STEAMTOWN MINIATURE RAILWAYS @ CARNFORTH, LANCASHIRE,
This is the story of the Steamtown railway
museum miniature railways.
Steamtown Railway Museum, Carnforth was the location for a
15 inch gauge miniature railway. This started in 1975 and was finally closed and
then sold by tender and moved to California. However there were other miniature
railways which ran there over the years
The first miniature railway at Carnforth was
a raised dual gauge 3.5 inch and 5 inch line laid on top of sleepers in the Keer
sidings in the early 1970's. A 5 inch gauge 2-6-2 tank engine was the motive power on most
occasions it ran . This engine was unreliable and the line eventually removed.
The first 5 inch gauge miniature railway at Steamtown
The second and most substantial railway
arrived in 1975 in the form of a 15 inch gauge Basset Lowke class 20 atlantic
tender engine Princess Elizabeth. Accompanied by about 200 yards of set track
of 20lb per yard rails bolted to steel sleepers. There were two articulated coaches
which could be easily dismantled. It arrived at Steamtown after visiting the 150
anniversary celebrations of the Stockton and Darlington railway at Shildon in
1975. It was quickly laid on the East side of the main car park and put into
operation. This proved popular with both public and volunteers and so a more
substantial railway was planned.
Queen Elizabeth And King George ride the traverser outside
The Permanent 15 inch gauge railway
This was for a line on the west side of the
site starting from a station next to the water tank and heading South towards
Crag Bank. This required a large retaining wall to be built opposite the
carriage and wagon show to give clearance past the standard gauge track . The
track then followed the route of an old siding to the site of the old London &
North Western Railway engine shed. The original track was used on wood sleepers
along with some lighter 13 lb rail bought with proceeds from an temporary
railway at Newcastle.
Basset Lowke Class 20 Queen Elizabeth
In 1978-9 a job creation scheme was approved which provided
a £30,000 grant to employ 3 supervisors and 10 trainees for one year and for a
small amount for materials. I managed this as a volunteer and great progress was
then made. We purchased Royal anchor from the Ravenglass & Eskdale railway for
£500 along with some rails. A reconditioned Ford 4D engine was donated by
MacAlpines and the engine brought back into use.
Royal Anchor parked in the siding
Point blades were bought from
Alan Keef and new points manufactured at Steamtown. Another Basset Lowke atlantic King George
V arrived as well as 4 German coaches. The track was extended to a joint
station with the standard gauge railway at Crag Bank usimg 30lb rail surplus
from a London tunnel contract. A sectional wooden
building was acquired from McAlpines and a 4 track engine shed served by a
traverser built next to the water tank. The railway was inspected by Major Olver
and treated as a part of the statutory Steamtown light railway.
A view of the miniature railway shed and traverser.
The next step was to run the tracks North through the engine
shed to Keer end Station. This was not easy requiring lintels to be installed in
the end walls and an opening made at each end. The Number 6 standard gauge track
and the Keer sidings also had to be removed. This was done and another station
built next to the main site entrance at Keer end. This was named after the river Keer
which flows past this end of the site. This extension meant that the coaches
could now be parked inside at night.
Two views of No 5751 which became Prince William. The second
view is at Crag Bank interchange station.
A brand new coach in the same style as the coaches built for
the Liverpool garden festival was built at Steamtown and added to the rolling
stock. Originally a single open wagon came from the abortive Axminster scheme
and was so useful a second was built at Steamtown.
Further rolling stock arrived in the form of Guest pacific
5751from Blenheim. This was later named Prince William and repainted in Maroon livery. It is now at
the Evesham Light railway. It visited a number of other railways as well as
running at Steamtown.
The Barnes Atlantic Joan was borrowed for a while and ran a
temporary line at Newcastle Town fair. This raised some useful funds and the
track was then laid at Steamtown. The engine was in awful mechanical order and
needed a full overhaul so it departed. King George was also used on a similar
temporary line at Bury in 1979.
Doctor Diesel a Bo-Bo arrived and was used. Tracy Joe
a steam outline narrow gauge 2-6-2 and the Battinson steam outline 2-6-4 T
also arrived. They were never actually used in service at Steamtown.
Decline & Closure
The railway museum at Carnforth started a long decline in the
mid 1980's. The background to this will be set out in other parts of the story.
The controlling interest in the railway museum was finally sold by Bill McAlpine
to David Smith. He focussed on the main line operations. The model engineers
departed and then the main museum closed to the public. The miniature railway
carried on bringing in visiting engines but the takings were not sufficient to
pay the running costs and the public liability insurance so it too closed.
It was put up for tender and exported to California with the
intention of linking a vineyard to the Nappa Valley wine train.
The site at Steamtown is still owned by the original company
and is a service and repair depot. West Coast Railways a wholly owned subsidiary
now runs steam trains all over the UK
The Morecambe Extension
There was a serious proposal to build a 15
inch gauge railway from near Happy Mount Park at Bare in Morecambe to Steamtown.
At that time in the early 1980's Steamtown was at its zenith and Morecambe was still a
significant holiday resort.
Bill McAlpine who by this time had bought a
controlling interest in Steamtown sold the Dorchester Hotel in London. He looked
round for something interesting to do with the money. There was a perfectly
feasible route from Steamtown to the shoreline and then to follow this past Bolton le
Sands and Hest Bank. At Hest bank where the main road crosses the West Coast
main line there is a spare section under this bridge that the15 inch gauge railway would have taken
before turning left and skirted the golf course to Happy Mount Park.
The route was surveyed to show it was
practical. Formal consultations took place with local councils by Steamtown's
manger George Hinchcliffe and Director Joe Greenwood. There was opposition from
the local parish councils and residents at Bolton Le sands and the spectres of
noisy smoke belching steam engines were put forward. The decision was taken that
Steamtown did not want a battle with the local population and the proposal was
In due course housing has been built over the
route to the coast and Steamtown closed to the public. This is one of the little
known great railway's which were never built. Over the next 10 years Morecambe
virtually ceased to exist as a holiday destination. The number of hotels and
guest houses declining from about 1000 to 100.
The Model Engineers Track
This was built by the Lancaster and Morecambe
Model Engineering Society on a large unused patch of ground to the South of the
site and adjacent to the 15 inch gauge railway. It was a ground level track of
3.5 ,5 and 7.25 inch gauge. Built with steel bar rails set into hardwood slotted
sleepers, The multi gauge points were a work of art.
It had two connected circuits and a
raised turntable and steaming area. A sectional wooden building provided a
clubhouse. These photographs were taken in 1985 at an open day.
It was popular with visitors and a halt was
built on the 15 inch gauge railway to allow visitors to get their as there was
no footpath access from the rest of the site. Eventually the new owner of
Steamtown David Smith served a notice to quit and very reluctantly the society moved to a new
site at Cinder barrow between Carnforth and Kendal where a new track was built
using the rails and is in regular use in 2011.
people who developed Steamtown
Steamtown memories & recollections
Steamtown- lakeside railway
Steamtown early 1970's
My personal interest has continued with the purchase
and development of the Rudyard Lake Steam Railway
in Staffordshire, one of the UK's best miniature railways.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION