7" gauge in the garden

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7¼" gauge in the garden

Weymouth Miniature Railway, Dorset - 10" gauge

 

My Mother's aunt lived in Weymouth on the British south coast, and during my school summer holidays we used to regularly spend a week at "the seaside". I remember visiting the line at least once in the early 1970s.

  • I am always interested to receive more information and / or photos of the line, so please drop me an email if you can help me.

History

In 1947 David Curwen was approached to build a 10" loco for a railway at Hilsea. The owner wanted a pacific-type loco (4-6-2) and they settled on a design similar to an LNER A-1 class. "Curly" (the well known engineer who wrote in the British magazine Model Engineer) had described a loco of this type, calling it HIGHLAND LASSIE. The loco had Baker rather than Walschaerts valve-gear so was not totally accurate, but it was built to be rugged rather than a finescale replica. David and Richard Ripley (who were in business together and traded as Baydon Miniature Railways Ltd. - BMR) decided to build a second loco for themselves and numbered it 2647; at some later date it was named ROBIN HOOD.

David and Richard then set about trying to find a site to establish a passenger-carrying railway and found Weymouth Council were receptive to their ideas. This resulted in a line being built on the western side of Radipole Lake. The railway was constructed on land that had been reclaimed by filling in part of Radipole Lake and at one point it passed under the former Great Western Railway's line to Portland; this is clearly visible in the photos below. Drivers on the GWR/BR invariably exchanged "whistle salutes" with the miniature locos.

The line of about 1,100 yards was originally built as an out-and-back line from Westham Car Park to the terminus adjoining the Abbotsbury Road. Until the turning loop was completed, trains ran out to the terminus and then pushed the train back to the starting point. The line had a turntable built upon the base of an old searchlight and also had semaphore signals and a locoshed. The 80' long station building was moved to Weymouth from Southend-on-Sea.

BMR also managed to obtain a concession to operate boats on the lake after a few seasons. These were built at Baydon and used Stuart Turner marine engines for propulsion.

The line was successful, though with a relatively short operating season (about four months) and the maintenance required on the locos, it was never really profitable. Records indicated that in 1950 about 100,000 people were handled, but in 1954 BMR decided to run the business down and the line was taken over by T.R. Newton who lived locally and had been with the company for a few seasons. Mr. Newton bought ROBIN HOOD and BLACK PRINCE, five passenger carriages and the ten boats. Sometime between 1963 and 1968, Mr. Newton sold it to Chipperfield's Circus who were the owners until its closure in 1982; the area has now been redeveloped. (See notes and credits)

Footnotes

BMR also operated a short-lived 7" track alongside the harbour which was never a success; it was all too easily vandalised by drunken sailors.

Reminiscences

I have received a number of emails concerning the line which I would like to share:

 

The following information is courtesy of Patrick Henshaw:

"Some time after the line closed Lee Anderson (who had run a line at Longleat House) set up a short 15" track from the original station, with a siding to an engine shed, and bought or hired a large diesel loco to haul about three open coaches. I think his idea was to have a base in the town while he tried to obtain approval for a much more ambitious line on the track of the Portland Branch. This was to be a 15" railway with overhead electric propulsion and multiple unit trains. Although the Council showed some interest the capital required would have been huge, and the scheme faded. The Radipole loco went to Cricket St. Thomas, where it ran for a while as a thatched cottage, in some sort of "Mr. Blobby" theme. It is still there, though happily now in a more railway-like dark green."

 

Email from Grant Lovett dated 6th Feb 2010:

John

Really enjoyed reading about the miniature railway in Weymouth which I rode on many times as a boy ...[snip]... I remember when ever I went there "Black Prince" was always the loco in steam with Robin Hood parked outside the shed. Finally on only one occasion was Robin Hood in steam and I had my one and only trip behind her.

"Black Prince" was indeed painted black but had the window frames on the cab painted red.

I remember the trip started off going between the fair rides and the water and there was always a very noisy generator on the fair site but once the train was passed it things got quieter and you could hear and smell the engine and feel a bit as if you were in the countryside. Then it was round a large circle and then back to the station

Regards

Grant

 

Email from Graham Wiltshire dated 6th Feb 2010: (this and the email above curiously came in on the same day)

Dear John,

I have just come across your web site "WEYMOUTH MINIATURE RAILWAY". I thought you may be interested to learn that my father went up to Newbury at the request of David Curwen and worked for him building "ROBIN HOOD".

Father's name was Ken Wiltshire, and when the engine was built father was asked if he would like the job of driving the loco, maintaining and looking after it. As our home is Weymouth father jumped at the chance to work with the engine, which resulted in literally thousands of visitors and locals taking a lakeside trip on the railway.

I spent all my school holidays with my Dad for most of my younger years.

I recall that when the line opened first it was a question of a pull up the lakeside to the end of the track, and reversing the loco and carriages back to the station. I can't remember when, but a parcel of land was acquired beyond the end of the line, and my father spent the entire winter fencing the area off and laying new track in a loop which enabled the dead end to be coupled to the loop via points set to straight ahead with a spring loaded return to come off the loop and back onto the single line, coming back to the station with the loco in front. Passengers then got off the carriages the engine was uncoupled taken onto a slip line and reversed onto the turntable, turned and reversed back to head the train out of the station.

The photo on your web page shows my father at the controls of Robin Hood and standing by the engine shed is my mother who took the fares and issued tickets.

KIND REGARDS

Graham Wiltshire

 

Locomotives

ROBIN HOOD (2647 renumbered 2001 in 1959)


ROBIN HOOD in early 2009 after restoration by Joe Nemeth Engineering Ltd
Photo courtesy of Joe Nemeth and used with permission

The first locomotive at Weymouth was David Curwen's LNER-type pacific number 2647 built in 1947. (David's builder numbers at this time were day, month, year of completion, so 2647 was 2nd June 1947). The locomotive was later named ROBIN HOOD.

ROBIN HOOD is known to have once taken a nose-dive into Radipole Lake when she was left "in gear" and ran off the turntable. Help came from the local army camp and the sappers used lifting equipment to get her out of the lake. Damage was apparently slight as she was back in service the following day.

ROBIN HOOD went on to operate at Audley End and then later on the Oakhill Manor Miniature Railway (CLICK HERE to view a photo of ROBIN HOOD at Oakhill Manor).

When the Oakhill line closed in 1987, the loco went in to storage in the hope that a buyer for the whole railway could be found. When no buyer surfaced, Joe Nemeth Engineering Ltd. bought the loco (and other equipment) and restored it.

If anyone can tell me when 2647 was named ROBIN HOOD I would love to hear from you.

2005 (Named BLACK PRINCE upon arrival at Weymouth)


BLACK PRINCE in 1966
Photo courtesy of Geoff Whitmore and used with permission

In 1948 a Mr. Briggs of the Bognor Regis Miniature Railway approached David Curwen to build two more pacifics. David felt that a pacific-type had too long a coupled-wheelbase for amusement park lines (which tended to have sharper curves) so settled on an atlantic (4-4-2). As the loco no longer resembled any specific British design, David gave the locos an American-outline.

David eventually made a total of six locos to this design, two of which David and Richard kept for their own use. One of these ended up at Weymouth.

Supplied new to the Skegness Miniature Railway in 1952, 2005 was moved to Weymouth by August 1953. She was worn out by 1971 when bought by Jack Doyle of Manchester.

2005 has since operated at Loughborough and on the Isle of Mull. As of March 2008 she is named WAVERLEY and is based on the Rudyard Lake Railway in Staffordshire.

A photograph of WAVERLEY on the Isle of Mull Railway shows her as rebuilt with a more British outline.

MERRIE ENGLAND (2006)

Another of the atlantics, and also built in 1952, MERRIE ENGLAND went to Weymouth in 1953 painted in cream. (She was also fitted with streamlined shrouds). She was named after Weymouth Council's liaison officer Mr. England.

By 1964 she had been sold to a private owner in Sutton Coldfield who later moved to Aberystwyth (taking the loco with him). Status unknown as of 2008.


 

Other locos

The internal-combustion loco shown here was the only locomotive built by Universal Engineering of Bournemouth and, apparently, wasn't a success.

I have received an email that suggests there was a diesel-powered, steam-outline loco (possible an A4 pacific) running in the early 1970s. Can anyone substantiate this?

Rolling stock

I have very little information on the rolling stock, other than there were five bogie-coaches with simple, slatted wooden seats.

The image to the left is an enlargement of part of the postcard showing MERRIE ENGLAND.


 

Photos

So far I have only managed to locate a handful of photographs of the line (other than in The Miniature Locomotives of David Curwen - see below).

  • Nick Tozer sent me the following two images he believes were taken in 1972. You can clearly see the Great Western / British Rail line in the background.

Click on the image to view it full-size

The internal-combustion loco built by Universal Engineering of Bournemouth

Click on the image to view it full-size

The turntable was built on the base of a World War II searchlight

Click on the image to view it full-size

Click on the image to view it full-size

ROBIN HOOD on the turntable at the Westham Car Park end of the line
Photo courtesy of Jeff Lloyd

Jonathan Whitehead, at the controls of ROBIN HOOD.  He had moved to Weymouth on retirement in the mid 60s from his job as a West Yorkshire locomotive driver, and decided to downsize as a retirement activity
CLICK image to view full-size

Two photos from David Wood and used with permission
CLICK image to view full-size

 

I have also found a few photos of the railway on Flickr. Though of poor quality I am including links to them for completeness:

 

Postcards

This old postcard shows the Weymouth Miniature Railway in the bottom right corner.

Click on the image to view it full-size

The locomotive is ROBIN HOOD (2647)

See Reminiscences above

Click on the image to view it full-size - Postcard sent to me by John Drew

This shot clearly shows the slatted-seat rolling-stock

Click on the image to view it full-size. This is MERRIE ENGLAND

Click on the image to view it full-size. Ken Wiltshire driving with his wife leaning against the station building.

Notes and credits

There is a lot of relevant information and several photographs of the line in the book The Miniature Locomotives of David Curwen, Little & Holroyde, published by the Narrow Gauge Railway Society, ISBN 978-0-9554326-1-3

Available from Camden Miniature Steam Services (www.camdenmin.co.uk)

RECOMMENDED

  1. CAUTION: Some of the history unearthed so far seems to be somewhat contradictory. I make no claim that the information I have quoted is 100% accurate, however, much of the information has been confirmed from different sources. Remember, just because it is published on the Internet or in a book does not necessarily mean it is correct.
  2. I would like to thank Malcolm Hardy-Randall who has researched some information from the Weymouth public library on my behalf.
  3. David Henshaw, the editor of Miniature Railway Magazine, is building a 7¼" gauge line at his home near Weymouth and managed to acquire one of the original lattice-post signals from the Weymouth Miniature Railway.
  4. Though the railway was officially closed in 1982, a visitor in 1970 noted that it appeared derelict and vandalised. It is possible that the line was abandoned before it officially closed.
  5. Deon Taljaard sent me a copy of an article he believes was published in The Heywood Society Journal on Baydon Miniature Railways Ltd. which also included some information on the Weymouth Miniature Railway. Deon is also working on a list of the past and current whereabouts of the Curwen atlantics and other early 10" gauge Curwen locos.
  6. Thanks to Patrick Henshaw for the information on the subsequent 15" gauge line.
  7. Another line was built (date??) around the Lodmoor Country Park and named "Rio Grande Railway". It is also 10", but does not use any of the equipment from the Weymouth Miniature Railway; it is operated by a steam-outline, diesel-hydraulic Denver & Rio Grande 2-8-0 built by Severn Lamb. There are three photos of the "Rio Grande Railway" on weymouth-pictures.co.uk: Photo 1, Photo 2, Photo 3

 

 
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