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Thursday, 11 October 2018

The Gartell Light Railway

In a nutshell

Gauge:         2' (610 mm)

Length:       ¾ mile (1.2 km)

Opened:     1991


Common Ln,

Tel.:          01963 370752


Date of visit:     30 September 2018


Key Facts

  • The railway is owned privately by John and Christine Gartell
  • It is open through the main summer season (March to October), usually on the last Sunday of each month and on Bank Holidays
  • The line is run by volunteers and the owners
  • The main terminus for the railway is at a former farm adjacent to the now closed Somerset and Dorset Junction Railway. The line then joins the old trackbed of the railway by a flying junction.
  • On Open Days, there are usually three locomotives and trains in steam, with departures every 20 minutes.
  • The railway is fully signalled, with signals and signal boxes rescued from various parts of the country.
  • At the time of writing, the railway has five locomotives: two steam locos, built locally for the line, and three diesels acquired from Southend Pier Railway, Baguley & Drewry and Alan Keef Ltd.
  • In addition to the passenger stock, the railway also has some interesting goods rolling stock, built specially for the line.
  • There is a large restaurant with a good selection of hot and cold food, including gluten free cakes. There is also a small shop with a range of souvenirs, secondhand books and magazines and modelling items.


My Impressions

Wow!! What an interesting little railway! This railway is an Enthusiasts' Delight and a credit to the owners and the band of volunteers who run it.

My initial impression, after turning down an insignificant little country lane, was how well laid out everything was and how well organised and efficiently everything was being run. There was a large car park with easy access to the main station, where we paid our modest entrance fee and surveyed what was on offer in the restaurant. The menu wasn't extensive but more than sufficient to meet our needs - I opted for the all day breakfast which was well cooked and served on a generous plate.

I then made my way across one of the two footbridges to the departure platform.

I boarded the train and waited a short while before we received the off.

 My loco was the line's bo-bo diesel hydraulic, Amanda (previously from Southend Pier but rebuilt in the line's workshops).

We stormed up the 1:32 gradient, passing under the main line, ........

 ...... and then climbed parallel to the main line up the 1:50 gradient .......

..... to pull into Pinesway Junction.

Here, intriguingly, the loco ran round its train, .....

....and another train pulled in alongside us. After a pause, both trains pulled out together, the other train descending the 1:50 while we climbed the 1:38 gradient on the mail line to the flyover

..... where we passed over the other train.

...... which then proceeded onwards to  the main station at Common Lane.

We pressed on and shortly arrived at Tower View, .......

..... where we halted and the loco once more ran round its train.

After a few minutes' wait, we departed .......

 .....  descending the main line, passing over Common Lane Level Crossing, ......

..... passing over the flyover ..........

..... and on through Pinesway Junction without stopping.

We then struck out into open countryside ..........

...... before pulling into Park Lane.

 ..... where I alighted to watch the loco running round.

A few minutes later, .......

...... and we were off once more, ascending the 1:132 gradient back towards Pinesway Junction.

Another train was awaiting us as we pulled in.

 As previously, both trains waited a short while and then pulled out together. We descended, while the other train climbed ........

 ..... until we passed beneath the flyover.

We then pulled back once more at the main Common Lane station.

 After a cuppa in the restaurant, I made my way over the meadow to Pinesway Junction where I was in time to see Amanda and one of the line's two steam locos, North Dorset Loco Works, Mr G departing in parallel

A few minutes later, Amanda 'hurtled' non stop through the station beneath the railway's impressive signal gantry.

After a wait of about ten minutes, the line's second steam loco, No. 9 Jean, powered up the gradient from beneath the flyover hauling the Pines Express.

After running round, ........

..... Amanda pulled in from Park Lane.

The two trains pulled away simultaneously,  with Amanda dropping down and Jean rising up over the flyover.

It was then Jean's turn to race through the station .......

...... before Mr G, was heard and seen charging up the 1:32 gradient from Common Lane station with John Gartell at the regulator.

After watching her arrive and run round ......

 ...... I was treated to the spectacle of two steam locos pulling away in tandem.

I then went back down to Common Lane station to watch a few train movements ........

 ....... and inspect the rolling stock in the sidings. The Baguley Drewry 0-4-0 diesel hydraulic (Andrew) was an impressive looking loco......

 .... and the railway's collection of good rolling stock was charming, .......

..... beautifully constructed ........

....... and utilitarian.

After browsing the shop and purchasing some secondhand model railway magazines for a modest sum, I bade my farewell to this wonderful little railway.

I would certainly like to return one day. Everyone I encountered was welcoming, helpful and busy. Trains departed every twenty minutes and so it would have been possible to travel the railway behind al three locomotives had I wished, and it was possible to visit the signal cabins by request. The sounds of the locos was constantly backgrounded by the clunk of signals - a very satisfying sound.

This is a gem of a railway which has clearly been created and is maintained with loving care and exquisite attention to detail. There is plenty to occupy and maintain the interest of both the casual visitor and the ardent enthusiast.


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