Search This Blog

Monday, 27 May 2013

Eaton Railway

In a nutshell

Gauge:      15"

Length:     Originally 3 miles (with ½ mile branch)      Now 1½ miles

Opened:      1895
Closed:        1947
Re-opened: 2000  


View Narrow Gauge Railways in a larger map


Date of visit:     26 May 2013


Key Facts

  • The railway was constructed by (Sir) Arthur Heywood who was keen to demonstrate the potential of 15" gauge railways which he considered to be the minimum gauge for a viable narrow gauge railway (see 15" gauge railways - a chronology)
  • The Hon CT Parker, agent to the 1st Duke of Westminster, persuaded the Duke that a 15" gauge railway would solve some of the problems of transporting supplies and produce between the Eaton Hall estate and the nearest mainline railway station at Balderton.
  • In the 1890s, estate consumed around 2000 tons of coal and 3000 tons of general stores each year, and transported goods outward from the estate's brickworks, sawmills and pipeworks. 
  • The duke agreed to the construction of the railway provided it did not interfere with the view. 
  • The railway was built in a year, its construction being supervised by Arthur Heywood himself with three of his own workers and a team of workmen from the estate, as the duke was concerned about the possibility of his game being poached.
  • The railway's first locomotive, Katie (named after the duchess), was an 0-4-0 built by Heywood. A replica of this loco is now based at the Eaton Railway for use on Open Days.
  • A further two locos were provided by Heywood; in 1904 an 0-6-0T Shelagh (named after the 2nd Earl's wife) joined the railway and in 1916 another 0-6-0T locomotive called Ursula (named after the 2nd Earl's daughter) was delivered.
  • The first driver at Eaton was Harry Wilde and the second was Harry Morgan, who worked on the line first as a guard/shunter from the age of 13 in 1919 becoming the driver in 1932 until he drove the lifting train in 1947.
  • In 1905, Wynne Bassett-Lowke used the Eaton Railway to test-run his first 15" gauge locomotive, Little Giant. This marked the beginning of Bassett-Lowke's enterprise to establish a series of miniature railways across the country, including the Rhyl Miniature Railway, the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway, the Fairbourne Railway and the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway.
  • The Eaton Railway carried many notable personages, including King Edward VII, Queen Alexandra and Winston Churchill who was attending a shooting party but commented to the driver, "Let's have a little look at that engine of yours ....... I'd much rather play at trains."
  • Shortly after the First World War, the Eaton Railway took delivery of a 20 HP Simplex Motor Rail petrol mechanical locomotive
  • Katie was sold to the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway and then passed to the Fairbourne Railway. In 1942 the remaining two locomotives were scrapped and in 1947 the Simplex and the track were sold to the Romney Hythe and Dymchurch Railway.
  • After a suggestion of Ian Jolly in the 1970s, the stock was rescued from the RH&DR and in 1998 planning permission was granted for the railway to be reconstructed. The restored railway makes use of the original carriage shed with a terminus very close to the line's original station. A spur then links this to the main loop which traces part of the original route and then branches off to the north to circle the cricket club.
  • The railway is open to the public on Eaton Hall's four open day's per year (see website) when money is raised for charity
  • Trains on the Eaton Railway are run at half hourly intervals on open days but seats have to be booked in advance as they are limited in number. It is therefore advisable to arrive early and book your seat as soon as you arrive.
  • On Open Days there are refreshments available in the form of hot drinks, cakes, sandwiches, bacon and sausage butties and ice cream.
(With thanks to Ian Jolly for additional historical information)


The present route of the Eaton Railway
The original route of the Eaton Railway


















My Impressions

Although we arrived shortly after the gates were opened, there was already a considerable number of cars parked on the grass - but then the weather was warm and the forecast for the day was set fair.

After paying our modest entry fee, we initially went for a quick cuppa and so by the time I went to book my ticket for the train, the first four trains were fully booked - advisable, it seems, to book your train ticket early.

However, this gave me plenty of time to take photos and to wander around the  route of the railway.

I spent a while around the terminus, looking at the original coal and wood loading sheds and the carriage shed which is now used to house the loco and the stock.
Eaton Railway - the coal and wood unloading dock with carriage shed on the right
The former carriage shed now used as a stock shed
 I also had an opportunity to see the line's loco, Katie, being coaled and watered before hauling her next train. Katie is a replica of the line's original loco which was built in 1898 by Sir Arthur Heywood, the originator of the minimum gauge.
Katie takes on coal and water.
 She then ran round her train ....

...... and then departed on the 11.30 train.

 After ten to fifteen minutes, she returned having traversed the main loop and the triangular junction.

 And her passengers disembarked.

I then went out into the park to watch the 12.00 train emerge from the garden area and cross one of the estate roads.

The train then skirted the cricket pitch and wandered off across the parkland.

 About ten minutes later, the train hove back into view and negotiated the other side of the triangular junction to run back into the station.

 Just before 12.30, I boarded my train and bagged the seat immediately behind the loco.

 Which provided me with some fine views of the track

 and some interesting shots of the loco in action.

On returning to the terminus, we detrained and I had an opportunity to see the faithful replicas of the Heywood rolling stock at close quarters.

 The saloon coach is the piece de resistance

The small portholes at each end of the coach were apparently to accommodate oil lamps to provide some light inside the coaches when the trains ran at night.

 After a sandwich and another cuppa in the main courtyard of the Hall, which provided an opportunity to see more closely the clock tower which is, of course, a small scale replica of the tower at the Palace of Westminster.

 An interesting exhibit in the courtyard was the Duke's armoured Rolls Royce.

 We then wandered back to the car which provided me with one final opportunity to see Katie being watered and coaled for her next train.........

The quality of the replica rolling stock and the level of maintenance of the track are of a very high order. The setting for the railway is as one would expect, highly attractive. I did try tracing the route of the original railway where it supposedly departed from the present alignment, but I was unable to discern any sign of the trackbed.

On a previous visit to the garden centre which is beside the Wrexham Road entrance to the estate, I managed to locate the line's original engine shed which now forms part of the offices for the garden centre.

I also identified where the railway used to cross the road and make its way through the woodland towards Balderton Station.

At a future date I want to explore the buildings which remain on the site of the Cuckoo's Nest sidings and also trace the course of the railway through the fields towards Balderton - though this will be dependent on how close the present-day footpaths are to the route of the railway.
The original Katie on the sidings at Eaton Hall terminus


Thursday, 23 May 2013

London Funicular Railway / Millennium Inclinator

In a nutshell

Gauge:         1 metre

Length:        26.85m

Opened:       5 December 2003


View Narrow Gauge Railways in a larger map


Date of visit: 16 May 2013


Key Facts

  • The railway has a gradient of 13.6°
  • It was constructed by Maspero Elevatori of Italy
  • It is electrically powered with a speed of 0.5m/s and a maximum capacity of four passengers weighing 700kg
  • Although it resembles an inclined lift and is referred to as 'an inclinator', it can just about be classed as a funicular railway, hence its inclusion in this blog.



View The Millennium Inclinator in a larger map

My Impressions

Having walked along the South Bank from Westminster, we had a pleasant cup of tea in the cafe on the top floor of the Tate Modern. This gave us a fine view of the Millennium Bridge and a tantalising glimpse of the Millennium Inclinator at its far end.

After crossing the bridge the inclinator hove into view on the right hand side. The cabin looked very much like a lift cubicle and on closer inspection the track appeared to be flat steel.

Looking down the track the guides for the cable can be seen on the centre, there appears to be a guide rail to the right of centre and at the edge is a folding cable guide.

Travelling down the inclinator takes around a minute - with the same sort of announcements one hears in a lift (or elevator).

The view from the bottom of the inclinator shows its proximity to St Paul's Cathedral. I waited around for a good ten minutes or so but no one seemed interested in taking a ride in the inclinator - and so I decided to make a return trip

From documents posted on the web, it would appear that the inclinator experienced some operational problems in its early days. It was certainly working faultlessly on the day I visited. The system seems uncomplicated and given that it seems to have very little use, one must assume that it will continue to give fairly reliable service.


Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Hampton & Kempton Waterworks Railway

In a nutshell

Gauge:         2 foot

Length:       Originally 3 miles end to end
                     plus a further mile of sidings and branches
                     Hanworth Loop - approx 350m

Opened:      1916
Closed:        1945
17 May 2013 



View Narrow Gauge Railways in a larger map



Date of visit: 18 May 2012


Key Facts

  • The railway was constructed in 1916 to transport coal and sand for filter beds from the wharf on the River Thames to the various water treatment works in the locality
  • The line possessed three 0-4-2T steam locomotives built by Kerr Stuart in 1915
  • The locos were called Hampton, Kempton and Sunbury
  • By the time the line closed in 1945 it had around 140 wagons, mostly V-skip tipplers each capable of carrying a 10 ton load. These were formed into trains of ten wagons per loco.
  • There were also flat wagons and end-tipplers
  • There were no passenger carriages on the original railway but photos indicate that up to six tipper wagon chassis were temporarily modified to carry members of the Board of Directors for their annual inspection
  • The Preservation Society has recently opened a circle of track, the Hanworth Loop (approx. 350m in length) adjacent to the Kempton Pumping House Museum
  • The railway now possesses one i/c powered locomotive but also has a Wren class steam locomotive (Thomas Wicksteed) and another i/c loco on loan from the Kew Bridge Museum
  • The line has one passenger coach, plus another on load, and several items of goods rolling stock which are completed or undergoing renovation
  • Most of the trackbed for the original railway is still in existence and accessible. There are plans to extend the railway from Kempton to Hampton.
  • The Pumping House at Kempton houses the world's largest working triple-expansion steam engine which is open to the public six times a year
  • Light refreshments and hot drinks are available in the engine house on Open Days.


The original railway - Source:

The existing railway (Hanworth Loop - top left) with proposals for extension - Source:


My Impressions

It was more by accident than by design that I happened to be in London the day after the official opening ceremony of the Hampton and Kempton Waterworks Railway and so when I discovered the coincidence I decided fate had determined this should be the next railway on my itinerary.

I travelled from Waterloo Station to Kempton Park and after a twenty minute walk arrived at the site, clearly defined by the two boiler house chimneys rising above the nearby engine house for the Kempton Pumping engines.
The engine house and chimneys - Source:

After getting my bearings, I decided to look over the railway's expanding collection of goods rolling stock which is in various stages of renovation.

I then made my way beneath the road flyover to the newly opened Hanworth Loop where the 0-4-0T Wren class loco, Thomas Wicksteed, on loan from the Kew Bridge Museum and the line's own passenger coach were patiently waiting beside the platform.

From the approach to the platform, some of the route of the railway around the paddock can be seen .......

... and intriguing glimpses of the train as it makes its way around the loop can be gained from various viewpoints

After paying a modest fee and buying a couple of items of memorabilia from the line's ticket office, I boarded the carriage and awaited the off.

The ticket price gives two circuits of the loop which gives ample time to view the railway's sidings and shed facilities ......

....... and also see some of the some of the other stock which is housed at the railway, such as the freelance designed petrol engined 0-4-0 loco, Hounslow.

After chatting with some of the railway's staff and watching the train making its way round the loop a few more times, I decided I couldn't waste an opportunity to see the world's largest operating triple-expansion steam engine. I must admit, though, I was unprepared for the immensity of the two machines which are housed in the engine house.

One engine is operational, while the other is a static exhibit over which visitors, such as myself are given a guided tour.

The working engine was steamed at hourly intervals for around 20 minutes. There was something deeply moving about watching such an enormous piece of machinery building up speed and smoothly powering its massive pumps. It seems the engines were featured in the film about the sinking of the Titanic - A Night to Remember - as the Titanic's engines were of a very similar design (though were quadruple-expansion).
The 'Engine Room' from 'A Night to Remember' - Source:

The guided tour lasted about an hour and was extremely informative. Clearly the enthusiasts who maintain and operate this living monument to our industrial heritage are dedicated to, and passionate about, what they do.

After a mug of tea and a piece of home-made cake, I paid another quick visit to the railway before departing. The South West Trains service back to Waterloo seemed somewhat tame after this adventure.

I shall watch developments of this railway on their website with interest. As the route of the original railway is almost complete and in the ownership of the water board it would seem that the only barrier to completion of the railway is financial. I can't help wondering if Lord McAlpine's attendance at the opening ceremony was significant! It is a great pity that none of the locos from the railway survived the scrapman's torch - wouldn't it be great to see a replica of one of them puffing its way once more between the filter beds?

Hampton beside the Hampton Works - Source:

Hampton in glorious technicolor - Source:


[In preparation]