Search This Blog

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

West Lancashire Light Railway

Orenstein & Koppel 0-4-0 Montalban at Delph

In a nutshell

Gauge:      2'

Length:    430 yd

Opened:   1967

Location:

West Lancashire Light Railway
Station Road
Hesketh Bank
Nr Preston
Lancs
PR4 6SP



View Narrow Gauge Railways in a larger map

Tel.      01772 815881
Web:   http://www.westlancs.org/

 

Date of visit:  7 October 2012

 

Key Facts

  • The railway was established in 1967 by a group of six schoolboys who were also members of the Narrow Gauge Railway Society
  • The aim of the railway was (and still is) to preserve industrial narrow gauge railway items
  • The site for the railway is the edge of an abandoned claypit for Alty's Brickworks, adjacent to the railway yard for the former West Lancashire Light Railway's (WLLR) station at Hesketh Bank. The original WLLR was a standard gauge line running from Preston to Southport.
  • Originally, the coaches on the railway were from the pier railway at Southport. These have now been replaced by coaches built at the railway.
  • At the time of writing the line owns or has direct access to 30 locomotives - 16 diesel, 3 petrol, 1 petrol/diesel, 1 battery electric, 1 overhead electric and 8 steam in various stages of repair and operability
  • The line is well laid out with a station area (Becconshall) and loco/stock sheds and sidings. The trackbed is L-shaped, running through trees beside the former claypit to the further terminus called Delph
  • The railway runs on Sundays and Bank Holidays from April to the end of October with various galas and special events through the year

 

Route

Approximate route of the railway (not to scale)

 

My Impressions

They say that first impressions are lasting impressions and my immediate impression was very favourable. The cream and red painted corrugated iron station building very much encapsulates the atmosphere of a narrow gauge light railway and the railway curves tantalisingly off round one of the engine sheds and into the trees in the distance. The whole layout for the railway put me in mind of one of those large scale micro model railways which are found in exhibitions.
View along the platform at Becconsall Station
The end of the platform at Becconsall, looking along the line towards Willow Tree Halt
As this was a gala day, there was plenty to see. All the railway's operating steam locos were in evidence on passenger duty
Ex-quarry Hunslet 0-4-0 Irish Mail on her last day before boiler re-fitting
Orenstein & Koppel 0-4-0 Montalban about to take on water
Orenstein & Koppel 0-4-0 Utrillas pauses after arriving with a passenger train
Kerr Stuart 0-6-0 Joffre being oiled up before assuming her duties
and throughout the day a succession of diesel and petrol locos chugged from behind the sheds with an assortment of goods wagons.
Motor Rail 40HP Diesel takes a goods train from the yard to the main line

Picking up the token
Heading off towards Delph
Motor Rail 60hp Diesel waits to run round its train at Delph
Ruston & Hornsby diesels 20hp , Tawd, with 30hp Dame Vera Duckworth await the all clear at Delph
 After exploring the line on foot, I boarded one of the line's two ex-Southport Pier passenger coaches at the main station Becconsall, behind Orenstein & Koppel 0-4-0 Montalbahn, and we set off for for Delph.
Coupling Montalban to the passenger train at Becconsall
Looking back along the line at Willow Tree Halt towards Becconsall
The line's two O&K 0-4-0s at Delph. Utrillas about to depart for Becconsall
 After browsing through the secondhand railway magazines, watching the models in the engine shed......
16mm scale railway with steam and battery locos
009 quarry railway
 .... and admiring the full-size  exhibits in the car park, I departed from this fascinating piece of living history.
Vintage Austin 7 and steam roller in the station car park
The railway has developed since its humble beginnings in 1967. The locos and stock are well cared-for by a team of volunteers which includes most of the original group of schoolboys. The booking office includes a small shop of souvenirs, sweets and also serves up tea and coffee. There are plenty of picnic tables in the station area and the modestly priced ticket allows for unlimited trips along the line. There are plans to extend the line, but the ultimate length is restricted by the usable land which is available. To my mind, the relatively short length of the railway actually increases its interest as there is very little time to wait between trains, meaning there is always something happening.

If ever you are travelling up or down the M6 on a Sunday, then it would be well worth your while to make a small detour to pop in to see the modest little railway and soak up some of the history which it represents.

Video

(Apologies about the mis-spelling of Montalban!)