Wednesday, 11 June 2014

The Kirklees Light Railway...

Hi guys. Today, whilst in the Bradford area, myself and Eddie decided to head slightly off course and take in a first time visit to the 15" gauge Kirklees Light Railway at Clayton West. The railway operates during midweek from Wednesday onwards at this time of the year so we thought that it would be rude not to call in. The KLR runs for 3.5 miles through the picturesque scenery of the Yorkshire countryside. The trackbed originally carried the standard gauge metals of a branch line which formed part of the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway, but this was closed in 1983. The 15" gauge formation was begun in midsummer 1990, with train services starting in October 1991 following the presenting of a Light Railway Order. The first stage of the KLR included only a mile of track, running as far as Cuckoo's Nest. The line was then extended to Skelmanthorpe in 1992 and further on to the current terminus of Shelley in 1997, giving the full 3.5 mile run. Most of the materials used to construct the railway came redundant from old collieries in the area, aiding the construction process massively. We arrived at the base station of Clayton West in time to catch the 11:40 train for Shelley, which duly arrived behind "Fox", a 1987-built 2-6-2 based on the Hunslet design, in shining red livery...
The KLR has four home-based steam locomotives, all of which were built by experimental engineer Brian Taylor: the railways founder. "Fox" was the first engine, completed in 1987, followed by "Badger" in 1991 and "Hawk" in 1998. The final engine to make up the foursome is "Owl", a most unusual 2000-built 0-4-4-0 bogie locomotive which employs gears and prop-shafts (similar to the American Shay locomotives) to provide drive to its four driving axles. The pioneer KLR locomotive "Fox" ran round briskly during the short layover at Clayton West and took up her place at the head of the 11:40 departure. Here we see the large cab...
Here, "Fox" is seen not long before departure as myself and Eddie prepare to take our seats...
"Ready to Go"
Leaving Clayton West, "Fox" immediately began climbing, though was fairly quiet in her voice as she hauled the 4-coach train. Rocking from side to side at a modest 12mph or so, the train rattled towards Shelley through the pretty countryside...
After passing through Cuckoo's Nest and Skelmanthorpe, "Fox" passed through the impressive 511-yard long Shelley Woodhouse Tunnel, obviously built to standard gauge proportions! The tunnel is the longest to feature on any 15" gauge railway line in Britain and is certainly an experience to leisurely pass through. Before long, we arrived at the terminus station of Shelley and the shining "Fox" was duly ran round via the turntable...
The locomotive took on water at Shelley, and the driver briskly oiled round whilst "Fox" happily simmered away...
Another capture of "Fox"...
2-6-2 1987-built Side Tank Engine "Fox"
Having climbed easily all the way up the line, "Fox" enjoyed a 'gravity trip' back down, with the driver seemingly only using the regulator to get the train up to line speed before shutting off for most of the run. "Fox" was certainly able to rest on this journey. Here I took a picture of the impressive standard gauge tunnel as we approach from Shelley...
Upon arrival back at Clayton West, the ever hard working "Fox" was run round again ready for the 12:50 departure. At this point we were about to leave until I was unexpectedly asked onto the footplate for a run with the driver up to Shelley. This was rather a surprise but one that, naturally, I couldn't pass up. Leaving on time, "Fox" began the climb towards Shelley and then climbed all the way. It seemed a lot 'flatter' when aboard the coaches but "Fox" was certainly working well. Little wheels coupled to large pistons and cylinders give her a surprising amount of tractive effort and the driver (Ian) explained that on a dry rail the loco will handle up to 7 loaded coaches rather than todays 4. He drove the engine on fairly minimal regulator and linked up to about 30% which certainly made her run. She kept an easy 10-12mph for most of the run and steamed very well on the Russian coal she was being fired on. Here, we climb the straight track towards Cuckoo's Nest...
As "Fox" chugged merrily along, it was quite an enjoyable experience being aboard a KLR engine. I was very much looking forward to passing through the tunnel, and that time soon arrived...
"There May Be Tunnel Ahead"
In the tunnel the strong headlight of "Fox" was switched on, as well as a handy cab light. The loco whistled loudly as we exited the large tunnel mouth and continued on course for Shelley. The steam-operated drain cocks, air brakes, strong injectors and large all-welded steel box all seemed to be in favour for "Fox". She is a very nice little engine. At Shelley I thanked Ian before leaving the footplate, and "Fox" duly ran round...
For the return gravity run Eddie was on the footplate whilst I rode in the coaches and we were soon back at Clayton West. Ian kindly said that we could walk into the engine sheds to look at "Badger", "Hawk" and "Owl", all three of which stood silent in the loco shed. "Hawk" in particular looked like a powerful engine, with articulated bogies set out in Garrett formation. She made "Fox" look like a bit of a toy!...
The Powerful 0-4-4-0 Locomotive "Hawk"
Having looked at the engines we decided that we should continue in our quest...(more on that in a few weeks!). It had been a very enjoyable visit to the Kirklees Light Railway and I must say that it is a very pleasant, friendly little line. Thanks for reading guys and thank you very much to Ian for allowing myself & Eddie to ride with him on "Fox": a grand wee experience. Best Regards, Sam...

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Kirklees lt rly is on my list of lines to visit. I especially want to see "Hawk" as it's reputedly the only working Kitson Meyer Articulated Locomotive in the UK. I've also read that Kirklees have fitted their locos with Lempor exhausts, hence the subdued blast noise, plus gas producer fire boxes. Did they make much difference when you rode on the footplate? Lucky you!
Kind regards,
Emma-claire.

Sam Brandist said...

Hi Emma. Yes the Lempor system is employed on them and it seems to work efficiently. The driver reported that all of the engines were designed to 'make steam for 20 minutes non stop' and also be 'very efficient for their cause', hence their building by an obviously prolific experimental engineer. "Owl" is quite something with the gear that is employed. Its like a V-twin engine with cylinders inclined vertically beneath the middle of the boiler barrel, and then the drive from the engine to the prop-shafts is done via hefty chains to achieve the correct ratio. Its a must-see engine fleet that's for sure...everything out of the ordinary! Brilliant little line. Back on the big stuff tomorrow...at Llangollen. Best Regards, Sam