Published 24th June 2012
Seaside Miniature and minimum gauge railways long tradition continues this summer at Cleethorpes.
A trip to Cleethorpes by rail offers the opportunity to relive the railway elements of a traditional British bucket and spade holiday. The main line terminus is right there beside the sea, a moderate walk south along the promenade (or perhaps you might prefer to use a ‘road train’ for the bit between the pier and Leisure Centre) will be rewarded by arriving at Kingsway station.
This is where a 15in gauge Cleethorpes Coast Light Railway train will carry you on through a seaside park past a boating lake to Lakeside station with its tea room, tiny pub (in a signalbox!) and fascinating museum. Suitably reinvigorated, the minimum gauge train will carry you onwards down the coast to Humberstone North Sea Lane station.
The Cleethorpes Coast Light Railway dates back to 1948 when it was built as a tourist attraction by the local Council. In times past it was a slightly different gauge and used diesel and steam-outline motive power. In more recent years it has been privately owned and operated, become a more conventional 15in gauge minimum gauge railway operated by ‘proper’ steam locomotives, been extended (over 2006/07) to two miles in length and impeccably developed.
It has also, since 2001, been the home of the ‘Sutton Collection’. More precisely, with the help of a £299,000 Heritage Lottery Fund grant virtually the entire equipment of the Sutton Coldfield Miniature Railway (which had closed in 1962 and remained in storage for 40 years) was purchased and relocated to Cleethorpes.
Just one locomotive from that collection was not included in that sale, but more recently the CCLR’s owner, Chris Shaw, and others have bought the loco (No. 3 Mighty Atom) and moved it to Cleethorpes to reunite the original Sutton Coldfield locomotive fleet.
Two years ago the Miniature Railway Museum Trust opened a 'Rails to the Sands' exhibition of seaside miniature lines in a shop unit at Cleethorpes close by the railway. Basically intended to show what the trust could achieve, this exhibition closed late last year, but has been resurrected in the museum building at the CCLR’s Lakeside station.
The revamped museum, employing display materials and audio effects – think sea gulls and a looped rendition of, “I do love to be beside the seaside” – from the old exhibition opened in May. The new displays have been blended with interpreting the Sutton collection and, naturally, the Cleethorpes Coast Light Railway itself.
The key exhibits in the new-look museum are No. 2 Sutton Flyer (out of service awaiting firebox repairs), diesel railcar No. 4 from Sutton Coldfield plus No. 3 Mighty Atom (No.1 Sutton Belle is in service at the CCLR) along with a 15in gauge self-propelled steam crane Little Titan. Mighty Atom (which also spent a period named Prince of Wales before reverting to its original name) is presently in un-restored condition and known to need a new boiler before it can steam again, but its owning consortium do intend to return it to operation. Work is likely to start in 2014 aimed at seeing it running again by 2018.