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Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Bursledon Brickworks - Hampshire Narrow Gauge Railway Trust

In a nutshell

Gauge:         2'

Length:      1/3 mile (475m)

Opened:     1994

Location:   



Bursledon Brickworks Industrial Museum
Coal Park Lane
Swanwick
Southampton,
SO31 7GW

 

Date of visit:     23 September 2018

 

Key Facts

  • The railway at Bursledon originated with the formation of the Hampshire Narrow Gauge Railway Society in 1961. It's main purpose was to purchase and rescue and rebuild a Bagnall saddle tank locomotive from a slate quarry in Blaenau Ffestiniog, and to set up a narrow gauge railway in Hampshire.
  • The society transformed into the Hampshire Narrow Gauge Railway Trust in 2006, based at the Bursledon Brickworks Museum, where it now has a collection of locomotives and equipment rescued from various industrial locations around the country.
  • The Bursledon Light Railway has four operational locomotives; two steam - Wendy (the original Bagnall loco), Cloister (a quarry Hunslet loco from Dinorwic Quarry in North Wales); and two Simplex Motor Rail internal combustion locos - Agwi Pet (from a refinery in Fawley) and Brambridge Hall (used on the construction of Winchester Bypass).
  • The railway also has a miscellaneous collection of goods rolling stock and a couple of passenger carriages.
  • The railway operates during special events through the year coincidental with events organised by the Bursledon Brickworks Museum. See http://www.hngrt.org.uk/events_bbim.php or http://www.bursledonbrickworks.org.uk/events.php
  • There are refreshments available at the adjacent Brickworks Museum cafe and ample parking. The trains are wheelchair accessible.

Route

 

My Impressions

My visit to the railway coincided with a WW1 re-enactment day at the Brickworks Museum and so there were soldiers in WW1 uniforms wandering around together with a pipe band performing at regular intervals (you will be able to hear some of their music in the background on the video).

After parking and paying our modest entry fee, we spent an hour or so looking around the Brickworks museum, which is fascinating as it is the only steam powered brickworks still operational in the UK. I had no prior conception of the brick-making process and so by the end of my wanderings, I was considerably wiser and much impressed.

The machinery was powered by a horizontal mill engine built in 1885 by Woods & Sons of Wigan and is very much in working order. This is one of four working stationary steam engines at the site - only two of which were operating when I visited.

 This engine powered one of the brick clay rolling and extruding machines - the clay would have been loaded in through a hopper at the top of the machine and fed through the rollers .......

..... to be extruded as a rectangular block which was then sliced with cheese wires into individual bricks. These were taken by barrow to be stacked in the drying rooms and then on to the kilns. And, basically, that was the brick-making process.

Another machine was used to press clay into wooden moulds, for decorative or shaped bricks ....

.... and there were some really impressive educational exhibits, such as this model of the mill engine which allows children (and adults) to figure out the the role of key components needed to make the valves operate the piston, which in this case is powered with compressed air.

There were many other artefacts on display, including demonstrations of brick-making by hand ...

..... and of various tools of the trade.

But of course, what really interested me was the railway - which would, of course, originally have been used (together with an aerial ropeway) to transport raw clay from the quarries to the brickworks. Some of the sheds and workshops for the railway were adjacent to the museum and gave a tantalising glimpse of the equipment owned by the Hampshire Narrow Gauge Railway Trust.

I made my way to the station where the loco and coach were sitting awaiting passengers. Unfortunately, the line's principal Simplex loco was experiencing a few technical problems at that moment, ......

...... and so, the slightly less powerful alternative Simplex loco was pressed into service.

The rain stopped and the passenger trains resumed service as the sun broke through the clouds. We were taken firstly up the line ......

..... and were then propelled back down past the station, before heading up the other arm of the U-shaped track. We then returned to the station where another enthusiastic group of passengers were waiting.

I then spent another hour or so, watching further trains taking delighted passengers back and forth; the original loco having been repaired.

The Trust has made the most of the site, squeezing the maximum amount of track into the available space. A spur, running alongside one of the arms of the passenger track is used mostly by goods traffic to display some of the railway's freight stock.

The right-hand section of the 'main line' meanders through the trees and past some of the workshops behind the car park, so there is plenty to see on the short journey.

I really enjoyed my morning at the Bursledon Brickworks. The museum itself is very well laid out with a good range of exhibits and plenty of well informed and helpful staff on hand to explain the brick making process and the role of various bits of machinery and architecture.

The railway itself is of extreme interest to anyone who is enthusiastic about industrial narrow gauge railways. The combination of a passenger train ride, together with an opportunity to see freight trains in operation, makes for a pleasant and informative experience. The staff were extremely welcoming and helpful, answering every question with enthusiasm and knowledge.

There is also a passenger carrying 7¼" gauge railway for the young and the young at heart.

Video

[In preparation]