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Monday, 2 September 2013

Threlkeld Quarry and Mining Museum

In a nutshell

Gauge:          2'

Length:        Approx 1 mile

Opened:     Originally - 1880s (closed 1940s)
                    Museum railway - 2010


View Narrow Gauge Railways in a larger map


Date of visit:     27 July 2013

Key Facts

  • The quarry in which the railway is situated was first opened in 1870s to provide granite chippings for railway construction
  • It was extended in 1892 by the addition of a paving slab manufacturing company
  • In 1936 company was amalgamated with the Cumberland Granite Company to form the Keswick Granite Co.. Threlkeld Quarry was closed in 1937, but was re-opened in 1949 after modernisation.
  • Originally the granite was blasted from the quarry with black powder and the rock transferred to the crushing plant on wagons by gravity. When further quarry workings were opened along the valley, the railway was extended and operated by steam locomotives. However, after the second world war the railway was dismantled and transportation of the rock was replaced by motor vehicles.
  • The quarry finally closed in 1982 and much of the hardware sold off. 
  • It became the site of the Lakeland Mines and Quarries Trust museum in 1992 and in 2004 became the home of the Vintage Excavator Trust.
  • The museum now includes exhibits on mining and quarrying and walking tours of the mine workings are provided to visitors
  • My visit coincided with the annual steam gala and included visiting locomotives from Amerton, Statfold Barn, Leighton Buzzard and the West Lancs Light Railway.



My Impressions

Having stayed overnight in Keswick, I was able to watch preparations for the day's steaming before the museum officially opened for visitors. There was considerable activity going-on at the main shed.

Kerr Stuart Wren class 0-4-0 loco, Peter Pan, which is privately owned but often runs on the Leighton Buzzard Railway was receiving some last minute attention .......

...... as was Kerr Stuart 0-6-2 Joffre from West Lancs and Hudswell Clarke 0-6-0 Lautoka Mill No 19 from Statfold Barn.

Quarry Hunslet 0-4-0, Sybil Mary, also from Statfold Barn was also steaming quietly on the main line ....

..... while vertical boilered, Paddy, often seen on the Amerton Railway, as being prepared on the shed road.

 And of course, not forgetting Threlkeld's own 0-4-0 Bagnall locomotive,  Sir Tom,

...... which is housed in the line's main engine shed beside the lower station.

The day's proceedings were kicked-off by the quarry Hunslet, Sybil Mary, putting in a spirited performance as she stormed up the gradient towards the upper station with her throttle wide open.

The rest of the day ensued with an extremely busy programme of trains making their way up and down the line from the lower station yard....

..... where there is a  platform and various buildings housing the loco and some of the rolling stock. The passenger carriages have a distinct utilitarian feel about them, ideally suited to the museum's location.

Facilities at the upper station are fairly limited, with evidence that construction is still very much work-in-progress.

But its location in the heart of the quarry makes it ideal as a setting for the former industrial locos such as the vertical-boilered De Winton inspired, Paddy.......

 ....... and the quarry Hunslet, Sybil Mary.

The stiff climb up the quarry provided an excellent opportunity for the locos to demonstrate their prowess. Here we see Sybil Mary breasting the summit of the climb ......

..... and similarly Peter Pan with a light load.

At each of the stations, there was some shunting in evidence as trains were run-round and new trains were assembled.

Peter Pan about to descend to the lower station........

...... pursued later by Joffre.

The lower station is perched on the hillside above the community of Threlkeld; the valley providing an excellent backdrop to the museum and its railway.

Statfold Barn's Husdwell Clarke 0-6-0 Lautoka Mill No 19 was clearly enjoying the challenge which the stiff gradients provided..........

.... as was her sister engine, Sybil Mary.

The museum's own loco, Sir Tom was not left out of the proceedings and did sterling work on passenger duties in between the non-stop freight workings.

 I can thoroughly recommend a visit to Threlkeld. Although, I did not take the opportunity to participate in a mine tour, I did spend some time browsing through the museum exhibits which are very well laid-out and comprehensively explained. Clearly, the steam gala is a particular attraction for those interested in industrial railways. I spent the majority of the day there and still felt I could have stayed longer.

The catering facilities at the museum are fairly basic at the moment, but it is early days and I would imagine that once the major works have been completed thoughts will turn to enhancing this aspect of the museum's offerings - which for those interested in this aspect of our industrial heritage are already impressive, particularly the collection of excavators and associated machinery.

There is even an opportunity for budding prospectors to pan for gold!


[In preparation] 

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