Category Archives: Some Early Lines

Posts about lines and branches which ceased operations – some restored, some sadly lost for ever.


Some Early Lines – LNWR in North Wales

This gallery contains 8 photos.

Some Early Lines LNWR in North Wales Bettws-y-coed station in May 1947 during the last days of LNWR coal tank working.  No.7841 is arriving on the afternoon train from Llandudno Junction.  P.B.Whitehouse North Wales was a happy hunting ground for … Continue reading

Some Early Lines – LNWR & Midland in Ireland

Some Early Lines

LNWR & Midland in Ireland

 A photograph taken in 1950 at Greenore, retaining a very LNWR atmosphere.  The signals and coaches were Crewe manufactured (the coaches still in plum and spilt milk livery).  P.B.Whitehouse


Both the LNWR and the Midland put roots down in Ireland, the former in connection with its steamer service to Greenore (which took passengers to Dundalk where they changed for Dublin or Belfast) and the latter with an extensive system known as the Northern Counties Committee.  Both were 5’ 3” gauge.  The LNWR line had a separate name, the Dundalk, Newry and Greenore Railway, but its engines (Ramsbottom/Webb 0-6-0 saddle tanks with names) and its six-wheeled coaches were exclusively Crewe built; although this was LNWR owned it later became worked as a branch of the Great Northern Railway (Ireland).  The NCC system was much larger, serving Belfast and Londonderry and the port of Larne.  There was one secondary line and branch serving Magherafelt and Draperstown via the north shores of Lough Neagh.  In addition there were some narrow gauge lines (3’ 0”) including that from Londonderry to Strabane where it met the Midland and GNR(I)  jointly owned County Donegal Railways Joint Committee’s tracks went to Donegal town and beyond.  This branch was worked by the CDRJC.

Ex-Belfast & Northern Counties Railway 2-4-0 as NCC No.57 Galgorm Castle at Cookstown Junction with a Magherafelt train on 20th June 1938.  Locomotive and train are in LMS livery.  Note the NCC somersault signal right background.  H.C.Casserley

Some Early Lines – The Folkestone Harbour Branch

Some Early Lines

The Folkestone Harbour Branch


 SR Battle of Britain Class 4-6-2 no 34067 Tangmere

Taunton to Canterbury via Folkestone Harbour.

Possibly the last Steam Train on this line before it is removed. This is a train with a real ‘wow’ factor that any steam enthusiast would not want to miss on a circular tour of over 200 miles hauled by Southern Railway Battle of Britain Pacific No 34067 Tangmere complete with the Golden Arrow regalia. The highlight of the day being the 1 in 30 climb up the soon to be closed branch from Folkestone Harbour.

The Golden Arrow was a luxury train of the Southern Railway and later British Railways that linked London with Dover, where passengers took the ferry to Calais to join the Flèche d’Or of the Chemin de Fer du Nord and later SNCF that took them onto Paris.

Date 12 April 2008.  Tangmere (Golden Arrow) across the harbour bridge.  Uploaded by oxyman.   Author Smudge 9000 from North Kent Coast, England.  This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Folkestone Harbour station is a railway station built to serve the port of Folkestone in Kent, and is one of three stations in the town. It is at the end of the short 1-in-30 Folkestone Harbour Branch Line, joining the South Eastern Main Line at Folkestone Junction. The branch and harbour station provided a rail connection for boat trains from London which connected with the ferry services to Calais and Boulogne.Note the station sign on the left; and further down, on the right hand platform, a weighing machine.  28th June 2008  C Hallam.  This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License.

  The branch and station closed to regular passenger train services in 2001 although the line and station continued to be used by the Venice-Simplon Orient Express (VSOE) and railtours. As of March 2009, Network Rail intend to close the branch, and an association has formed to preserve it as a heritage line.


A branch line was built in 1844 leaving the main line at Folkestone Junction and was double tracked ending with a viaduct across the harbour itself. In 1847, a swing bridge allowed the line to reach the southern pier and, in 1848, the line was passed by the Board of Trade for passenger use. The line was electrified at the same time as the main line during the “Kent Coast Electrification – Stage 2″ in June 1961, and passenger trains were formed of Electric multiple units. Freight services were withdrawn on 17 August 1968.

In 1994, the opening of the Channel Tunnel led to the majority of ferry operators moving to other ports in the South East, with the result that only two services per day were arriving at Folkestone Harbour, to connect with the Hoverspeed SeaCat services. When these were moved to Ramsgate, the station closed to ordinary rail traffic in 2001.

Sometime after 2001, the line was singled for operational purposes, although the disused line is still in situ.

Branch Line

The branch is short but sharply inclined meaning that steam engines had to be banked. For most of its life, its main traffic was freight, with passengers travelling on boat trains direct to London, albeit with a change of direction (reversal) at Folkestone East.Folkestone Harbour Railway Posted On June 19, 2010


Until 2009, Venice Simplon Orient Express operated two scheduled services per week to Folkestone Harbour on its London to Paris route, which ran on Thursdays and Sunday between March and November when the British Pullman service terminated there. Passengers were transferred by coach to the Eurotunnel terminal, where they joined a Eurotunnel Shuttle to Calais to pick up the Orient Express in France.A first train over the new swing bridge view – the Rs were stalwarts of the Folkestone harbour branch – usually 4 were needed for a heavy boat train, and larger locos were not permitted over the bridge.


Folkestone Harbour station is located at the end of a viaduct which separates the port’s inner and outer harbours, which in turn is the end of the spur railway separate from the main line. The proposals for the regeneration of the Harbour area will see additional accommodation built; however, it has been determined that this will not be sufficient to justify reopening the rail link to the Harbour. Due to its infrequent use it has been proposed that Folkestone Harbour be closed permanently, the viaduct demolished, and the track on the rail spur lifted.

On 12 April 2008, a closure ceremony, together with an official last train took place. However, objections had been raised by English, Welsh and Scottish Railway, Department for Transport and Southeastern. During 2008, VSOE still used Folkestone Harbour with its last train travelling on 13 November and a number of rail tours visited the branch. Advertised as the last train, a steam hauled rail tour visited the branch on 14 March 2009.

On 20 March 2009, Network Rail announced they had begun the formal process to close the line and station on cost grounds, having redeveloped Folkestone West with new waiting facilities for the VSOE passengers. However, up to August 2010, the closure process had not proceeded past the statutory ‘mothballing’ stage, making the railway still officially operational. This is to allow protracted negotiations between all interested parties to run their full course to ensure the optimum benefits for the Folkestone Harbour statutory port area and to fully investigate heritage, conservation and other planning issues pertaining to the Shepway District as a whole.

Some Early Lines – Taunton to Minehead Railway – West Somerset Railway

Some Early Lines

Taunton to Minehead Railway

West Somerset Railway

The Origin of the Line

The official confirmation to engage engineers to plan and build the line came in 1857 when the advantages of rail communication with the busy harbour at Watchet and the County Town at Taunton became apparent.

There was some initial difficulty in raising the capital, which delayed the start until 1859, and the commissioning until 1862.

The following extract from ‘The History of the Great Western Railway’ by E.T.MacDermot, M.A. gives a brief description of the origin of the line:

‘The West Somerset Company, promoted chiefly by the local landowners with Sir Peregine Acland for Chairman, was incorporated in 1857 to make a railway from the Bristol and Exeter near Taunton to the harbour of Watchet.  Brunel was retained as engineer, though he himself probably had very little to do with the undertaking, which must have been about the last to be brought out under his auspices.  He was soon succeeded by his chief assistant, R.P.Brereton.  The Directors had much trouble in raising the capital of £160,000, but at last work was begun at Woolston Moor on the 10th April, 1859.  Owing to mainly financial difficulties, it proceeded very slowly and nearly three years elapsed before these 14½ miles of broad gauge single line were finished.  They were opened by the Bristol & Exeter Company, to whom the line was leased in perpetuity on the 31st March, 1862, for passenger traffic only, the goods shed not being ready till August.  The stations between Taunton and Watchet were Bishops Lydeard, Crowcombe Heathfield, Stogumber and Williton, there being none as yet at the junction two miles west of Taunton.’

Norton Fitzwarren station was first constructed in 1873,

The Minehead Extension

As the traffic on the line grew during the early years it became obvious to the Directors of the West Somerset Company that an extension of the line as far as Minehead would increase the business from areas as far afield as Porlock and Lynton.

It was decided that a local company should be set up to deal with the affairs of the new line, and although the work was due to start in1865, financial difficulties delayed the opening for a further nine years.

The ‘History of the Great Western Railway’ by E.T.MacDermot, M.A. recalls:

‘An extension of the West Somerset Railway from Watchet to Minehead was first authorised in 1865 to be made by a local company, entitled the Minehead Railway Company, which, however, failed to proceed with its undertaking and was dissolved in 1870.  It was reconstituted under the same name by an Act of the following year with better results, and succeeded in opening its 8¼ miles of broad-gauge single line on the 16th July, 1874, to be worked by the Bristol and Exeter Company at a rent of half the net receipts with a guaranteed minimum of £2,000 a year.’

The Minehead Company was absorbed in 1897, by which time all its capital had been acquired on behalf of the Great Western.

The Act of Parliament referred to by Mr. MacDermot was mentioned in the Free Press together with details of the activities  and celebrations which took place.

Alteration of Gauge

In 1882 the Directors of the West Somerset Railway authorised the reduction of gauge from the 7ft wide gauge track to the 4ft 8½ins. narrow gauge.

Due to the necessity of completing the work as rapidly as possible, a large number of railway workmen were engaged in the project.

The change-over was successfully completed between the last train on the Saturday evening and the first train on the Monday morning.

West Somerset Railway

On 5 February 1971, a Minehead Railway Preservation Society organised a meeting in Taunton and a working party headed by Douglas Fear, a local business man, was tasked with investigating how the line could be reopened as a privately-owned railway. In May, a new West Somerset Railway Company was formed to acquire the line and operate a year-round commuter service from Minehead to Taunton alongside which a limited summer steam service could also run. A deal was agreed with British Rail to purchase the line with the support of Somerset County Council, however the council was wary of the lucrative Minehead station site falling into private hands should the railway fail. Instead, it purchased the line itself in 1973 and leased back the operational land to the West Somerset Railway Company.

The proposed commuter service never materialised but the line was slowly reopened as a heritage railway. Minehead to Blue Anchor was the first section to see trains restored, opening on 28 March 1976 and services were extended to Williton on 28 August the same year. Trains returned to Stogumber on 7 May 1978 and they reached Bishops Lydeard on 9 June 1979. A new station at Doniford Halt was opened on the coast east of Watchet on 27 June 1987 to serve a holiday camp at Helwell Bay.

In 2004, work started on constructing a new triangle at Norton Fitzwarren which included a part of the old Devon and Somerset line  and a ballast reclamation depot opened there in 2006.  In 2008, a new turntable was brought into use at Minehead.  A new station opened on 1 August 2009 at Norton Fitzwarren on a new site a short distance north of the main line.

For more information go to –

Some Early Lines – Coniston Railway

Some Early Lines

Coniston Railway

Coniston Station December1957  – Cumbria Railways

 The Coniston Railway was a railway in Cumbria, England, linking Coniston and Broughton-in-Furness, which ran for over 100 years between the middle of the 19th to the middle of the 20th century. It was originally designed for the transport of copper ore and slate from the mines near Coniston to the coast and later developed into a line for tourists to the Lake District. The line opened in 1859 and closed in 1962.


The Romans were mining cooper ore in the Coniston area 2000 years ago, and there is evidence that copper was being extracted from the area as long ago as the Bronze Age. Green slate has also been quarried in the area for at least 500 years and there has been a tourist industry for some 200 years.By the middle of the 19th century the copper mines and the slate quarries at Coniston were flourishing, the mines employing 400 men and the quarries were producing an average of 2,000 tons of slate a month. Around this time the Coniston mines were the largest copper mines in the north of England.

Before the railway was built, materials had to be transported in horse-drawn carts to Coniston Water, by barge on the lake, and then again by cart to Broughton-in-Furness. The public had to travel on a horse-drawn “omnibus”. In 1848, hoping for an increase in tourism, J. G. Marshall demolished his inn at the head of the lake and replaced it with a “handsome hotel”. The Furness Railway had opened their line from Barrow-in-Furness to Kirkby-in-Furness in June 1846 and its extension to Broughton in February 1848. The Whitehaven and Furness Junction Railway opened its line from Whitehaven in 1849 and this reached Broughton in October 1850. Also in 1849 the Furness Railway paid £550 (£40,000 as of 2012), to improve the road from Ambleside to Broughton (now the A593).

Planning and building

In November 1849 the railway engineer John Barraclough Fell proposed building a railway with a gauge of 3ft. 3in. from the copper mines at Coniston to link with the Furness Railway at Broughton. John Robinson McClean, engineer of the Furness Railway, reported this to the Earl of Burlington (later to be Duke of Devonshire), the company’s chairman, recommending that the line should be of standard gauge. However no further action was taken at that time.  Interest in the line revived in 1856, and the route was surveyed by George Sanders to plans drawn up by McClean and his assistant, Frank Stileman.

The Coniston Railway Act received Royal Assent on 10 August 1857. The line was initially run as a separate business, although it was closely associated with the Furness Railway, having the same chairman (the Duke of Devonshire) and general manager (James Ramsden). A company was established with a capital of £45,000 (£3,090,000 as of 2012). Tenders were invited and the contract for building the line was awarded to Child & Pickles. Work on building the line started in January 1858, but the contractors became bankrupt in August of that year. The Furness Railway took over responsibility for completing the line. The line was inspected on 25 May 1859 and again on 14 June by Colonel Yolland, the inspecting officer from the Railway Department of the Board of Trade. He identified a number of improvements to be made before he could sanction the opening of the line. The line was opened on 18 June 1859 although the buildings at Coniston railway station were not completed until the end of the year. These buildings were designed by the Lancaster architect E. G. Paley in Swiss chalet style. The extension of the line to the copper mines did not open until 1860. In 1862 the Coniston Railway was amalgamated with the Furness Railway, the Act being placed on the Statute Book on 7 July.


The line ran for 8.5 miles from Coniston to Broughton-in-Furness. At Broughton-in-Furness it joined the Whitehaven and Furness Junction Railway to Foxfield where lines led in one direction towards the west coast of Cumberland (as it then was) and in the other direction via the Furness Railway to Barrow-in-Furness. There were stations at Coniston and Broughton-in-Furness, with intermediate stations at Torver and Woodland. An extension from Coniston to Copper House (for the copper mines) was opened in 1860. From Broughton-in-Furness the line rose steeply, initially up a gradient of 1 in 49, to Woodland. From Woodland it continued to rise, with a maximum gradient of 1 in 77, to Torver. Just after Torver station it reached its highest level and then descended towards Coniston, with a level section just before Coniston station.Coniston Station

Subsequent development

From the outset trains ran from Coniston to Broughton-in-Furness and on to Foxfield and most trains went further, terminating at Kirkby-in-Furness. On weekdays there were four trains each way every weekday and two on Sundays. During the winter months there were only three trains on weekdays. By 1907 there were eight trains each day between Foxfield and Coniston. The “Fleetwood Boat Train” had a connection with the steamer service between Fleetwood and Barrow. Towards the end of the First World War workmen’s trains ran between Coniston and the shipyards at Barrow. In August 1930 there were ten trains running each way on weekdays. In the summer of 1939 a direct train was introduced from Blackpool Central to Coniston. After the Second World War there continued to be about nine trains a day on weekdays. On Tuesdays and Thursdays a through train travelled from Blackpool. Initially on Sundays there were usually two trains a day each way, although by 1922 there were four trains. After the Second World War there were usually only three trains each way on Sundays.

Steam Yacht  Gondola

From the outset of the railway the company were aware of its potential for tourism. In an attempt to attract more tourists to use the line it bought a steam yacht, the Gondola. This was made by the Liverpool firm of Jones, Quiggin and Company at a cost of £1,200 (£90,000 as of 2012), transported in sections by rail, and assembled on the slipway close to Coniston Hall. It was launched on 30 November 1859 and began to run a regular service the following June. Gondola was 84 feet (26 m) long and was registered to carry 200 passengers. In 1900 alterations were made at a cost of £35 (£2,800 as of 2012), removing the smoking room and providing more accommodation for second-class passengers. The boat was taken out of service in 1936. Its engine was removed and sold in 1944, the boat itself was used as a houseboat, and then sunk in the winter of 1963–64. It was later re-floated and acquired by the National Trust in 1978. It was divided into sections and taken to Vicker’s shipyard at Barrow-in-Furness for rebuilding. Gondola was reassembled at Coniston and resumed service in 1980.

Closure and today

In 1957 there were eight trains each day and a survey showed that an average of only 18 passengers were carried on each of these trips. It was estimated that if the line were closed about £17,000 (£310,000 as of 2012), would be saved each year. The line was closed for passenger trains on 6 October 1958. On 27 August 1961 an enthusiast’s train ran on the line pulled by Fowler 4F 44347. Freight services ended on 30 April 1962 and the track was lifted and the other railway structures were removed. The Coniston footbridge was dismantled and re-built at Ravenglass for the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway. Most of the land was sold to farmers along the route. Part of the track bed was used for a new water main constructed in 1974. Other parts of the track bed were converted into footpaths. Most of the bridges were demolished. The station buildings at Torver, Woodland and Broughton, and two of the crossing cottages, were sold to be used as private houses. Coniston station was demolished in 1968 and its site used for industrial units and houses. Gondola continues to run a service during summer months, calling at Coniston Pier, Brantwood and Monk Coniston.

Steam Yacht Gondola

 Gondola is a re-built and renovated elegant coal – fired steam yacht providing the most wonderful, nostalgic sailing experience. She sails daily throughout the summer on Lake Coniston  © Copyright George Ford and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Some Early Lines The Rye and Camber Tramway

Some Early Lines

The Rye and Camber Tramway

The Rye and Camber Tramway was an English narrow gauge railway in East Sussex. It was of 3 ft (914 mm) gauge. It operated from 1895 until 1939, connecting Rye to the nearby coast at Camber. It was a short line, only about 13⁄4 miles (2.8 km) in length, and had three stations – Rye, Golf Links and Camber Sands. It operated mainly to transport golfers from Rye to the nearby golf links and holidaymakers to the coastal dunes.

Tramway lines in the road

The remains of the 3′-gauge Rye & Camber Tramway remain embedded in the concrete in places along the track from the road to the old station TQ9419 : Golf Links station and the Harbour Office SD5869 : Loyn Bridge  © Copyright Richard Law and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

 This railway was constructed between January and July 1895 and ran entirely on private land. The track gauge of 3 ft (914 mm) is relatively unusual amongst British narrow gauge railways. It was the first designed by consulting engineer Holman F. Stephens who went on to build and run small railways all over the Country.

The line was originally built to convey golfers to the Rye Golf Club and ran from Rye station to the golf club. In 1908 the first extension to Camber Sands station was opened and the intermediate station renamed “Golf Links”. The position of the distant Camber terminal was moved to a more accessible site and a tea hut was opened at the end of Summer 1938, however this only used for a few months as the war intervened the next year.

Although initially quite successful, increasing competition from automobile and bus transport eventually caused the tramway to enter a gradual economic decline, as was the case with many small railways. Passenger service was ended at the outbreak of World War II but was extensively used by the Government to convey parts for the P.L.U.T.O. (Pipe Line Under The Ocean) project for which a special siding leading to a new pier near Golf Links Station was constructed by Canadian troops.

The line was in such a run-down a condition by the end of the war that it was deemed irrecoverable and was sold for scrap in 1947. The Rye & Camber Tramways Co. Ltd. was liquidated in February 1949.

Rolling stock

 The Rye and Camber Tramway, Laurie Cooksey, Plateway Press, 1995

 There were two small Bagnall steam locomotives, “Camber” and “Victoria”, but in later years a small petrol locomotive was used exclusively.

The tramway had two enclosed carriages and several locally built four wheel trucks which were used to convey sand from the beach for local builders. Several short term temporary sidings were constructed at the Camber end for this purpose, where the dug out dunes can still be seen.


A number of relics, including the frame and bogies of one of the carriages, can be seen at the Colonel Stephens Museum at Tenterden.Golf Links station

The 3 ft gauge Rye and Camber Tramway once ran here – the rails are still in the concrete. The station building has since had the canopy enclosed.  © Copyright Robin Webster and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.


Golf Links station building still survives virtually intact. Some track is still embedded in concrete along the trackbed in the vicinity of the station as the trackbed was used as a roadway during wartime. Most of the route of the trackbed from Rye to Camber is a footpath, although a short section has been destroyed by gravel workings.

The line has a prominent part in several novels by Rye resident E.F. Benson.


Some Early Lines The Launceston Steam Railway Narrow Gauge

Some Early Lines

The Launceston Steam Railway

Narrow Gauge

A train pulled by the steam locomotives “Velinheli” and “Lilian” enters Launceston Station on the Launceston Steam Railway, England.

 Date 2006-06-03 (original upload date)  Source Transferred from en.wikipedia; Transfer was stated to be made by User:oxyman.  Author Original uploader was Chicken pie at en.wikipedia  Permission  (Reusing this file)   This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic license.

The Launceston Steam Railway is narrow gauge railway operating from the town of Launceston in Cornwall. The railway is built on the trackbed of the North Cornwall Railway to the gauge of 1 ft 11 1⁄2 in (597 mm) and runs for 2½ miles to Newmills, where there is a farm park.


Standard gauge railway

The first railway to reach Launceston was the Launceston and South Devon Railway, opened in 1865 from Launceston to Plymouth, and later absorbed into the Great Western Railway. In 1886 the London and South Western Railway opened its railway from Halwill Junction, extended to Padstow in stages in the 1890s, and later part of the Southern Railway. The two Launceston stations were side by side: the Great Western closed in 1962 and the Southern in 1966.Launceston Railway Station, Cornwall

The station is on the narrow gauge Launceston Steam Railway. © Copyright nick macneill and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Narrow gauge revival

In 1965, trainee teacher Nigel Bowman rescued the steam locomotive “Lilian” from the Penrhyn Slate Quarry in North Wales, and restored her to working order at his home in Surrey. He then set about looking for a site to build a railway for Lilian to run on, and settled on Launceston in 1971, after considering a stretch of trackbed from Guildford to Horsham and the Lynton & Barnstaple Railway. Purchase of the trackbed took several years, and the first ½ mile of track opened on Boxing Day 1983. The railway was extended progressively, the latest opening to Newmills in 1995 bringing the line to its current 2½ mile length.Steam Engine at Launceston

Taken at the Launceston end of the short railway line. The engine is steaming up before setting off down the track.  © Copyright Mick Heraty and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

  The LSR starts at a new station just west of the original LSWR station, which is now an industrial estate. Launceston station is the main station on the railway, and the sheds and engineering facilities are located here. The line runs from the station through a cutting, passing under a road bridge and aqueduct carrying a mill leat, before crossing the River Kensey on a two-arch viaduct. The line is now on an embankment and crosses a bridge over a farm track before arriving at Hunt’s Crossing, where it is planned to lay a passing loop. After Hunt’s Crossing the line crosses two farm crossings and then reaches Canna Park which was the temporary terminus before the extension to Newmills. From Canna Park there is a fairly short run to Newmills, the terminus. Adjacent to the Newmills station is the Newmills Farm Park.

 Steam Engine at Newmills

End of the short railway line from Launceston to Newmills, steam engine waiting at the platform.  © Copyright Mick Heraty and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Some Early Lines – Burry Port and Gwendraeth Valley Railway

Some early Lines

Burry Port and Gwendraeth Valley Railway

An unusual engine at Severn Tunnel Junction Locomotive Depot Ex-Burry Port & Gwendraeth Valley 0-6-0 Saddle Tank No. 2192 ‘Ashburnham’ is in the yard east of the Depot, probably on its way to or from Swindon for repair. This was one of 15 engines absorbed by the GWR from the BP&GVR in 1922, all but one of which survived into Nationalisation, this one (built in 1900) until 3/55.  Date 15 April 1951 Source From Author Ben Brooksbank Permission  (Reusing this file)  Creative Commons Attribution Share-alike license 2.0

 The Burry Port and Gwendraeth Valley Railway (properly the Burry Port and Gwendreath Railway owing to a spelling mistake in the Act of Parliament creating the railway) was a 21-mile (34 km) long railway progressively opened between 1859 and 1891 as a coal carrier.


The railway ran largely on the route of an earlier canal built by Thomas Kymer to bring coal down the valley. It also operated dock facilities at Burry Port, Wales. The railway was poorly managed in the nineteenth century and often bankrupt. Increasing traffic at the turn of the century and intelligent management transformed it as a business and Holman Fred Stephens was employed as a consultant in 1908 to reconstruct it to legalise its unofficial carrying of passengers. The necessary legislation was obtained in two Light Railway Orders in 1909 and 1911. Stephens supervised re-construction and re-equipment over the years up to 1913 after which he had no further connection.

The Burry Port & Gwendraeth Valley Railway

The Burry Port & Gwendraeth Valley railway was built in the late 19th century primarily to carry coal from collieries in the Gwendraeth Valley. In 1909 it was officially converted to carry passengers (though it had done so illegally for a number of years previously). Passenger services eventually ended in 1953 but the line remained open to serve collieries until 1996 when it was closed. Tracks are still in place for most of its length from where it branches from the West Wales line to Cwm Mawr, though in many places the tracks are now completely covered with shrubs and weeds. This picture s taken off the A484 Kidwelly bypass.  © Copyright Hywel Williams and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.


The railway itself split from the south Wales main line near Llanelli, actually joining via the Llanelli & Mynydd Mawr Railway and then followed the same general path as the main line with stations at Burry Port, Pembrey (both separate to the mainline stations), before turning up the valley and calling at Craiglon halt, Pinged, Trimsaran Road, Pont Newydd, Pontyates, Ponthenry and Pontyberem as well as the mine at Cwm Mawr. A separate branch ran from Kidwelly where the Gwendraeth Valley railway met the south Wales main line through Ty Coch, where it became the Burry Port and Gwendraeth Railway. There were plans originally to extend the railway up through the valley beyond Cwm Mawr to join the now defunct link between Carmarthen and Llandeilo at Llanarthney.

Various small branches from the Burry Port and Gwendraeth Valley Railway fed out to the collieries and small villages like Rhiwlas and Llandyry.


The railway was absorbed by the Great Western Railway in 1922 and in turn by British Railways in 1948. Throughout its lifetime the railway kept an unusual style. The fact that part of it was built down the old canal route meant that the line was not only prone to flooding but had low bridges and sharp curves. This always posed a problem to the railway operators as very little rolling stock could traverse the line safely. The original passenger stock was primarily second hand, including ex Metropolitan Railway stock and four-wheelers. The Great Western condemned almost all of the existing coaches on takeover and replaced them with four-wheel GWR S11, S17, T32 and T59 coaches from the 1890s. Only in 1939 did the railway acquire new GWR coaches, specially built to diagram D129 and C80, slightly narrower than the standard suburban bogie coaches and 18 inches lower.

A non-standard 0-6-0T inside Llanelly Locomotive Depot Ex-Burry Port & Gwendraeth Valley Railway (later GWR) 0-6-0T No. 2198 was built in 1910 and not withdrawn until 3/59; it was one that never acquired a name.  Date 7 April 1958 Source From Author Ben Brooksbank Permission  (Reusing this file)  Creative Commons Attribution Share-alike license 2.0

 Despite the problems passenger traffic lasted until 1953. The freight service continued far longer and coal traffic continued until 1996 when the Cwm Mawr loading point closed down. In later years the restrictions on the line meant that British Rail maintained several specially height reduced shunters to pull the coal trains down the line as well as brake vans with the stove chimney cut down to clear the bridges. For a long time two or even three Class 03 shunting locomotives would make the slow trek down the valley with thirty coal wagons in tow, often down a line that was several inches under water. The class 03 locomotives were chosen as the alternative Class 08 locomotives had electric transmission and there were concerns that they would be damaged by floodwaters. In 1983 British Rail reopened an alternative route to bypass the flood prone parts of the route which were then closed (Railway Magazine Jan 1984 p31). Once the alternative route was opened the cabs of some Class 08 locomotives were cut down (to fulfil the same role as the Class 03s) because the line was still incapable of supporting normal freight locomotives or even un-modified shunters.

Closure and preservation

Most of the track was lifted by 2005 with the track between Burry Port and Trimsaran Road lifted much earlier (as the freight trains used the Kidwelly route). There has been some discussion of preserving the railway however the tight clearances and light construction of the line would be a problem. The costs however of preserving the entire line were, at that time, prohibitive. Parts of the route can be walked as part of the Pontiets (formerly Pont Yates) mining heritage trail. Preservation of the railway at Pontyates has now begun. Much of the group’s railway stock is in storage at the Pontypool and Blaenavon Railway.

 Redundant level crossing, Pontyates

For a location shot, see Link . This is on the disused Burry Port and Gwendraeth Valley Railway, which ran from near Llanelli to Cwm Mawr. Constructed to transport coal from local mines, it also carried passengers until 1953, and there was a station at Pontyates. The line closed in 1996 when the mines ceased operating. However, a group of enthusiasts has already started restoration work on part of the railway, and hope to be operating trains again in the near future Link .  © Copyright Rose and Trev Clough and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Some Early Lines – The Nidd Valley Light Railway

Some Early Lines

The Nidd Valley Light Railway

From the Chasewater Railway Museum

The Nidd Valley Light Railway, was a light railway in upper Nidderdale in North Yorkshire, England. It was owned by Bradford Corporation Waterworks Department and the Corporation also operated its public passenger services. As far as the Waterworks Department was concerned, the railway’s primary purpose was to carry goods, materials and labour to construction sites high in the Nidd valley, where two large reservoirs were built at Angram (1904-1919) and Scar House (1921-1936). However, the 6-mile stretch of line between Pateley Bridge and Lofthouse-in-Nidderdale was constructed under the terms of a pre-existing Light Railway Order of 1901, taken over by Bradford Corporation in 1904, which obliged the Corporation to operate a public passenger service between those two places. Passenger stations were provided at Pateley Bridge, Wath, Ramsgill, and Lofthouse, which was the public passenger terminus of the line. The station also possessed a modest yard where wagons were assembled for the steep climb to the reservoir sites, a further 6 miles up the valley. The industrial 0-6-0T locomotives used by the Corporation and the contractor, John Best & Sons of Edinburgh, could take only 3 – 4 loaded wagons each up the grades to the reservoirs, so even quite short trains had to be banked.

Nidd Valley Light Railway. 1920s.

Goods train blasting up the incline between Lofthouse and the construction site at Scar House reservoir, at times the gradiant touched 1 in 40 hence the need for serious power, here the train is seen with four locomotives, two at the front, two at the back.  Photograph. H.G.W. Househould.

The NVLR was opened in 1907, closed to passengers on the last day of 1929, and was closed completely in 1937.

Nidd Valley Light Railway. Wath. 1928.

On the descent from Ramsgill, and approaching Wath station – Ex GWR railcar ‘Hill’.  Photo. H.G.W.Household.

Some Early Lines – Hawkhurst Branch

Some Early Lines

Hawkhurst Branch

The Hawkhurst Branch Line was a short railway line in Kent that connected Hawkhurst, Cranbrook, Goudhurst and Horsmonden with the town of Paddock Wood and the South Eastern and Medway Valley lines, a distance of 11½ miles (18½ km).Nº31543 at Horsmonden with the 8:20 a.m. Hawkhurst to Paddock Wood service on 21st May 1961.  Photograph: A. E. Durrant/Mike Morant collection

The opening of the main line of the South Eastern Railway (SER) from Redhill to Folkestone via Ashford in 1843 followed by the construction of a line to Tunbridge Wells and Hastings via Robertsbridge, and a branch from Robertsbridge to Ashford in 1851 formed a triangle enclosing a large tract of the Weald well-known for its hops and fruit. Despite this, the SER were not particularly interested in linking the area with its expanding railway network, preferring instead to wait for local individuals to take the initiative and construct a line, and then step in when the operation ran into financial difficulties.

Nevertheless, the SER did take an interest once their rivals the London, Chatham and Dover Railway (LCDR) seemed likely to encroach into traditionally SER territory. Various schemes were put forward by the SER from 1844, none of which came to fruition. The Weald of Kent Company Act was obtained in 1864 and authorised the construction of a line from Paddock Wood to Cranbook and Hythe, but no works were carried out – the bankruptcy of the LCDR in 1866 saw the project shelved.

In 1877 the independent Cranbrook & Paddock Wood Railway Company secured the passing of the Cranbrook and Paddock Wood Railway Act which authorised the construction of a single track line from Paddock Wood to Cranbrook. The Company reached agreement with the SER that construction works would commence once £25,000 had been raised from local residents, with the SER contributing a further £50,000 if this target was met. By April 1878, only £11,000 had been found. This had not improved by February 1879, but it was nevertheless decided to commence provisional works, which quickly ground to a halt once funds were still not forthcoming. Notwithstanding this impasse, the Railway Company obtained a further Act of Parliament on 12 July 1882 which authorised an extension from the village of Hartley near Cranbrook to Hawkhurst. Although it had been originally intended for the line to cover the two miles from Hartley to Cranbrook, the sums demanded by local landowners made this plan unrealisable without SER support. It was therefore decided to site Cranbrook Station at Hartley.

Nº31278 at Edenbridge on 9th September 1961, also with the 8:20 a.m. Hawkhurst to Paddock Wood service.  Photograph:A. E. Durrant/Mike Morant collection

The various changes to the route proposed by SER required two further Acts of Parliament: the South Eastern Railway Acts 1887 and 1892. The latter Act ensured that the section between Goudhurst and Paddock Wood would be built on a “cost-saving” basis. Construction works eventually commenced in Spring 1890. Edward Seaton was appointed as engineer to oversee the works, whilst the 22 year old Holman Fred Stephens was resident engineer, having just completed his education and training with the Metropolitan Railway. The contract to build the line was awarded to J. T. Firbank who was at that time the Metropolitan Railway’s contractor for their line between Aylesbury and Quainton Road. Due to the difficult terrain and to save costs, it was decided in 1892 that the terminus of the line would be at Gills Green, a mile or so to the north of Hawkhurst. It was also proposed that the line continued from Gills Green to the Lydd Railway Company’s Appledore station on the Marshlink Line, but no progress was made.

The line was officially opened on 1 October 1892 from Paddock Wood to Goudhurst, then named “Hope Mill Station (for Goudhurst and Lamberhurst)”. However, the Kent Messenger reported on 17 September that the line had already opened to passenger and goods traffic on Monday 12 September, with the first train, a Cudworth E1 class 2-4-0 No. 112 draped with a Union Jack, leaving Hope Mill at 8.25am. All passengers were allowed to travel free to and from Paddock Wood. On 4 September 1893 the section from Goudhurst to Hawkhurst was opened.

Now the railway was operational, the residents of Cranbrook came to regret that they were not directly connected with the line and, in September 1893, offered to guarantee the SER the cost of constructing a “light line” from Hartley, including the costs of acquiring the necessary land. The estimated costs were put at £10,000 but the line was never built.

The Cranbrook & Paddock Wood Railway Company was absorbed into the SER on 29 January 1900.