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Stapleford Miniature Railway

The Stapleford Miniature Railway

By Ken Jones

Added to website 4 September 2011


Ken Jones visited The Miniature Railway at Stapleford [Leics] recently and submitted the following. He makes no apology for the fact that the text is taken from the site www.fsmr.org.uk where you will also find archive pictures, a map of the railway, video links and other information. The line is only open to the public a couple of times a year - the money raised at these public events all goes to charity.

For more information on miniature railways visit the miniature railway website HERE.

The railway began life back on the 18th May 1958, when the first line opened from the Old Stable Hill Station and car park to the main hall. The Second Lord Gretton was looking for an additional attraction for families to the Stately House and grounds, which first opened to the public in 1953. He saw an advertisement and purchased second hand, two David Curwen 4-4-2 steam locos, six coaches and 2,000 feet of track. This created the line from Stable Hill car park to the House. The line was extended in autumn 1958 and opened to the lakeside on 3rd May 1959. The first train to the lake being hauled by 4-4-2 John O Gaunt, (now John H Gretton). The Central station and the train operated crossing, both to become a notable feature were constructed at the same time. The Haven cafe and station were added at the lakeside terminus in 1959. By the end of the 1961 season, passenger numbers had trebled to 21,355. With the railway at full capacity now, a relief train was required for peak periods. This was provided by David Curwen, designing and building at Curwen and Newbury, a model of a Western region Warship Diesel Hydraulic Loco. This used a Ford petrol engine driving a mechanical drive through fluid clutch. The new loco went into service during May 1962 and with 6 new coaches, proved to be very popular. Then during a cruise aboard the Shaw Saville Line SS "Southern Cross", the Second Lord Gretton had the idea of having a scale model of a liner constructed to carry passengers on the lake. This would be combined with the railway ride to the Haven terminus at lakeside. Visitors had long asked for the chance to hire boats on the lake, but this was deemed difficult to administer and police. The liner would solve this problem, and add to the railways operational interest. The replica of SS "Northern Star" was constructed by Curwen and Newbury and made her maiden voyage on the Stapleford Park lake on 27th June 1963. The lake includes islands and even had a working lighthouse on one!

The sister ship SS "Southern Cross" arrived in June 1968, and the pair at the time, were the largest scale passenger carrying liners in the world, being 45 feet long and 8 feet in beam. The railway continued to develop and became a well known tourist attraction. A drive through Lion reserve and Zoo were also added in the early 60’s. During the late 60s and 70s the line continued to expand and with his son John, the Third Lord Gretton, following his father's love of steam the American Berkshire class steam loco was constructed on contract at the Stapleford Works to cope with the heavy lakeside trains, more passenger stock was constructed, and a tunnel added near to the top of the bank by the house.

Later on, the line was extended from the lakeside Haven to run around in a balloon circuit via the lakeside to return over the river to the Haven via a sprung point (The railway used to run opposite to the current direction, which now crosses the river first). A simple halt was also built in the Chestnuts picnic area of the loop, called "Chestnuts"! and the current station, then called the car park was also constructed and visitors would park near the zoo and catch a train to the Central station and House. They could then get a different one to the Haven and lakeside circuit.

The Second Lord Gretton's death in 1982 saw the Estate and railway closed to the Public at the end of that season, the Third Lord Gretton putting the railway into safe storage. The house was sold in 1985, and is now owned by a consortium and run by one of the countries top sporting hotels. However, the railway and Estate remained within the Gretton family and almost everything remained untouched. Sadly, the Third Lord Gretton's untimely death in 1989 appeared to spell the death knoll of the railway, but his dreams were never forgotten by a small group of enthusiasts connected with the original operations, who later in the 90’s formed the FSMR in order to restore and preserve the railway. The story continues on the Railway website HERE.

For information on the locomotives may be found HERE. The only locomotive not available during my visit was the LMS Jubilee, which normally double heads with the GWR Saint class locomotive.

All photographs below were taken by Ken Jones.

Stapleford Miniature Railway

1. Where possible if a vintage bus is going to the railway event I'll use it in preference to taking the car. For this trip we used CFK 340 - my first time travelling on this lovely vehicle. Once part of the Quantock Motor Services historic fleet it is now part of the Roger Burdett collection.


Stapleford Miniature Railway

2. Locomotives 752 and 6019 being prepared at the locomotive shed.



Stapleford Miniature Railway

3. 2943 and 751 in station awaiting passengers for the first train of the day.


Stapleford Miniature Railway

4. 2943 and 751 approaching "lakeside".


Stapleford Miniature Railway

5. The old boat house - pity neither of the scale boats exist.


Stapleford Miniature Railway

6. In the woods near "Chestnuts" - note pheasants which caused a later train to stop while they walked across the line.


Stapleford Miniature Railway

7. 2943 and 751 heading back to station along side of lake.


Stapleford Miniature Railway

8. 752 backs onto it's train.


Stapleford Miniature Railway

9. 751 showing wheel arrangement and drive mechanism.


Stapleford Miniature Railway

10. Driver of 2943 collects token for journey to lakeside and the balloon loop.


Stapleford Miniature Railway

11. 752 enters the triangle used to reverse the locomotives. All trains depart the correct way but because of the balloon loop all end up the wrong way back at the station so need to reverse via the triangle.


Stapleford Miniature Railway

12 ABOVE & 13 BELOW. The "Warship" locomotive used as station pilot during the visit.

Stapleford Miniature Railway


Stapleford Miniature Railway

14. Passengers' view of approach to Box Tunnel.


Stapleford Miniature Railway

15. 752 approaching "Chestnuts".


Stapleford Miniature Railway

16. View of lake and boathouse.


Stapleford Miniature Railway

17. Close up view of 2943.


Stapleford Miniature Railway

18. 6019 arriving with train.


Stapleford Miniature Railway

19. 6019 reverses to use the triangle.


Stapleford Miniature Railway

20. 6019 at the balloon loop junction. A signal box here enables one train to be held by the lake while a second train enters the balloon. The first train is then released back to the station as all the line is single track.


Stapleford Miniature Railway

21. 6019 approaches "Chestnuts".


Stapleford Miniature Railway

22. The stately home now a hotel complex.


Stapleford Miniature Railway

23. 2943 & 751 approaching the balloon loop at "lakeside".


Stapleford Miniature Railway

24. East African Railways 3103 at station for afternoon duties.


Visit Ken Jones' railway website HERE


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