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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] 

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