Most-loved English classic narrow-gauge line

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Calthrop

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If I felt capable of so doing, I’d set up a poll on this subject: but my computer skills are decidedly poor, and do not – without wearisomely bothering people for help – extend to poll-mounting.

Out of England’s few one-time narrow-gauge public lines of the “classic” kind – all, in their real-and-true form, long abandoned – if just one could still be running in complete or near-entirety, at the present day (thus essentially, having been able to hang on until the take-off of the preservation movement): which would be posters’ preference, as the lucky one?

I am taking it that the “old” Ravenglass & Eskdale was basically a “loser”: had it not been taken up for conversion to a 15in. gauge miniature line, it would have fully vanished and ceased to be, quite early in the 20th century. The other five all lasted throughout the 1920s, all but -- most, for longer – the Ashover in fact came into being a fair way into the 1920s.

For me: would “evict” Ashover, and Rye & Camber (charming as they were in their respective ways), seeing them as slightly grotesque “outliers”. I think, though, that I would be completely and undecidably split three ways between Southwold; Leek & Manifold Valley; and Lynton & Barnstaple.
 
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RichmondCommu

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The Duffield Bank railway in Derbyshire would be my choice. I'm pretty certain that one of the loco's has survived. The railway was by all accounts very impressive with a large amount of rolling stock and its own workshops. Sadly all trace of the railway has now gone.
 

Glenmutchkin

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The Duffield Bank railway in Derbyshire would be my choice. I'm pretty certain that one of the loco's has survived. The railway was by all accounts very impressive with a large amount of rolling stock and its own workshops. Sadly all trace of the railway has now gone.

According to Wiki

Shortly after this, in 1916, Sir Arthur died, and the Duffield Bank system was closed. Most of the stock was acquired for the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway which was in the process of gauge conversion. The Eaton Hall railway continued for a number of years, carrying timber and building materials around the estate, until it closed in 1947. None of Sir Arthur's lines now exist, but in recent years, enthusiasts such as the Heywood Collection, have recovered various items of interest.

Of the locomotives, only "Muriel" survives in heavily modified form working on the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway as "River Irt" claiming to be the oldest surviving narrow gauge loco. However, parts of "Ella" survive in the Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway's 4-6-4 diesel locomotive "Shelagh of Eskdale". The line also is home to the remains of "Katie" (mainly the frames), which is currently being rebuilt.

Full article at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duffield_Bank_Railway.

As one who has had an interest in narrow gauge over the years I have always thought of the Duffield Bank line to be a Miniature Railway rather than a proper narrow gauge line.
 

Calthrop

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As one who has had an interest in narrow gauge over the years I have always thought of the Duffield Bank line to be a Miniature Railway rather than a proper narrow gauge line.

I've likewise always felt: 15" gauge (however interesting and engaging) = miniature, not narrow gauge. Anything above 15", to be treated on a case-by-case basis. The Sand Hutton line (18" gauge) was intriguing; but IMO, basically it never came to anything much.

In my perhaps over-purist view, England's "real" narrow-gauge public railways were: the Ravenglass & Eskdale (an outlier, re early expiry and subsequent miniaturising); and then (alphabetical order) Ashover, Leek & Manifold, Lynton & Barnstaple, Rye & Camber, and Southwold. There were a few others, outside the fully-standard frame of reference, which carried passengers at least for a time; but -- maybe owing to too much reading of 1950s-published light-railway literature -- I'm rather wedded to the concept of the above "Famous Five".
 

caliwag

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I would agree about the short-lived Sand Hutton line. It even ran excursion trains on Saturdays for locals with a sort of cafe car which is now (after a spell as a cricket pavilion) in North Lincolnshire. No trace of line nor the countryhouse...Lovely countryside round there though.
 

DerekC

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Lynton & Barnstaple has to be the one I most regret missing. There's no doubt it would be a huge tourist success if it still existed. (PS - not ignoring the new L&B and all credit to them, but I am afraid I won't live to see trains running through to Barnstaple again).
 
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Calthrop

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I would agree about the short-lived Sand Hutton line. It even ran excursion trains on Saturdays for locals with a sort of cafe car which is now (after a spell as a cricket pavilion) in North Lincolnshire. No trace of line nor the countryhouse...Lovely countryside round there though.

Sand Hutton Light must have been a delightful curiosity; but it was, alas, basically "ephemeral".

Lynton & Barnstaple has to be the one I most regret missing. There's no doubt it would be a huge tourist success if it still existed. (PS - not ignoring the new L&B and all credit to them, but I am afraid I won't live to see trains running through to Barnstaple again).

I can't get keen on the new L & B, I'm afraid. One does indeed feel that the original L & B is England's saddest "might-have-been" and nearest miss, of this kind. If only the Southern Railway had hung onto it for a few more years -- it might then have been of use in World War II, thus lasted through that conflict; then just a little longer, and the preservation movement came on the scene.

I at times indulge in wistful fantasies of -- pretty much against all odds -- the Leek & Manifold being the one to survive until the present time: but general impression for me anyway, is that the L & M was an undertaking which never really made much sense.
 

Xenophon PCDGS

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Even before my time (!!) was The Leek and Manifold Valley Light Railway, having a gauge of 2 foot 6 inches. It ran from 1904 to 1934. The line length was 8.25 miles and there were ten stations on the line.

Milk was the main item carried and the line passed through many areas of countryside, which would have been a good tourist facility these days.
 

30907

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Lynton & Barnstaple has to be the one I most regret missing. There's no doubt it would be a huge tourist success if it still existed. (PS - not ignoring the new L&B and all credit to them, but I am afraid I won't live to see trains running through to Barnstaple again).

I agree in terms of tourist potential and even usefulness (though the location of Lynton station wasn't exactly brilliant). In enthusiast terms, though, the 2ft gauge makes it a bit too like the Welsh equivalents. Perhaps the Southwold on the grounds of location and oddity?
 

Calthrop

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Even before my time (!!) was The Leek and Manifold Valley Light Railway, having a gauge of 2 foot 6 inches. It ran from 1904 to 1934. The line length was 8.25 miles and there were ten stations on the line.

Milk was the main item carried and the line passed through many areas of countryside, which would have been a good tourist facility these days.

The Leek & Manifold used 2'6" gauge transporter wagons to carry standard gauge milk tankers which could then be transferred onto the North Staffordshire (later LMS) at Waterhouses.

There are some photos on this website. https://chasewaterstuff.wordpress.com/2010/07/05/some-early-lines-the-leek-manifold-light-railway/

If I understand rightly, the milk traffic was transferred to road in 1932; after which the L & M served little purpose except on the tourist-and-tripper scene (not such big business back then, as now). Its LMS owners abandoned it, as stated above, early in 1934.

I gather that after the L & M's closure, one of its transporter wagons was tried out (re-gauged for the purpose) on the Ashover Light Railway, only some 15 miles away per crow-flight. The experiment didn't succeed: it turned out that transporter-wise, the ratio 2ft. 6in. / 4ft. 8-and-a-half in. worked nicely -- whereas with the Ashover's 1ft. 11-and-a-half in., just a few inches narrower, the transporter-wagon exercise proved basically unstable and unsafe.

Trivia item re the L & M: Butterton, served by one of its stations, is one of Britain's couple of dozen "Thankful Villages" -- all of whose men who went to serve in World War I, came back alive.
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The one I wish re-opened was the Fleetwood Miniature Railway, destroyed by a flood.

I confess to never having, before reading this post, heard of the Fleetwood Miniature Railway (am not greatly into miniature lines). Going to Google -- I find that Fleetwood had two successive miniature railways: a 10-and-a-quarter-inch gauge one, active in the 1950s; succeeded by a 15in. gauge one, closed in 1982. The entry attributed the latter's 1982 closure, to bad incidences of vandalism -- is the inference correct, that the earlier narrower-gauge line was done in by the flood?

This Googling led to a fascinating reference, re British miniature lines in general:

ngruk.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/15-minimum-gauge-railways-chronology-html

The above's heading '15" Minimum Gauge Railways -- a chronology' will, hopefully, deliver.
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I agree in terms of tourist potential and even usefulness (though the location of Lynton station wasn't exactly brilliant). In enthusiast terms, though, the 2ft gauge makes it a bit too like the Welsh equivalents. Perhaps the Southwold on the grounds of location and oddity?

There was much discussion on the matter of the Southwold Railway when we were last visiting that area, but there seemed a great determination that it should not be allowed to proceed.

The Southwold Railway has always exerted a powerful pull on my heart-strings: seemed so quintessentially "narrow-gauge-byway" delightful -- and, poignantly, it closed so very early, and for the next decade just gradually rusted and rotted away -- not being physically done away with, until World War II.

I've wondered quite often: the Leek & Manifold, belonging effectively to the North Staffordshire Railway, was of course taken into the LMS at Grouping. The Lynton & Barnstaple went at Grouping, to the Southern -- for reasons to me at least, less immediately obvious. The Southwold was not merged into the LNER, but stayed independent. How come? -- there must have been reasons at the time, but I wonder what they were?

One goes on to wonder: if the Southwold had been taken into the LNER; would that company have -- a la the Great Western's treatment of the Rheidol -- cherished it as a charming though unremunerative pet, plus being useful tourist-bait; or would they have emulated the LMS with the Manifold, and the Southern with the L & B, and junked it? I'd reckon: for nobody to know, and for the spinners of alternative history, to speculate.
 

Glenmutchkin

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Initially the Southern invested in the L&B, purchasing an additional loco (Lew) and some new rolling stock. Somewhere along the line the accountants must have found out about it.
 

Calthrop

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Have always rather had the feeling that of the "Big Four", the Southern and the LMS tended to be the miserable, soulless, penny-pinching, efficiency-mad, cold-hearted sods; whereas the GWR and LNER were more mellow and relaxed, with more of the human touch. I see quite a parallel re Harry Potter fandom, between Britain's 1923 - 48 Big Four; and the four Hogwarts Houses.
 

Glenmutchkin

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I think that after the Southern made its early decision to go for electrification other parts of the system went hungry.
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
Coincidently I just received an email from the Narrow Gauge Railway Society reminding me that their AGM this year will include an optional visit to various sites managed by the Southwold Railway Trust.
 

GrimsbyPacer

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Calthrop, I was talkimg about the 80s one, a section of track got washed away and it shut soon afterwards. I'm not sure if vandals added to the problem or not.
 

krus_aragon

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Have always rather had the feeling that of the "Big Four", the Southern and the LMS tended to be the miserable, soulless, penny-pinching, efficiency-mad, cold-hearted sods; whereas the GWR and LNER were more mellow and relaxed, with more of the human touch. I see quite a parallel re Harry Potter fandom, between Britain's 1923 - 48 Big Four; and the four Hogwarts Houses.

That's an interesting parallel. Do you have specific pairings in mind?
 

341o2

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Initially the Southern invested in the L&B, purchasing an additional loco (Lew) and some new rolling stock. Somewhere along the line the accountants must have found out about it.

was this investment necessary? Many NG supporters had the opinion that economies might be better. after all, the L&B already had four locomotives
 

Glenmutchkin

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was this investment necessary? Many NG supporters had the opinion that economies might be better. after all, the L&B already had four locomotives

I wasn't around at the time so I'm not able to comment. I posted with a view to demonstrating that the Southern may initially have had quite a positive attitude towards the line.
 

341o2

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Sounds a bit like the Corris, which is my Welsh equivalent to the L&B.

The Corris just survived into nationalisation in 1948 - hence its two last surviving locos became GWR nos 3 &4, then BR then Tallyllyn with the same numbers.

The fate of the line was that the River Dovey was undermining the bridge piers and BR decided to close the line
 

DerekC

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The Corris just survived into nationalisation in 1948 - hence its two last surviving locos became GWR nos 3 &4, then BR then Tallyllyn with the same numbers.

The fate of the line was that the River Dovey was undermining the bridge piers and BR decided to close the line

That's right. The flooding isn't an exact analogy, I agree. I was cheating a bit on the OP's initial question and expanding to Wales. The Corris is the one I regret missing. Mind you, with the Welsh Highland reinstated there aren't many to choose from!

Of course if we were allowed to include Ireland .....??
 

341o2

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reading the OP, would the Isle of Man, both the steam railway and the Groudle Glen line be a contender?

One of my prized books is "On the Narrow Guage" P B Whitehouse 1964 - a highly entertainig read. One of my favourites has to be regarding the L&M which once had a party of schoolgirls on the open platforms of the coaches singing, shouting and making rude remarks about Stephenson's Rocket, etc
the driver bore this in silence until the approach to Butterton tunnel, when he asked for the engine's bucket to be filled with water, threw it onto the fire and opened up the regulator. Party over

Or the wild west Tralee & Dingle variation
 

Calthrop

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Have always rather had the feeling that of the "Big Four", the Southern and the LMS tended to be the miserable, soulless, penny-pinching, efficiency-mad, cold-hearted sods; whereas the GWR and LNER were more mellow and relaxed, with more of the human touch. I see quite a parallel re Harry Potter fandom, between Britain's 1923 - 48 Big Four; and the four Hogwarts Houses.

That's an interesting parallel. Do you have specific pairings in mind?

I see it as:

Great Western = Gryffindor (sp?) -- colourful, dashing, bold in trying out different techniques from those of the rest, popular and inspiring admiration / affection in many.

Southern = Ravenclaw -- intellectually bright, scientifically-minded and analytical folks: exponents of new and advanced techniques, (widespread electrification, and much else) -- clued-up and efficient, but a bit short on empathy and human warmth toward their users.

LMS = Slytherin -- a bit of an unkind and excessive parallel: but the LMS comes across to me as (much like one of its major constituents, the LNWR) very efficient and good at its task, highly results-focused; but even more than the Southern, tending to be lacking in the human touch vis-a-vis the "punters" -- the LMS got a good deal more admiration, than love.

LNER = Hufflepuff -- (the following, despite some high-scoring technical achievements): the LNER strikes me as having treated its public well; and being much liked, but in a slightly amused, gently-ridiculing way -- an impecunious and not-very-lucky outfit which, in a rather muddly way, just-about coped -- weighed down by its great mileage of thoroughly loss-making rural lines.

One of my favourites has to be regarding the L&M which once had a party of schoolgirls on the open platforms of the coaches singing, shouting and making rude remarks about Stephenson's Rocket, etc
the driver bore this in silence until the approach to Butterton tunnel, when he asked for the engine's bucket to be filled with water, threw it onto the fire and opened up the regulator. Party over

I heard -- narrated orally -- a slightly more colourful version of this episode: the same, except that the driver and fireman urinated into the bucket...
 

Taunton

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The Lynton & Barnstaple has a lot of supporters nowadays but closed sufficiently early that few appreciated its issues, principal of which was that all the stations apart from Barnstaple were in the middle of nowhere. This included the Lynton terminus, which was beyond sensible walking distance from the town, along a steep and narrow road with zero pavements (the fact that it's named Station Hill is a bit of a giveaway).
 

Calthrop

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The Lynton & Barnstaple has a lot of supporters nowadays but closed sufficiently early that few appreciated its issues, principal of which was that all the stations apart from Barnstaple were in the middle of nowhere. This included the Lynton terminus, which was beyond sensible walking distance from the town, along a steep and narrow road with zero pavements (the fact that it's named Station Hill is a bit of a giveaway).

Might the Lynton & Lynmouth Cliff Railway not have done something to make this situation better than it might otherwise have been? I visited the "twin towns" last year -- for the first time: long planned, but not hitherto achieved -- found a trip up and down on the Cliff Railway, excellent fun.
 

Taunton

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The Cliff Railway and the old L&B station were on opposite sides of Lynton. I've walked down from Lynton to Lynmouth (never walked the opposite direction; I'm not that silly) and it takes less time than it does to walk out to the old L&B station.

Although the Cliff Railway has a gradient of 1 in 1 (well it feels like it - someone will be along soon to give the actual gradient to two decimal places), the upper terminus at Lynton is by no means at the hilltop, once you walk through the couple of central streets it's still a long uphill plod to the old L&B site, which is why the railway never managed to make it closer to the town.

Bear in mind that the previous L&B station, Woody Bay, was the highest in southern England at nearly 1,000 feet, the L&B just wasn't able to make the complete drop down to Lynton town. The fact that Woody Bay was named after a hamlet down on the seashore when it had this highest elevation gives you some idea of how the L&B stations missed their targets !
 
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