Saturday, 5 May 2012

Stapleford Miniature Railway...

The fabulous Stapleford Miniature Railway is a 10.25" gauge gem that runs for 2 miles through wonderful scenary. Tracing its routes back to 1958 when it was built as a 2000ft long track by the Second Lord Gretton, the line has been growing ever since. Lord Gretton wanted to attract more visitors (particularly families) to Stapleford House and its grounds so, after seeing an advertisement for some track, some coaches and two Curwen Atlantic Class steam loco's being sold as a job-lot, he purchased them. The first line connected the House to one of the car parks and initial passenger numbers were good. The line was extended to Lord Gretton's lake and this section opened in May 1959. Once running to the lake began, Lord Gretton had another brilliant idea: Why not have two miniature Cruise Liners operating on the lake giving rides? "Southern Cross" & "Northern Star" were the names of the two liners and they combined a steam train ride with an idyllic lake cruise. To give an idea of their size, each liner was 45ft long! The line continued to develop and grow in popularity, even having a Lion Reserve at one point. The second Lord Gretton died in 1982 and the house was later sold. The third Lord Gretton (his son) kept the railway in safe, private storage and also kept ownership of the estate through which it ran. Sadly, in 1989, the third Lord Gretton died and it seemed that the SMR would be lost forever. Fortunately, a well meaning band of volunteers formed a group known as 'The Friends of the Stapleford Miniature Railway' and vowed to restore it to running order.

Lady Gretton (wife of Lord Gretton) became Chairman of the new FSMR group in 1992. After much restoration and many changes, the railway held its first public open day in 13 years in the summer of 1995. Since then, it has gone from strength to strength, though the Liners and the Lions have long gone. The SMR holds public open days twice a year and a Model Engineering Society private running day too. Today, CMES and many other societies had been invited to SMR to enjoy a day out on the railway. Entry to the non-public event was free and even the tea was free: fantastic! We arrived at 10:30am and the beautiful Saint Class "Hampton Court" was ready with her train...
Saint Class "Hampton Court" - Built 1939
The preserved SMR had three loco's in steam today. We jumped aboard the Saint Class for a ride on this chilly yet occasionally sunny morning. The trains leave the station under a Gantry, passing an operational yet still scale Signalbox on the right...
The trains descend a 1 in 68 away from the station and through a lengthy model of Box Tunnel. Eventually, Lakeside is reached and there is a fork in the track. Here, the trains head into the balloon loop, crossing the river before curving 90 degrees to the right...
The train runs at scale speed, alongside the river and adjacent to a Golf Course. Passing views of rolling fields, the Saint then curved right and chuffed lightly through a deep wood. This section was particularly beautiful and very idyllic. We even spotted a Hare on his rounds. Another climb then brought the 4-6-0 back around onto the lakeside, with views of the once Stately Home through the trees...
Soon enough, the train is right on the lakeside. On a hot summers day this would be fabulous...
Shame About The Liners
After reaching Lakeside Jnc again, the train is facing the opposite way and begins to climb the 1 in 68 back towards Central Station. The Saint chugged hard up into the tunnel (modelled on Primrose Hill from this way)...
Through the tunnel and up towards the right-hand curve the Saint chugged. She sounded in fine form as she blasted away. She was also immaculate. The SMR coaches are articulated and have wooden bench seats. They are pretty comfortable and provide a smooth ride...
The Saint brought us easily back up into Central Station and rested at the end of Platform 1. She was built in 1939 and is of course modelled on the GWR Saint Class 4-6-0. She is 1/5 scale and was purchased by John Gretton in 1981. The locomotive looked lovely and I really wouldn't mind owning her! She looked great...
The impressive building at Central Station was built between 2005 & 2009 and includes a small Tea Room area and even an Open Fire (which was very welcome today!)...
The second loco running today was one of the original SMR Curwen Atlantics: now named "John H Gretton". She was built in 1948 and during her commercial days at Stapleford the loco was fitted with rotary valve gear to improve performance and reliability. The Atlantic is apparently a reliable and powerful locomotive and is very popular with SMR crews. She certainly seemed in fine form today...
"John H Gretton" - Curwen Atlantic
The purpose built loco shed at Central Station was still occupied at Midday, by the massive 4-8-4 Niagra Class locomotive, which was steaming up. She really is a brute...
Inside the locomotive works were the remaining SMR engines. The LMS Jubilee was in bits and the oil-burning EAR loco (that I have seen before at MMEE) was being oiled up. There was also a blue Warship class Diesel loco...
In The Shed - The Blue Warship & The EAR Oil-Burner
The Niagra began construction in 1974 and is part-owned by Lady Gretton. She was built by John Wilks with help from FSMR members and began hauling SMR trains in 1997. She has been a regular performer ever since. She really was massive!...
The SMR doesn't just run big locomotives. This much smaller 4-4-0 was on one of the bays near the huge Niagra. I bet its more of a challenge to drive that around than any of the bigger brutes as there must be so much in reserve with the Niagra!...
The Niagra on shed...
The HUGE Niagra
We left at just before 1pm as it was hailing and raining heavily. The Niagra had just gone off to start her first trains too. It had been a fantastic morning and I was so impressed with the SMR. We had indulged in a 2nd ride behind the Saint, though this time she had to stop for a blow-up near Lakeside on the return (don't know what happened there). The loco fleet here is brilliant and the track is well maintained. I would encourage anyone who hasn't been before to go and visit: it really is well worth a look. They are open in June and in August this year so why not pop in and support them? For more information on the SMR, its history and its running days CLICK HERE. With that folks, I will end this post. Thanks for reading. Sam...

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

It looks a fantastic set up. Shame I couldn't make it due to "Grandad" duties or to be more accurate "Gandad"!

Idryss

Von carl said...

The thought of your article is pretty distinctive which is a good factor in driving more visitors to visit your site.I even told my friends to take a look at your post and in fact your blog is already bookmarked on my computer. Hope to see more of this. Keep it up!
maquetas valencia