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Monday, 15 September 2014

Ironbridge - Blists Hill Mine Railway

In a nutshell

Gauge:         2'

Length:       212m

Opened:     2010



Blists Hill Victorian Town
Legges Way

Telephone:  01952 433424


Date of visit:     12 September 2014


Key Facts

  • The locomotive appears to be a 4w W417 Wingrove & Rogers battery electric, which was refurnished by Alan Keef in 2008
  • The train comprised eight four wheel coaches and the locomotive with the name of  "Sir Peter Gadsden" who was chairman of the museum trust until 2006. 
  • The last carriage includes a driver's compartment which is used to control the train on the outward leg.
  • The track winds serpent-like around along the hillside and then enters an artificial tunnel before stopping in a darkened area where there is a projected AV show depicting a conversation in silhouette between a young boy, who has just started working in the mine, and his father.
  • Trains leave approximately every half an hour and the trip lasts for about 15 minutes
  • There is an additional charge of £2.00 per head to travel on the Mine Tramway


My Impressions

Whilst awaiting the arrival of the next train, there was an opportunity to read the information boards about the history of clay mining in the valley, and also an opportunity to watch the train arrive on to the platform.

We were given a short talk about the mining process before we then boarded the train which wound its way along the circuitous track carved into the hillside.

 The train then negotiated the entrance to an artificial tunnel ....

 ...... which became progressively darker until the train stopped in almost complete darkness. We were then entertained by a short AV presentation which depicted an imagined conversation between an experienced clay miner and his son. The presentation focused on the dangers associated with clay mining - principally suffocation through a build-up of carbon dioxide and roof falls associated with the careless use of explosives.

The train then reversed (or strictly speaking went forward) out of the mine and back along the track .....

... to the station .......

...... where we disembarked.

 On the platform is a restored example of one of the tub wagons which were used to transport clay from the mines along the valley. These were propelled by hand and by horses.

Personally, I would have been interested in being given more detail about the mining and processing aspects of the venture, but this level of detail would probably not have appealed to the majority of the passengers on the train - several of whom were very complimentary to the staff about the quality of the trip.

The Mine Railway forms part of the Blists Hill Victorian Town exhibit in Ironbridge and so there is plenty to see and do. Many of the shops in the replica streets are manned by staff in period costume who are happy to explain the technicalities and history of the trades they represent.

It is possible to exchange today's currency into Victorian pennies which can then be used to purchase items in the shops - including fresh bread, rolls and shortcake baked in the town's bakery.

There are working steam engines, including this working replica of Trevithick's 1804 Pen-y-Darren locomotive which was not in steam during our visit.

Around the town are various stationary engines, such as this one in the yard of the stone mason.

 The entrance fee is quite substantial, but it is possible to buy a year-long passport to most of the exhibits in the gorge which makes a considerable saving in entrance fees overall and provides an opportunity for return visits - it would be difficult to see all the exhibits in the gorge in one day.

There are food outlets in the Victorian Town which offer both snacks and cooked food at reasonable prices and there are plenty of places to have picnics if you prefer.

Overall, this trip would make an interesting day out for the whole family - there is plenty to see and do and all the staff we met were very helpful and well informed - only too happy to demonstrate and discuss the exhibits they were manning.


[In preparation] 

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