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Monday, 22 June 2015

Paradise Park - Jungle Express

In a nutshell

Gauge:         15"

Length:      250yd (one ride = two circuits)

Opened:     1976


Paradise Park,
16 Trelissick Road,
TR27 4HB 

Tel:        01736 751020


Date of visit:     12 June 2015


Key Facts

  • Paradise Park opened in 1973 as a small family business.
  • The late Mike Reynolds created the park as a home to his growing collection of birds.
  • Paradise Park has become the country's leading centre for the promotion of parrot welfare and is the base for the World Parrot Trust.
  • The line has one locomotive, a diesel mechanical Lister, built in 1938.
  • It has three open coaches
  • The Jungle Express Train operates throughout the summer months (weather permitting). 
  • There is an additional charge of £1 per person for a ride twice around the track.


My Impressions

Before paying my entrance fee to the Park, I checked that the railway would be running as the website indicated that it was dependent on weather. On entering the park, I went immediately to the railway station (which is not far from the entrance) and awaited the arrival of the train.

Within five minutes or so, the train appeared. The steam locomotive inspired superstructure did not hide the fact that beneath was an interwar Lister locomotive with, by the sound of it, the orginal diesel engine.

The train of three open carriages, did a circuit of the track to warm up and then the driver brought her to a halt in the station area.

I paid my fare of £1.00 and spent a couple of minutes admiring the loco.....

.... before taking my seat immediately behind the loco.

There weren't many visitors to the park that day and so, after another couple boarded, we set off.

The train trundled at a respectable speed through the gardens around the house........

....... passing through a tunnel which doubles as the train shed.

After passing around the rear of the house we passed through the station and then made another circuit.

On reaching the station once more we detrained, and I once more looked over the loco.

The board outside the station indicated that another train would depart in an hour and so I wandered around the park where there is a large collection of birds of various species from all corners of the world.

There seems to be plenty to interest families and children, with a farm area, a play barn and flying displays at intervals during the day.

I indulged in a Cornish pasty in the cafe, which is adjacent to the otter, who seemed to be very active and playing to the crowd. I then made my way back to the station to take some lineside pictures and video of the train in action. Unfortunately, there did not appear to be sufficient passengers to run the train again and so I departed the park.


[In preparation] 

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Launceston Steam Railway

In a nutshell

Gauge:        1’11½”

Length:      2½ miles

Opened:     1983


Launceston Steam Railway,
St. Thomas Road,
PL15 8DA


Tel:        01566 775665  


Date of visit:     9 June 2015

Key Facts

  • The base for the railway is at the former LWSR Launceston Station
  • A railway serving Launceston was originally constructed in 1865 for the Launceston and South Devon Railway connecting Launceston to Plymouth. 
  • Nigel Bowman bought a Hunslet locomotive, 'Lilian' from the Penrhyn Slate Quarry in North Wales and, after rebuilding her, bought the stretch of line from Launceston station to have somewhere to run her.
  • The first ½ mile of track opened in 1983..
  • The car park is on the site of the original LSWR station, while the station for the Launceston Steam Railway is on the site of a gas works served by the railway. The railway's workshop and museum are housed in the former gas works' buildings.
  • The railway now possesses four Hunslet steam locomotives, a vertical boilered loco and three petrol/diesel powered locos.
  • The line's four coaches are based on those from a variety of locations, including the Isle of Man and the Plynlimon and Hafan Tramway.
  • A ticket entitles you to ride on trains as often as you wish during the day
  • Trains run every half hour.
  • There is a shop, bookshop, gift shop, cafe and museum at the station in Launceston.
  • At the other end of the line there is a farm park for youngsters and their parents.


My Impressions

My first impression of the railway was gained after parking the car and walking from the car park (on the site of the original standard gauge station) under the road bridge.........

......  to the well established station buildings of the the railway.

The LSR station is built on the site of a gas works and some of the original buildings are now used to house a small museum, in which there is an eclectic range of  exhibits from road vehicles, such as an Austin Seven, to a printing press.

After browsing the book shop, buying a ticket and indulging in some light refreshment in the cafe (a discount on the cream tea on production of a valid train ticket), I spent a while watching some train movements.

Trains run every hour on the hour and so there is regular activity to keep observers such as myself interested.

The loco which was rostered for that day's services was the line's original Penrhyn Quarry Hunslet, Lilian. Whilst I was there she was taken out three times, with three different drivers, including the owners;  Kay and Nigel Bowman.

After rewatering .......

..... our loco joined the front of the train ......

..... to await the off.

The carriage stock is delightfully quirky. The three coaches in our train ranged from a replica of the carriage that once ran on the Torrington & Marland 3' gauge railway in Devon, .......

...... a coach modelled on one from the Plynlimon & Hafan Tramway .......

 ..... to one based on a Manx Electric Railway trailer car.

Eventually, I boarded a train and awaited the guard's whistle.

After passing beneath the road bridge and aqueduct which once served the corn mill in the town .......

...... we took to open country alongside the River Kensey.

After a pleasant fifteen minute journey, we arrived at the terminus at the other end of the line, Newmills.

The loco ran round the train .......

..... and prepared for the return journey.

There is a farm park and picnic site at Newmills and as most of the children and parents on the Down train paid a visit to it, there were fewer passengers on the return journey.

We steamed into Launceston .........

.... coasting to a halt at the platform.

There was plenty to keep me interested at the station for an afternoon and I could have travelled up and down the line as many times as I wanted with my Day Rover ticket. I would like to return when the railway has a gala event, and see more of their locos in steam ..... but for the meantime, I was very pleased (or should that be chuffed) with my visit to the Launceston Steam Railway.


[In preparation] 

Friday, 19 June 2015

TwinLakes Railway

In a nutshell

Gauge:        15"

Length:      2/3 mile

Opened:     2008


Twinlakes Park, 
Melton Spinney Rd, 
Melton Mowbray 
LE14 4S
Tel:        01664 567 777 

Date of visit:     13 May 2015


Key Facts

  • Also known as the 'Iron Moose Express'
  • The line has two 2-6-0 steam outline  diesel hydraulic Severn Lamb locomotives
  • There are two stations Canada Quay Station and Imoogi Dragon
  • The equipment was re-sited from the American Adventure Theme Park in Ilkeston


My Impressions

I was denied access as I was not accompanied by children

There is no indication that this is an entry requirement on the website and a subsequent email suggesting this should be made clear on the website received no response.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Devon Railway Centre

In a nutshell

Gauge:         2' (and 7¼")

Length:      approx 1/3 mile

Opened:     1998


Devon Railway Centre Limited
EX16 8RG

Tel:        01884 855671   


Date of visit:     6 June 2015


Key Facts

  • The Centre is built on the site of Bickleigh Station on the South Devon Railway
  • The station closed to rail traffic in 1963 as part of the Beeching Plan
  • The station was bought in 1997 by the Gicquel family who has developed it into the Devon Railway Centre with a group of volunteers.
  • In addition to the 2' narrow gauge railway there is a 7¼" gauge miniature railway, a model village, model funfair, picnic areas, children's play areas, a drive your own train ride, a car ride, cafe, shop and a very fine collection of model railway layouts housed in a former mainline railway carriage
  • The Centre possesses eight narrow gauge locomotives (diesel and steam) and rolling stock.
  • It also has several standard gauge carriages, goods stock and a locomotive.


My Impressions

I was not sure what to expect before I visited the Centre as the website suggests it is geared primarily for parents and children. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the way it has been organised and the range of exhibits on display. There was more than enough to keep a railway enthusiast of pensionable age interested.

My main objective was to view and ride on the 2' narrow gauge railway, which was served by its own platform and station shelter.

The open coaches were quite spacious and appropriate for the service they provided.

Our locomotive on this occasion was Ivor - a modified plate frame Simplex originally constructed in 1944 and now equipped with a Perkins diesel engine and a steam outline superstructure.

We boarded the train and shortly departed, passing the former goods shed which was now in use as a play barn and also an engine shed for the 2' gauge stock.

 Behind the shed. some rolling stock was being stored, including another plate frame Simplex in its original condition.

After passing behind the model funfair, we set off up the Exe Valley with the 7¼" railway running alongside.

 We then turned to the left, revealing the picnic area beside the river.

 Entering the balloon loop, we paused at Riverside Halt to be given a short history of the mainline railway and the station site on which the Centre is built.

We then returned along the original line to arrive back at the main station.

After running round the train, the loco prepared for another departure. The services run quite frequently and the entry ticket permits as many journeys on the railway as you wish.

Beside the 2' gauge station, is the station for the 7¼" railway - which again ran virtually continuously regardless of the number of passengers.

I was particularly interested in viewing the Centre's collection of small industrial diesels, as I was in the process of finishing off a 16mm scale model of a plate frame Simplex. Having discussed this with one of the staff, I was given a private tour to see their unmodified Simplex, so I could take some photos of its finer details.

Other examples of locos are on public display, such as this 1966 Simplex.....

..... this 1939 Hibberd......

.... and these Hudson skips.

I took a great number of closeup photos of many of the exhibits to act as inspiration for my modelling (see Peckforton Light Railway). Of great interest to me was the collection of model railways which were housed in a BR Mk1 carriage beside the original station building, in which is located the Centre's cafe. The standard of modelling was high, and a range of scales was impressive. What impressed me even more was that, unlike other model railway displays I have visited, every button pressed resulted in a working model.

The models on display ranged from 00 modern image.......

.... through Thomas the Tank Engine ..........

...... to representations of miniature railways........

...... narrow gauge .........

 ...... and a minimum gauge estate railway.

 They even house what for me is the foremost 2mm finescale model - Chiltern Green.

 (Apologies for the quality of these photos, they are extracted from video recordings)

There are more railway layouts than is depicted here. Unfortunately, I was pressed for time as we were passing through on our way down to Cornwall and so I was unable to spend as long as I would have wished exploring the rest of the Centre to the full. Sounds to me like a jolly good reason for a return visit, which I will relish.


[In preparation]