Category Archives: Some Early Lines

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

Some Early Lines – Mid-Suffolk Light Railway

Some Early Lines

Mid-Suffolk Light Railway

The Mid-Suffolk Light Railway (aka The Middy) is a heritage railway in Suffolk, which in its heyday it was a branch line which ran for just 19 miles (31 km) from Haughley to Laxfield, Suffolk. The line became part of the London and North Eastern Railway in 1924 and the last trains ran on 26 July 1952. The Railway is now both a heritage railway and preservation museum run by a small but dedicated band of volunteers. The Mid-Suffolk Light Railway is currently the only steam preservation railway in Suffolk. There are plans to extend in each direction along the line.


The line was intended to run from Haughley to Halesworth, with a second branch running from Kenton station to Westerfield near Ipswich. The Mid-Suffolk Light Railway, or Middy as it became affectionately known, was built to provide transport to the rural Suffolk communities who had no reliable transport links. It was built in accordance with the 1896 Light Railways Act, which allowed for cheaper construction methods in return for a speed restriction of 25 mph. The railway was built as cheaply as possible: the buildings were constructed using corrugated iron, and the route followed the natural contours of the land to minimise the need for embankments and bridges. The section from Haughley to Laxfield was completed and open for passenger traffic. Beyond Laxfield the line was built for approx mile to Cratfield over which an occasional freight train was run but the section fell into disuse. Some earthworks were begun between Cratfield and Halesworth but these were soon abandoned with now no evidence remaining. The section of about two miles of the branch from Kenton to Westerfield was completed as far as Debenham and a few goods trains were run but this also was soon abandoned. Some sections of trackbed and embankments still survive.


The railway was built too late, long after the great railway boom that had affected the country in the Victorian age, and soon came into financial difficulties. The planned railway had troubles from the very beginning, having disputes with the neighbouring Great Eastern Railway (GER) and local landowners. The railway was bankrupt before it opened. It was pure determination that kept the Middy running. The Railway opened to freight traffic in 1904 with the hope that this would bring in enough income to complete the line, but by 1908, although the line was making an income, it still was not enough to cover its original debts and for work to continue. Finally on Tuesday 29 September 1908 the line was opened to passengers with two trains in either direction on weekdays, but this failed to bring great trade as many of the stations were sited miles from the communities they were meant to serve.

  London and North Eastern Railway

In 1924 the Middy lost its independence and was grouped together with the London and North Eastern Railway (LNER), but apart from the replacement of second-hand rolling stock, the railway continued as it always had done. The railway’s original LNER Class J64 locomotives were replaced by LNER Class J65 or “Blackwall Tanks” which were eventually replaced by the older but stronger LNER Class J15.

The passenger traffic began to decline over the next couple of decades as more people bought motorcars and goods traffic was increasingly going by road. This all changed with the beginning of the Second World War. With petrol rationing, the Middy became an important transport link and with US airbases built near the Mendlesham and Horham stations, the line was relied upon for transporting military equipment and regularly used by American serviceman. The war brought more traffic to the line – both goods and passengers – as the railway became important in helping the war effort. This all came at a cost to the railway. No effort was made to maintain the rolling stock or the line itself, like the rest of Britain’s railway network.

British Railways

After the war the Middy entered into the ownership of British Railways in 1948. Although business was dwindling and the line was in a state of neglect and decay after being exhausted during WW2, the line became an attraction for enthusiasts and railway management due to the picturesque landscape through which the railway ran; and its informal atmosphere. The end of the war meant a surplus of ex-army lorries which took away the agricultural business, the main source of income for the line. The Middy eventually closed in 1952, 44 years after it had opened for passenger traffic.

Nearly 40 years after it closed, a group of enthusiasts formed a Company to recreate the Middy on the site of the Brockford and Wetheringsett railway station, now the corner of a large field.

The Mid-Suffolk line closed on Saturday, 26th July, 1952.  Here is the 11.15 am from Haughley headed by a sparkling clean J15 class 0-6-0 No.65447 climbing the 1 in 42 out of Haughley.  There are four, instead of the usual two coaches to accommodate enthusiasts.  G.R. Mortimer

The task ahead

The Mid-Suffolk Light Railway Society had an ambitious task ahead of them due to the temporary nature of the original line. As far as is known, no coaches or locomotives of the Middy are still in existence and the corrugated iron buildings were either left to rust or sold to become farm sheds. However, the Company has been recreating typical scenes from the Middy’s past by using restored coaches and wagons that would have run on its bigger neighbour, the Great Eastern Railway, and its successor, the London & North Eastern Railway. The Society has been able to collect a number of Great Eastern coaches, two are now in working order, with many more under restoration. The museum has also been able to collect the remaining station buildings from former Middy railway stations.

Non-railway artifacts

The one aim of the society which makes it stand out from any other railway museum is that they are not just interested in getting a locomotive and coaches and taking passengers up and down the line. Goods wagons, road going railway delivery vehicles and line side artifacts are given just as much care and attention as the main attractions.

Another aim of the society is to bring together an archive of photos and original artifacts from the working life of the Mid-Suffolk Light Railway. Many of these are on display at the museum.


The museum operates from April to the end of September on Sundays and Bank Holidays, with Santa specials in December. Most of the Open Days have a Special Event to accompany the running of the steam locomotive.

A full list of the events and activities can be found on the Mid-Suffolk light railway society’s web site.

Mid Suffolk Light Railway Museum

The small railway museum at Wetheringsett, Suffolk. First started in the 1990s collecting has meant a good variety of items. Now including many articles of pre-grouping rolling stock mostly of Great Eastern Railway origin. Steam is the main form of traction with Hawthorn Leslie 0-4-0ST Falmouth Docks and Engineering Co. Loco No. 3 running services.   © Copyright Ashley Dace and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Some Early Lines – Kinver Light Railway

Some Early Lines

Kinver Light Railway

Kinver Light Railway


Locale Kinver, Amblecote

Open 4 April 1901  Close 1 March 1930  Status Closed

Kinver Light Railway Tram Terminus, Mill Lane, Kinver

Date: 1901 – 1920 (c.)   Description: Kinver Light Railway opened on 5th April 1901 and ran between Mill Lane, Kinver and the Fish Inn, Amblecote.

The railway began to decline after World War One and the line closed in 1930, after the arrival of regular bus routes and motor coach services.  Source: Kinver Library


Gauge  3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm)

Propulsion system(s) Electric

Depot(s) Hyde Meadow, Kinver

Route length 4.19 miles (6.74 km)

The Kinver Light Railway operated a passenger and freight tramway service between Amblecote and Kinver between 1901 and 1930.

View of a tram on the Kinver Light Railway

 Date: 1902 – 1906 (c.)  Description: The railway provided improved links to Kinver, that helped make the village into a tourist trap known as the ‘Switzerland of the Midlands’. On Whit Monday 1905 is was recorded that the railway carried 16,699 passengers into Kinver.  The railway also enabled people to live in Kinver and commute to the towns for work.  Source: Mr Bills, David


The Kinver Light Railway was a subsidiary of British Electric Traction. They acquired the Dudley and Stourbridge Steam Tramways Company in April 1898 and applied for permission to build a tramway from Amblecote to Kinver.

The route ran from outside the Fish Inn at Amblecote where it had a connection with the Dudley, Stourbridge and District Electric Traction Company tracks. After passing Wollaston and Stourton, it arrived in Kinver.

Passenger service started on 4 April 1901. Although parcels were carried on passenger services from the outset, from September 1903, goods trailer vehicles were attached behind service cars for freight.

The company was taken over by the Dudley, Stourbridge and District Electric Traction Company in 1902 for the sum of £60,000 (£4,830,146 as of 2012).

The company made significant money from its freight operation. Substantial quantities of milk were carried, such that occasionally passenger vehicles were commandeered for freight use.

Tram pictured at the Hyde depot

 Date: 1901  Description: Inspector Edward Morris is pictured here standing on the right, with a driver and conductor.  Source: Mr Bills, David

 In film

The Sheffield Photo Company produced a film in 1904 entitled A Ride on the Kinver Light Railway. It was directed by Frank Mottershaw, a pioneer film maker.


The services finished on 8 February 1930, a victim of competition from motorbus traffic, and the final closure took place on 1 March 1930.

Approaching the Hyde, Kinver Light Railway, Kinver

 Date: 1901 – 1920 (c.)  Description: This is an example of one of the most popular views of the Kinver Light Railway. The tram can be seen here travelling alongside the Staffordshire & Worcestershire canal and approaching The Hyde.  Source: Kinver Library

Wikipedia & Staffordshire Past-Track

The Cannock Chase Railways (1948)

The Cannock Chase Railways (1948)

This article was taken from the ‘Railway Magazine‘ of November and December, 1948, price 2/- (or 10 pence if you prefer!). I thought that it would make a change to see an article written about railways of Cannock Chase while they were still working.

The large and important Cannock Chase Colliery area in Staffordshire began to be developed about the middle of the 19th century when John Robinson McClean, the Engineer and Lessee of the South Staffordshire Railway, the Engineer of the broad-gauge railway between Birmingham and Wolverhampton, and also the Promoter and Engineer of the South Staffordshire Water Works Company, obtained a large mining concession from the Marquis of Anglesey.  McClean was a man of restless enterprise.  Coal had been worked profitably at Norton-under-Cannock and McClean successfully demonstrated its existence under the Chase itself.  The first railway in the area was the South Staffordshire railway, which opened its line from Walsall to Lichfield and Wichnor Junction (on the Midland Railway) on April 9, 1849, and the coal traffic brought on to the railway from the Cannock Chase district was a principal factor in its success.

In 1854, the Great Western railway endeavoured to obtain Parliamentary Powers to construct a mixed gauge line from Wednesbury to the Cannock Chase coal pits, but failed as a result of opposition from the South Staffordshire Railway, after which no further effort to extend the broad gauge in the Midlands was ever made.  The South Staffordshire already had secured powers to build a line to Cannock and in 1855 an Act was secured for the Cannock Mineral Railway authorising the construction of a 7½ mile line from Cannock to Rugeley on the Trent Valley line.  The South Staffordshire Railway opened its branch from Walsall to Bloxwich and Cannock, and also the Norton Branch , on February 2, 1858, and the Cannock Mineral Railway was opened from Cannock to Rugeley on November 7, 1859.

The Cannock Chase Railway Act of May 15, 1860, authorised the Marquis of Anglesey to construct lines: (a) from the junction with the Cannock Mineral Railway, near Hednesford to Coopers Lodge; and (b) from Coopers Lodge to Heathy Leasons (just beyond the Wimblebury Road), to be so constructed as to allow the Birmingham Canal to connect its Littleworth Tramway.  The railway was not to be used for the carriage of passengers except by consent of Parliament.  Under agreement dated June 29, 1861, the Marquis of Anglesey sold the undertaking to the London & North Western Railway Company, and the line was constructed by the LNWR and opened on October 7, 1862.  The arrangement was sanctioned by the LNWR (Additional Powers) Act of 1863 which empowered the LNWR to agree with the Marquis of Anglesey (or owner) for the transfer to it of the Cannock Chase Railway, which transfer was approved by the proprietors of the LNWR in August, 1863.

Until March, 1867, the line was worked by LNWR engines, but subsequently, by arrangement with the railway company, the line was worked only by Cannock & Rugeley Colliery engines as between Hednesford and Coopers Lodge.  The section between the latter point and the Littleworth Tramway was worked over by both the Cannock & Rugeley Company’s and the Cannock Chase Company’s engines.  An agreement of October 6, 1908, between the LNWR and the Cannock & Rugeley Colliery Company permitted the colliery company to run trains over the branch for the conveyance of its officials, workmen, colliers and other employees at such times as the railway company should approve.  At present a three-coach set is run once each way daily over the branch from Hednesford to Cannock Wood Pits.  The arrangements and agreements entered into by the colliery undertakings with the railway company have been vested in the National Coal Board since January 1, 1947.

The Littleworth Tramway, to which reference is made above, was built in connection with the Cannock Extension Canal.  The canal was authorised by the Cannock Extension Canal Act of 1854 (17 & 18 Vic. Cap. 112) and was completed to the Hednesford Basins in the summer of 1862.  It appears that the Littleworth Tramway was built at the same time, and it was probably opened simultaneously with the Marquis of Anglesey’s Cannock Chase Railway on October 7, 1862.  The Littleworth Tramway was constructed by the LNWR, but the cost was repaid by the Company of Proprietors of the Birmingham Canal Navigations, and the tramway became the property of the canal company as from July 1, 1865.  As may be seen from the map, the tramway took the Cannock Chase Branch Railway to within a short distance of the Norton Branch of the LNWR, but the two were unconnected.  As it was felt that the construction of a short link between the two would be of great benefit in developing the coal traffic of the district, the railway company secured powers under the LNWR Act of 1880 to build and maintain the Littleworth Extension.  The LNWR thereupon made an agreement of December 6, 1880, with the Cannock Chase Colliery Co. Ltd., under which the Littleworth Extension was built, and the colliery company guaranteed certain minimum traffic receipts, and worked the line up to Littleworth Junction with the Norton Branch, as well as working the Littleworth Tramway.  Subsequently, the Cannock & Rugeley Colliery Co. Ltd. also arranged to work its traffic through from Rawnsley to Littleworth Junction.

To serve the interests of the Cannock Chase Company, the idea of providing a link with the GWR was again raised, and a separate company called the Cannock Chase & Wolverhampton Railway Company was incorporated by an Act of July 19, 1864, to build a line 10½ miles long between Cannock Chase and Wolverhampton (GWR).  On July 16, 1866, a further Act was secured, authorising 5¼ more miles, namely, from Cannock Chase to Hednesford, where a connection would have been made with the South Staffordshire Railway.  In common with many other railway promotions of the period, a considerable portion of the scheme was never carried into effect, but about 11 miles of single track was eventually built, radiating from Chasetown, and extending to Anglesey Sidings and New Hayes, with a branch to the Walsall Wood Extension of the Midland Railway near Brownhills.  No record appears to have been preserved of the exact date that the various sections of the Cannock Chase & Wolverhampton Railway were opened but the ‘main line’ from Anglesey Sidings (junction with the South Staffordshire line of the LNWR) to New Hayes appears to have been brought into use about 1867.

At Coopers Lodge Junction near New Hayes a physical connection was made with the Cannock Chase Branch of the LNWR permitting traffic to be worked through.  The Walsall Wood Extension of the Midland Railway from Aldridge to Brownhills was opened on July 1, 1884, and it appears that the link with the Cannock Chase & Wolverhampton was made at this period.

Passenger traffic has never been worked over any section of the Cannock Chase & Wolverhampton Railway and its activities are confined almost exclusively to conveyance of coal from the Cannock Chase group of collieries.  The line however is equipped with a system of semaphore signalling.

McClean 0-4-2ST Beyer Peacock 28-1856 Cannock Chase Colliery Co 7-9-1946

Three classes of locomotives are in use on the Cannock Chase & Wolverhampton Railway, the oldest of which comprises four 0-4-2ST engines built by Beyer Peacock & Co., between 1856 and 1872.  The first of the series, now believed to be the oldest British locomotive still in service, was described by Mr. H. C. Casserley in The Railway Magazine for November-December, 1946.  0-4-2ST Foggo Built Chasetown 1946 from parts supplied by Beyer Peacock

The design has been perpetuated recently in a locomotive embodying only minor modifications.  (Foggo).

No.6. 0-6-0ST Sharp Stewart 2643-1876

In 1876 an 0-6-0ST engine was purchased from Sharp, Stewart & Co.  A different design of 0-6-0ST (making the third class) was built by Kitson & Co., in 1913.  At the Cannock & Rugeley Colliery there are eight 0-6-0 tank engines of varying design, built between 1866 and 1917 and one 2-4-0 tank engine, built in 1888.

Griffin 0-6-0ST Kitson 5036-1913

Some Early Lines Miniature Railways – Trentham Gardens

Some Early Lines

Miniature Railways – Trentham Gardens

 Italian Garden

© Copyright Kevin Rushton and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

2012 Miniature Train Rides

Meet The Trentham Fern our resident diesel engine which runs along the lakeside on a light gauge railway. Look out for special appearances from Trentham Fern’s friend the steam train. Both engines are sit-astride miniature passenger trains.

It’s £2 (in addition to garden admission) for a round-trip setting off from the Lakeside Activity Area, where the Miss Elizabeth sets sail from too.

History: Miniature Railway, Trentham Gardens.

Date: 1975 – 1980 (c.)

Description: The miniature railway carried passengers to the outdoor swimming pool.

Trentham Hall was built in the 1630s for the Dukes of Sutherland. The Caroline house was replaced in the early eighteenth century by one in a Classical style. Capability Brown and Henry Holland worked on the landscape and hall between 1768 and 1778.

The house was redesigned in an Italianate style in the nineteenth century by Sir Charles Barry, who also laid out Italian gardens to the front of the hall.

Trentham Hall was abandoned by the family as a permanent residence in 1905. In 1910 the Duke of Sutherland offered the hall to the County of Staffordshire and the Borough of Stoke-on-Trent. The offer was refused and the building was demolished, apart from the west front and stable block. The tower was re-erected on the Sandon Hall Estate.

The grounds were opened to the public, and today have been developed as an exhibition, conference and leisure centre.

Trentham Gardens, Staffordshire, formerly the estate of the Dukes of Sutherland, has been a favourite with visitors since the Victorian era. A 2ft. gauge miniature railway opened in 1935, with petrol-powered steam outline locomotives. Its popularity in the 1950s can be seen in this photograph.

 Trentham Gardens Loco

Technical Details:

Builder: E.E. Baguley, Burton No.: 2085

Weight: 4 tons Year: 1935   Livery: Red Tractive effort: 60 hp

Golspie is a steam-outlined, but originally petrol-engined 0-4-0 built by E.E. Baguley in 1935. Delivered new to the Duke of Sutherland’s Trentham Gardens, it became one of three similar locos on the mile-long line.

In 1938, Golspie received a new 3-speed gearbox and the original Baguley petrol engine was replaced by a Perkins 4.270 diesel engine of around 60 hp. The railway regrettably closed at the end of the summer season in 1988 and was largely moved to Alton Towers, although the first loco Brora travelled north to Dunrobin Castle in the Highlands. Golspie, by now named The Trentham Express, was never used at Alton and was stored in the open, being stripped of a few spares, but otherwise it remained a very original machine. The loco arrived at Amerton on 9th May 2000. Here it is pictured in the shed awaiting attention and being examined by Barry Bull of Chasewater Railway Museum. The staff at Amerton Railway are more than capable of restoring the loco to its former glory as can be seen in the picture of another elderly steam outline loco ‘Dreadnought’.

Technical Details:

Builder: E.E. Baguley Ltd, Burton No.: 3024  Weight: 3 1/2 tons Year: 1939

Livery: Blue Tractive effort: 18 hp

This steam outline locomotive was ordered by Mr. R.J. Lakin and delivered new to Wilson’s Pleasure Railway, Allhallows-on-Sea, Kent in 1939. Originally fitted with a Ford petrol engine of 24 hp, it was named No. 1 Dreadnought. The loco is an 0-4-0 with a 2-speed gearbox driving the front axle via chains and with traditional coupling rods to the rear axle. Just after the war the loco moved to the pier at Walton-on-the-Naze, Essex, where in 1952 it was re-engined with a Lister FR2, and later still with a Lister SR3.

The loco was purchased and moved to Amerton on 13th September 1991, and since this time has been rebuilt to something approaching original condition, but still retaining its modern Lister SR3 engine. The loco is fully air-braked, and as such is suitable for passenger train operation.

Early in 2000 the original gearbox was overhauled, it being in remarkable condition other than general wear. She re-entered traffic in April 2000.

Trentham Gardens

Enjoy Trentham Gardens all year round

Whether you’re looking for a garden with peace and quiet, or fun and action you will find it here at Trentham.

The new-look gardens have matured into some of the finest in Britain, to be called by Alan Titchmarsh – no less – as “one of the UK’s must-see gardens“.

In September 2010, the Gardens won one of the most prestigious European gardening awards, for the “Restoration, Enhancement or Development of a Historic Park or Garden”.

The contemporary revival of the famous Italian Gardens was led by renowned designer and multi-Chelsea gold-medal winner Tom Stuart-Smith.

To the east of the Italian Gardens are the Rivers of Grass and the adjacent Floral Labyrinth. Both these schemes were designed by eminent Dutch plantsman, and Chelsea gold-medal winner, Piet Oudolf.

The show gardens offer further inspiration to gardeners on a more domestic scale.

But Trentham is so much more than just a garden… bring your family to enjoy the great outdoors, the playground, barefoot walk, maze, boat and train rides.

Trentham Gardens is open everyday except Christmas day.

Hot Autumn colours simmer as light softly hits the planting amongst the 70 flower beds in the Italian Gardens whilst the swathes of coloured grasses in the Rivers of Grass, make a staggering impact.

During the winter months, beautiful seed heads with strong structure and texture are like glistenening frosty jewels. This stunning planting is left standing proud until mid January.

In spring the garden bursts to life with a fabulous bedding display in the Upper Parterre, a wondrous sea of gold, comprising 60 thousand daffodils in the Marie Curie Field of Hope, and a dazzling display of bluebells in the woodlands.

Early summer sees the tall bearded iris display perform with over 120 different cultivars providing a kaleidoscope of colour. The heady scent of the 90 metre long David Austin Rose Border will draw you towards our Trellis Walk.Miss Elizabeth

Miss Elizabeth is a pleasure boat that travels the length of Trentham Lake, within Trentham Gardens in North Staffordshire.  © Copyright Phil Eptlett and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Some Early Lines – The Stratford-upon-Avon & Midland Junction Railway

Some Early Lines

The Stratford-upon-Avon & Midland Junction Railway

 A nice view of the station taken the year before it closed to passenger services.  The view is looking from the western end of the station.  Note the engine shed in the centre and the turntable far right.  D.J.Norton

The Stratford Upon Avon & Midland Junction Railway (SMJR) was a small independent railway company which ran a line across the empty, untouched centre of England. It visited the counties of Northamptonshire, Warwickshire, Oxfordshire and a little of Buckinghamshire, only existing as the SMJR from 1909 to 1923 . In 1923 the SMJR became a minor arm of the London Midland and Scottish (LMS), then in 1948 ‘British Railways’.

The SMJR came into being from the amalgamation of ‘The East & West Junction Railway’ (E+WJR), ‘The Evesham, Redditch and Stratford Railway’ (ER+SR), and changing its name to ‘The Stratford-upon-Avon, Towcester and Midland Junction Railway’ (ST+MJR), ‘The Easton Neston Mineral and Towcester, Roade and Olney Junction Railway’ (ENM+TROJR). In 1910 ‘The Northampton & Banbury Junction Railway’ (N+BJR) was amalgamated into the SMJR and as the SMJR the company ran services between Broom Junction and Stratford and Banbury to the west through Towcester to Blisworth and Olney in the east, fashioning itself as ‘The Shakespeare route’.

This picture is looking east towards Fenny Compton and shows the water column and associated frost fire to help avoid freezing in the winter.  Note the hump in the line where there is a road bridge close to the signal.  D.J.Norton


The line’s original raison d’etre (that of conveying ironstone to the ironworks of South Wales) was ended when cheap Spanish ore displaced that from the Northamptonshire quarries. This brought about financial problems, and for a time in the 1870s the E&WJR was in the hands of the receiver. By 1911, however, the line was showing a reasonable profit.

Lias limestone was conveyed from the Ettington Lime Works; but from the early 20th century it became important as a through route for freight of all kinds between the West of England and London. One such freight working was the express banana train between Avonmouth Dock and St Pancras.

Remains of Byfield railway station in 1963

Passenger services generally on the SMJR were sparse, with often just three or four trains a day. For some months in 1932 experiments were carried out on the SMJR with a Ro-Railer – buses converted to run on rails — although these were not successful and the service was withdrawn in June 1932.

Woodford and Hinton Station on 14th July 1951 with a special train behind LMS 4F No.44057 – P.B.Whitehouse

After the closure (1947) the Broom Junction to Stratford section, Stratford (Old Town) was the terminus of this wandering branch which made an end-on connection with the Great Western’s lines from Birmingham and Hatton Junction.  Its extremities met the Midland at Broom Junction (Birmingham-Redditch-Evesham-Ashchurch), the Great Central (main line) at Woodford, the Midland (Northampton-Bedworth branch) at Ravenstone Wood Junction, and the LNWR (main line) at Blisworth.  After the coming of cars and buses these cross-country passenger train links were little used though they ran until 1952.  For one short glorious period in BR days through freight to South Wales made the lines busy, but rationalisation in the 1960s soon put paid to this.  Total closure took place in 1965.

A good colour view of the site showing the signal box, station buildings and shed (far right).  Note another water column close to the signal post in the centre.  D.J.Norton

Some Early Lines – LNWR in South Wales

Some Early Lines

 LNWR in South Wales

Nantybwch on the Abergavenny to Merthyr ‘Heads of the Valleys’ line on 19th August 1950 showing (left) a train arriving from Newport and Tredegar and (right) a train for Abergavenny, both behind the then standard motive power: LNWR 0-6-2 cola tanks.  Trains from Newport terminated here and the locomotives for the branch were shedded at Tredegar. – P.B.Whitehouse

 South Wales plus its coal were magnets which attracted the LNWR very strongly but the problem (with the GWR and the South Wales independents already ensconced) was how to get there.  The company had two main aims, the first to get into Newport and Swansea, the other, black gold.  In the event this was achieved by the construction of the long Central Wales line from Craven Arms on the Shrewsbury to Hereford route, under the Sugar Loaf to Swansea and, by the Heads of the Valleys route from Abergavenny through Brynmawr to Merthyr.  There was a change for Newport at the isolated Nantybwch Junction, trains ran down via Tredegar.  Today it is virtually all gone, with only the Central Wales line open with a desultory passenger service.  It was LNW and GWR joint from Llandovery to Llandilo.

A shot from the footplate of a Fowler 2-6-4 tank on the evening train to Craven Arms approaching Sugar Loaf from Llandovery. – P.B.Whitehouse

A train from Newport and Tredegar about to enter Nantybwch on 19th August 1950 behind LNWR Webb 0-6-2 coal tank No.58933.  This is a Saturday afternoon strengthened set of four coaches making a heavy load for this small engine up the gradients to the valley head.  The leading vehicle is an old LNWR eliptical roofed non-corridor dating back to the 1890s.  By the look of the peeling paint it had been used on miners’ trains, which did not provide the acme of comfort.

A Bescot (3A) shedded LNWR Super d 0-8-0 No.49064 a long way from home in Nantybwch on 19th August 1950.  Note the tender cab for adverse weather conditions.  The train is an afternoon working from Merthyr to Abergavenny Junction whilst in the branch platform to the left is the connection from Newport behind Webb 0-6-2 coal tank No.58933.  The first coach is an ex-Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway vehicle.  – P.B.Whitehouse

Abergavenny Junction on 8th September 1952.  Webb 0-6-2 coal tank No.58888, one of the last two to be steamed, shunts prior to moving up the line to Nantybwch and Brynmawr.  At that date a further eight other coal tanks were ‘stored’ awaiting despatch to Crewe for scrapping. – P.M.Alexander


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.

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