1 R&ER train at The Green Cliff Thomas

Rail.co.uk visits narrow gauge railways in the Northern Hills

Published: 10th August 2015

New locos, stock and structures across the Cumbrian Fells and the North Pennines

New carriages and Battery-Electric loco at South Tynedale

These are exciting times at the South Tynedale Railway, the highest narrow gauge railway in England. The 2ft gauge line in the North Pennines received a £4.2million Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) award at the beginning of last year towards a £5.6 million development project aimed at transforming the railway and its fortunes. The pace is accelerating as elements of the project start coming to fruition.

Two ‘new’ saloon carriages have been delivered, one finished in current STR maroon with orange waist band livery, the other in green with orange band. They are the first of six HLF-funded vehicles being converted from metre gauge single-deck Baden Vienna tram cars into veranda-ended coaches (including fitting new 2ft gauge bogies) being constructed at the CFI works in Criscior, Romania. Still to come are two semi-opens and two brake carriages, one of each type in each livery.

Also in the shed at Alston is a Clayton four-wheel battery-electric B4427B, built in 2006 as a standard gauge loco which has been re-gauged to 2ft by Alan Keef Ltd. Named Carlisle, the locomotive has been finished with green main frames and maroon upper bodyworks.

A second battery-electric of the same type will also be converted (the contract for this work has yet to be placed) to be named Newcastle with a reversal of Carlisle’s livery, i.e. maroon frames and green upper works. The differing livery schemes correlate to the differing colours of the new carriage sets. The locomotive names reflect the origins of the standard gauge branch built by the Carlisle & Newcastle Railway on which today’s 2ft gauge STR operates.

New look for Alston

Work will commence shortly on the initial stages of a major re-vamp of the Line’s Alston site which encompasses construction of a new café, conversion of an adjacent industrial unit into a Discovery Centre and reconstruction of the building currently serving as a carriage shed.

The footprint of the latter building will be greatly enlarged as it is rebuilt to become a three-road locomotive and carriage shed complete with public viewing gallery. These new facilities will all be operational for the 2016 season.

The first 500 yards of trackbed on STR’s extension from Lintley Halt to Slaggyford has been cleared and prepared. Further ground preparation and the start of actual track laying will progress through the coming winter. The extension is scheduled to open at Easter 2017.

New workshop complete as La’al Ratty marks anniversary

Further west in Cumbrai, the Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway’s new workshop at its Ravenglass HQ is complete with engineering work back in full swing after a difficult spell for the 15in gauge line.

The original Furness Railway goods shed at Ravenglass which housed R&ER’s engineering facility was devastated by fire in March 2013. Reconstruction (although employing little more than one original wall) has produced not only an effectively new building but one with a footprint around two-thirds bigger than the old structure.

Also at Ravenglass, extensive refurbishment of the museum building and installation of new interpretation panels and displays has been completed. This is the first phase of museum development, he long-term aim being construction of an extension including a rolling stock hall with the help of an HLF grant.

The workshop and museum works were completed in time for the August 28-31 showpiece event celebrating the 100th anniversary of R&ER as a 15in gauge line. Locomotive attractions include privately-owned Bassett Lowke-built ‘Little Giant’ 4-4-2 Count Louis (which arrived in March for an extended visit) and a visit by Alan Keef Ltd 2-6-2T Lydia from Perrygrove Railway (as previously billed) plus visits by TMA Engineering 4-6-2 Britannia (Conwy Valley Railway Museum) and Kirklees Light Railway’s Trevor Guest-built 2-4-2T Katie, the latter being changes from the line-up previously anticipated.

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