A new heritage railway takes shape in the capital.
Not too far from Kempton station and the famed Kempton Park Race Course a new railway is taking shape. Known as ‘The Hanworth Loop’, this is no national network avoiding line, but a new 2ft gauge railway.
The capital city is surprisingly bereft of operating heritage railways. The old Southall Railway Centre presented the only standard gauge steam railway within the Greater London area but is no longer open to visitors. This leaves Kew Bridge Steam Museum, a one-time water pumping station now home to a wonderful collection of working steam engines, with its short 2ft gauge running line which is host to a resident steam locomotive, flying the heritage railway flag for London. Until ‘The Hanworth Loop’ opens.
This new project is being brought to fruition by the Metropolitan Water Board Railway Society. The society was formed with the objective of reviving as much as possible of the 2ft gauge railway which once linked the pumping station at Kempton to that at Hampton on the River Thames. A small base was set up around three years ago beside the old pump house at Kempton which houses the Kempton Great Engines Trust’s restored triple expansion steam pumping engine.
While the ambition of reviving the railway which once served this location remains high on the agenda, the opportunity has been taken to gain experience of track laying, and before too long operating experience, by laying a circuit of 2ft gauge line around a field on another part of the site, to the west of the elevated A316 road.
The progress made thus far was demonstrated during November 19-20 Open Days. Visitors found the trackbed was pretty well completed, block walls for a passenger platform are taking shape and track has been laid over half the length of the circuit. A yard has been developed, where an ex-shipping container serves as a loco shed, and a siding laid to facilitate delivery of materials and rolling stock.
Motive power is presently provided by a neat little petrol-hydrostatic locomotive named Hounslow, built by Science Projects of Hammersmith and on long-term loan to the society. This pulled a short permanent way train which included a workers’ manrider (bought from the Yaxham Light Railway and extensively rebuilt at Kempton) and a flat wagon, while the railway also has an end tipping wagon built by the society to assist ballast laying.
Work is in progress on a passenger coach, based on a bogie vehicle purchased from the Devon Railway Centre a while back. Obviously this needs to be completed – and the remainder of the track laid – before public passenger trains can run. This might be possible next year, although maybe 2013 is the year more likely to see two narrow gauge railways linked to the water industry offering passenger rides in west London.
‘The Hanworth Loop’ is located on Thames Water land and cannot be routinely accessed by the public. Indeed, the entrance to the site access road is controlled by a remotely operated security gate. Visits to the railway, and/or the Great Engines, is only possible on Open Days (visit www.hamptonkemptonrailway.org.uk for details) or by special arrangement.
All of the pictures accompanying this article were taken on such an Open Day, in this case, 19 November 2011.