Painting of L&M No.1 E.R.Caltrop at Hulme End by V. Welch


The Leek and Manifold Valley Light Railway was formally opened to the public on 27th June 1904. It sadly closed 30 years later in March 1934 and the track was lifted which was a great loss. It traversed a narrow winding valley of exceptional beauty from a connection to the standard gauge railway at Waterhouses to the tiny hamlet of Hulme End. It served an area of sparse population and its only staple traffic was milk. It was very popular on Bank holidays but this was not enough to keep it going.

The railway was 9 miles long and trains took 45 minutes for the single journey. Stations were provided at Waterhouses, Sparrowlee, Beeston Tor, Grindon, Thor's Cave, Wetton Mill, Butterton, Ecton and Hulme End.

The railway did not run to Leek as implied in its title indeed many of its stations were some miles from the hamlets they purported to serve. This all contributed to the downfall of the railway.

Equipment & Trains

The railway adopted a gauge of 2 feet 6 inches which allowed more scope for the scale of its rolling stock. It exploited this opportunity to the full. In style the locomotives and rolling stock were similar to those supplied to the Barsi Light Railway in India.

The railway was unusual for its two large 2-6-4 tank engines and 4 bogie carriages designed on colonial rather than British lines. It was also unique in the UK for regular use of transporter wagons to take full size standard gauge wagons direct to customers in the Manifold Valley. It had two 2-6-4 tank locomotives built by Kitson's of Leeds, 4 carriages, a bogie van and two trucks as well as the unique transporter wagons.

Model of No.1 E.R.Calthrop at Rudyard Station June 2004

The model of No.1 at Rudyard Station in 2004

After closure the then London Midland & Scottish Railway passed on ownership of the track bed to Staffordshire County Council for use as a footpath. This is in use to this day as a cycleway and footpath and is a very popular means of access to the Peak District. The station building at Hulme End is still in use as a tourist information centre in summer. The engine shed survived until very recently but was torn down to make a cafe at vast expense (0.5M) by Staffordshire Moorlands District Council.


The railway has served as an inspiration to many railway enthusiasts over the years and attempts have been made at various times to reopen it. Sadly without success. The originators of some of these schemes moved on to establish railways elsewhere most notably at nearby Rudyard Lake.  A half size model of locomotive No.1 E. R. Calthrop was built in 1974 and used to establish the first narrow gauge railway at Rudyard. This was later removed to Suffolk then to Devon.   A new railway was built from 1985 onwards at Rudyard constructed to the same gauge . This has developed to be the Rudyard Lake Steam Railway which takes much of its inspiration from the original Leek and Manifold Light Railway.

Leek & Manifold engine No1 at rudyard late 1970's

E R Calthrop on a train from the Dam station  Rudyard Lake

No.1 At Rudyard in late 1970's

The steam locomotive of the first miniature railway at Rudyard Lake was a model of the Leek and Manifold Light Railway engine No.1 ER Calthrop. It visited Rudyard again in June 2004 from its home at Trago Mills in Devon.

Two trains  at the Dam Station Rudyard lake 1978

An early view of the Station at the Dam Station at Rudyard Lake

Temporary Railway at Hulme End

This model of No.1 inspired a local man Dougie Blackhurst of Sheen to build a second model of locomotive No.2 J.B.Earle again to 10.25 inch gauge. Moreover each summer in the early 1990's he started to operate for charity a portable railway on the old track bed at Hulme End station. This grew to become probably the largest portable railway of its type anywhere in the world. It had 3 steam, 2 diesel locomotives 6 carriages and over a kilometre of track. The following photos give a taste of what it was like.

leek & Manifold railway No.2 J. B. Earle at Hulme End

No.2 J. B. Earle at Hulme End

Disel railcar and shunter

Railcar & Shunter at Hulme End

Leek & Manifold Railway No2 and 4W Diesel

No.2 and 4W diesel shunter.

The 2004 Leek & Manifold Railway Centenary Celebrations

The year 2004 marked 100 years since the opening and 70 years since the closure of this wonderful railway. It was planned to commemorate this by a series of events in the locality of Leek.

A steam gala was held on the Rudyard Lake Steam Railway on the weekend of June 26th & 27th 2004 to mark the exact centenary of the railways opening. The Locomotive No.1. E.R. Calthrope again visited the railway for this event and was in use hauling the trains. The railway's new steam engine King Arthur should also been in use however was not completed in time. The engine also returned again in 2007 from its home railway at Trago Mills.

A smaller 7.25 inch gauge model of locomotive No.2 J. B. Earle was on display on the 26th June and elicited much interest.

Model of Leek & Manifold Valley  No.1 at Trago Mills

LINKS TO  RAILWAYS inspired by the L&M Railway



Contact us by telephone / fax on 01995 672280

or EmaiI:  info@rlsr.org

or write to us at Rudyard Station, Rudyard,

NR. Leek, Staffordshire, ST13 8PF