Light Railway Route in a larger map

My Impressions

The first thing which struck me was the generous size of the car park at the main, Clayton West station - which steadily filled-up as the day progressed.

As I had travelled a fair distance to reach the railway, the first thing I did was indulge in a very pleasant cup of coffee and a piece of cake in the café, before spending a while watching the locomotive movements at Clayton West. Being a gala day, there was plenty to see. The railway's own articulated loco, 0-4+4-0, 'Owl' was being turned to make ready for her first train of the day.

One of her sister locos, 2-6-2 'Fox' was also being prepared. She would be spending the day running a shuttle train between Shelley Station at the other end of the line and the railway's tunnel.

Before long, the visiting Bushmills K1 Garratt loco from the Perrygrove Railway made an appearance.

Another interesting visitor from the Perrygrove was 'Ursula', which was constructed in 1999 as a replica of one of the original Heywood designed locomotives which ran on the Eaton Hall Estate Railway in Cheshire. As you can see, she was not built as a miniature version of a standard gauge locomotive but as a narrow gauge loco in her own right. The history of Sir Arthur Heywood's experiments in testing the feasibility of 15" gauge technology are fascinating.

Another visitor to the gala day was Synolda, from the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway, which was celebrating her 100th birthday. Synolda was built by Bassett Lowke, another early pioneer of 15" and other ultra narrow gauge railways.

Also from the Ravenglass and Eskdale was this magnificent B-B diesel locomotive, Lady Wakefield (which is also affectionately known as Doris). She was built in 1980 at Ravenglass around a Perkins diesel engine.

I then bought my return ticket and boarded one of the trains for a trip along the line behind Owl.

En route we passed another of the railways home locos, the articulated 'Hawk' which was hauling an Up train from Shelley.

The railway is certainly set in a very scenic location and there is plenty to see as the train negotiates its way through two intermediate stations (Cuckoo's Nest and Skelmanthorpe), ........
Ursula on a shuttle train at Cuckoo's Nest Station
Skelmanthorpe Station
 ...... and the 511 yard Shelley Woodhouse Tunnel which preceded our arrival at the line's other terminus, Shelley Station.  The station has a small café and shop, a play area for children and a great view across the rural landscape. As it was gala day, the Garratt was waiting to haul our train back up the line while our loco (Owl) took on water.

There was also a shuttle train running to and from the tunnel, powered by the line's Thomas tram loco (No. 7) in one direction and Fox for the return journey.

The next arrival from Clayton West was hauled by the R&ER diesel, Lady Wakefield, which the freshly watered Owl took over for the return journey.

The journey back up the line provided another opportunity to view the passing scenery and some of the other trains in service
Departing Shelley Station behind 'Owl'
R&ER 'Synolda' on shuttle duties at Cuckoo's Nest Station
Pulling into Clayton West
Once back in Clayton West there was another opportunity to watch train movements.......

..... and see some of the other attractions........

......... before departing to spend a little time at the nearby National Coal Mining Museum.

There was certainly plenty to see and to do during the visit. The locomotives on view were an impressive collection for a range of reasons, not least, to demonstrate what can be achieved in terms of power and technical accomplishment on a 15" gauge railway. Something which struck me as I watched the volunteers and staff going about their duties was the great pride they took in their work and their sheer dedication and enthusiasm. Some of the volunteers were in their teens and I couldn't help thinking that while many young people get a bad press these days, if they could all gain this sort of experience in their formative years, what a different place the world would be!


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