Saturday, 19 May 2007

English narrow gauge renaisscence

Woody Bay, 1980 and 2006.

The English narrow gauge railway is on its way back - and about time!

There were (I think!) five English public narrow gauge lines - the Lynton and Barnstaple, Rye and Camber, Leek and Manifold, Ashover and Southwold. I'm not counting the Ravenglass and Eskdale and Romney, Hythe Dymchurch as they are 15" gauge and still very much with us!

Only one, so far, is physically back, even if only a small part has been restored. And quite rightly it's the magnificent Lynton and Barnstaple, which may well have 8 miles running within ten years. It's a no-brainer restoring the L&B, along with the S&D it was probably England's favourite line.

The Rye and Camber doesn't currently have a preservation group, but remarkably about half a mile of the track survives, and (climate change and sea level rise permitting) it may well see the light of day again.

The Leek and Manifold is currently sleeping, but the physical route survives as a footpath and may also attract preservationist interest sooner rather than later.

There is now an active preservation group dedicated to restoring the Ashover Railway, at least in part.

And the Southwold Railway - despite nostalgist opposition from some misguided old fogeys - is definitely on the way back, with a very active group persuing a business plan which includes tourist and 'real' trains.

And yes, I know there are/were other English NG lines. Volks Railway for example. And the Snailbeach is also being restored. There's also the fantastic Leighton Buzzard Railway, the Sittingbourne and Kemsley and a few others, mainly built on former standard gauge routes. So there's still a lot of interest for English fans of NG railways, something that can only increase as the years pass. It may well be of course that there is a huge expansion in the narrow gauge network as Peak Oil hits, with ultra-light tramways etc springing up everywhere. But perhaps that's a subject better persued in Future Economics and Rail Revival!
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