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Hampshire's Miniature And Narrow Gauge Railways

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Miniature and Narrow Gauge Railways of Hampshire

Although many of Hampshire's railways closed in the 1950s and 60s, new steam railways have opened across the county. These, though, are miniature and narrow gauge railways. Although they are designed to take passengers, they travel a short circular route for the purpose of entertainment rather than transportation.

Miniature railways are often built to be smaller scale versions of standard gauge engines, whereas narrow gauge railways are full-sized engines built to a smaller gauge than standard. Most railways are both diesel and steam powered unless expressly stated, although some are steam outline1. As railways in Britain were originally built to imperial measurements, these are used to describe the gauge and track length. Many steam enthusiasts believe that metric measurements cannot recapture the glory days of steam.

Bankside Miniature Railway

The Bankside Miniature Railway is, at 300 yards, perhaps the shortest miniature gauge railway in Hampshire, but as it is the cheapest you still get good value for money. It is reportedly the only 8¼-inch gauge railway in the UK, and has one steam engine, Carolyn, which was built in 1924. The track is elevated so passengers sit astride the rail. It runs in a balloon loop from Brambridge Station, passing the falconry centre where it is usually possible to get a close look at owls and birds-of-prey, and near the waters of the Itchen Navigation before returning to Brambridge Station where the whole train is revolved on a turntable. There is also a 7¼-inch track, yet this only runs a very short stretch of line forward and back.

Bankside Miniature Railway is open most weekends from Easter to October and is located next to the Brambridge Garden Centre, which has a café, toilets and sells a wide range of garden and indoor goods as well as railway-related books and toys. The garden centre has a large free car park which is available for use by Bankside Miniature Railway visitors. Other facilities in the area include the falconry centre next to the railway and a nature trail by the river Itchen. It is a pleasant riverside walk that can even be followed to Winchester.

The railway can be found by following the brown signs pointing to Brambridge Park Garden Centre off the B3335, which is just off the A335, a road that leads to Junctions 12 and 13 of the M3 and Junction 5 of the M27. The nearest village is Colden Common. As it is only three miles directly north of Southampton Airport, small aircraft can frequently be seen overhead coming in to land or taking off, including Trislanders travelling to and from the Channel Islands.

Beaulieu Monorail

Technically not a railway, but Beaulieu Abbey and National Motor Museum are still worth a visit for those interested in historic transport. The Beaulieu monorail was opened in 1974 by the Wombles. It is an elevated monorail and it travels around the grounds, from the Motor Museum and James Bond exhibition, through the Motor Museum, giving a birds-eye view of the cars on display, to a stop for the Palace and Abbey. A ride on the monorail is included as part of Beaulieu's admission cost. It is one of only six Monorails in Britain2 and there are two fibre-glass trains. Access to the monorail is up several stairs.

There have been, at time of writing, plans to build a narrow gauge railway in the grounds of Beaulieu, although these do not seem to have developed past the proposals stage at present.

Bitterne Park Miniature Railway

Bitterne Park Railway, also known as Riverside Park Railway, is run by the Southampton Society of Model Engineers. This is the oldest miniature railway in Hampshire. It is located at Riverside Park, Southampton. Riverside Park is a large urban park on the east bank of the river Itchen and stretches between several suburbs of Southampton including Mansbridge, Townhill Park and Bitterne Park. The miniature railway is located in the Bitterne Park end of Riverside Park, close to Cobden Bridge. This part of Riverside Park was traditionally known as Cobden Meadows.

Steam and diesel rail services run only on Sundays between April-September from 1-4pm. There are two tracks running engines on three different gauges. The inner track operates dual 3½-inch and 5-inch gauge engines on a raised track. The outer track is a 7¼-inch gauge ground track. The complete track length is a 400-yard oval circuit. There is one station, Riverside Parkway, with a footbridge that provides access to the inner, raised track. Trains normally complete two circuits of the track, with trains on the inner and outer tracks running in opposite directions.

In 1958 the Southampton and District Society of Model Engineers approached Southampton City Council proposing the construction of a miniature railway in the city, with Cobden Meadows their first choice. Permission was granted in 1960 for the building of the track and after funds were raised and the track built, a one fifth of a mile long raised track was built and officially opened by the Mayor of Southampton on 14 April 1962. 10,694 passengers were carried in the first year this track was open. In September 1993 the Southampton Society of Model Engineers was granted permission to build a ground-level track around the perimeter of the existing track. This project was completed and the official opening of the ground-level track took place on 12 April 1997, in time for the 35th anniversary of the original track.

The park has toilets, three playgrounds, six football pitches, two cricket pitches, tennis courts, golf, skate park, riverside walks and is on National Cycle Route 23, Reading to Sandown. There is a car park nearby, as well as shops. The tidal river is popular with people boating and canoeing. It is a short distance south of Southampton Airport and close to both St Denys and Bitterne Park railway stations. Because of the riverside location of the track, young children should be closely supervised as there is no fence to prevent children from falling into the river – at low tide this is a very steep drop. The area is also popular with people wishing to feed the swans and ducks and a pontoon opposite the railway is often used for this purpose.

Bursledon Brickworks

The Grade II* Listed Bursledon Brickworks itself is the last steam-powered brickworks in Britain. Opened in 1897, at its peak it made 20 million bricks a year, and visitors can still make bricks today. It closed as a working brickworks in 1974, when the M27 cut the site in half. The site north of the M27 became the Swanwick Nature Reserve, with the clay pits converted into lakes and the controversial Air Traffic Control Centre, with the brickworks buildings and site south of the M27 allowed to decay, until sold to the Hampshire Buildings Preservation Trust for £1 in the 1990s. In addition to the steam brickworks and railway, the South Hants Historic Steam and Engineering Society keep their engines on site.

Although easy to get to, located between Bursledon and Swanwick railway stations, off the A27 and easily reached from Junctions 8 or 9 of the M27, it is open only on advertised open days, normally one a month. Check the Bursledon Brickworks website for information and to avoid disappointment.

The Bursledon Brickworks has two railways, the 2-foot gauge Light Railway and a 7¼-inch miniature railway. These are owned and run by the Hampshire Narrow Gauge Railway Trust, who also run the narrow gauge railway at the Amberley Chalk Pits Museum & Heritage Centre in Sussex.

Bursledon Light Railway

Opened in August 2010, at time of writing (2012) the Hampshire Narrow Gauge Railway Trust plan to raise £10,000 plan to construct two new stations, one near the brickwork's main gate and the other next to what is planned to be the car park's extension. At both ends, a run round loop of track will be laid. The plan also includes proposals for an engine shed where the engines and carriages can be stored and maintained, when they will move a steam locomotive, Wendy, from Amberley to Bursledon.

At present there is one station, Kiln Halt, near the brickworks, and two engines, one petrol and one diesel on the 400-yard track. The carriages came from the Ramsgate Tunnel Railway which, until it closed in 1965, took passengers between Ramsgate's station and beach.

Miniature Railway

There is a separate short 7¼-inch gauge miniature railway. This takes visitors from outside the brickworks' main entrance for a short ride through the 'wild woods', where those onboard can look out for cut-outs of different animals.

Cuckoo Hill Railway

Located within the New Forest National Park, the Cuckoo Hill Railway is a small, ¾-mile long 7¼-inch gauge railway. Unlike other railways it is not located in a country park or next to another attraction, but instead is next to a strawberry nursery, where visitors can pick their own fruit. From the line, many New Forest animals, including rabbits, foxes and deer, may be spotted.

The railway's oval track follows the border of the strawberry field from a fine, covered station building, with the route also containing a short tunnel. The railway has one steam engine, Jupiter.

The railway is located along a narrow country lane, accessible over a cattle grid, next to a charming thatched cottage. This is just off the A338, north of Ringwood and a short distance from the A31 dual carriageway. Trains run on weekends and Bank Holidays between March and October, from 11:30am to 5pm, weather depending.

Eastleigh Lakeside Steam Railway

Eastleigh Lakeside Railway is located in Eastleigh Lakeside Country Park in Eastleigh, halfway between Southampton and Winchester. It is open every weekend throughout the year and every day during the school summer holiday period. The track is a mile and a quarter in length and has three rails, allowing it to operate both 10¼-inch gauge and 7¼-inch gauge engines. The track has two stations – the main Parkway Station near the car park and Monks Brook Halt at the north end of the line, near a small park containing a see-saw, swings, climbing frame and slide. The north end of the lakes are accessible from here. From Monks Brook Halt the train travels through a 355-foot long tunnel which curves slightly to ensure that it is very dark within before returning via a slightly different route to Parkway Station. The complete journey takes approximately 15 minutes.

There are usually three platforms at Parkway Station, one inside, which is usually used for people getting off the train. Outside, but still under the shelter of a roof, are two platforms, as well as several sidings leading to the workshop and a turntable. Often other engines are visible here and inside the workshop from the platform. On busy days the track on the additional outside platform is sometimes removed to create a pram parking space. Inside consists not only of a platform but also the main workshop which also houses the gift shop, café and toilets. The toilets are accessible from outside rather than directly from the café. The railway also teaches members of the public how to drive a steam engine for an additional fee.

Carriages offer both Standard and First Class transport. Standard is sitting astride a bench running down the length of the carriage. First Class carriages offer individual seats and many of the First Class carriages are even covered and have windows. During the summer there is often a calendar of special events. They either run more or special trains or have child-friendly events, such as Day Out With Thomas, where visiting miniature Thomas The Tank Engine characters such as Thomas, Gordon and Henry pull the carriages, Underground Ernie days, where there are engines from the CBeebies television series Underground Ernie. They often provide Santa Special services at Christmas, too. Eastleigh Lakeside Railway has been operating since 1992 and has approximately 20 engines, although visiting engines also use the track on special days. Three of the railway's engines were built before the Second World War.

Eastleigh Lakeside Railway also has the best transport links of any miniature or narrow gauge railway in Hampshire. It has a free car park and is a short distance from Junction 5 of the M27. It is also just off the A335, which runs to Junctions 12 and 13 of the M3. National Cycle Network route 23 passes outside the café and ticket office. It is also a short stroll from Southampton Airport Parkway railway station, at which not only do all trains on the London to Southampton line stop, it also has regular direct services to other UK cities including Edinburgh, Glasgow, Birmingham, Reading, Manchester and York. Next to the railway station is Southampton Airport which has regular flights to major UK and European cities. Other facilities in the area include Lakeside Country Park. There are lakes where licensed fishing is permitted, water sports such as canoeing and sailing as well as model boat racing available, with areas dedicated to wildlife.

Exbury Gardens Railway

Exbury Gardens Railway is a 12¼-inch gauge railway whose track is 1¼ miles long and has been open in Exbury Gardens in the New Forest since August 2001. Exbury Gardens is a 200-acre woodland garden and is home to the famous Rothschild azalea and rhododendron garden. The railway operates when the Gardens are open, usually March to early November, and also runs Santa Specials in December. There is one diesel locomotive named Eddy as well as three bright blue steam locomotives. The original two, 0-6-2 tank engines, are named Rosemary and Naomi and they have been joined by a larger, more powerful 2-6-2 steam engine called Mariloo. Queen Elizabeth II was the first guest to travel on a train pulled by Mariloo when she presided over its naming ceremony in May 2008.

The railway's facilities include an engine shed which has an exhibition about the railway and has a licence to hold civil weddings. There are two stations, Exbury Central near the Engine shed and Exbury North, a halt at the far end of the track. As well as stunning views of the gardens, the railway offers a spectacular timber viaduct, a cross-over bridge, travels on top of Europe's largest rock garden and goes through a tunnel. The complete journey takes approximately 20 minutes. The train fare, however, is in addition to the Exbury Gardens admission fare although parking is free.

Other facilities in the area include the gardens, a gift and plant shop, tearooms and restaurant and toilets. A DVD about the railway is also available to purchase, entitled The Dream That Became Steam. The railway also offers 'footplate days', where for an additional charge you can be trained on train driving. Other nearby attractions include the New Forest National Park, as well as Beaulieu Abbey and National Motor Museum, Buckler's Hard and Calshot Castle, Exbury Gardens can be found by leaving M27 at Junction 2 and following the A326 to Dibden and then following the signs. The New Forest bus also regularly stops at Exbury Gardens.

Hayling Seaside Railway

The Hayling Seaside Railway is a 2-foot gauge railway that runs on the southern seafront of Hayling Island on a one mile straight track between Beachlands and Eastoke Corner, with an additional request-only halt at Mengham Road. It first opened on its current site in July 2003 and has a splendid beach view of the Solent and the Isle of Wight beyond. Although at time of writing the railway owns only four diesel engines, it does hire steam locomotives on occasion and there are plans to construct the railway's own steam engine. There are even plans, should permission be granted, to extend the line to Hayling Island's ferry terminal, which connects Hayling Island to Portsmouth.

The Seaside Railway's origins come from the standard gauge Hayling Island Billy Railway, which was closed in 1963. Twenty years after its closure, a group of railway enthusiasts tried to have the line re-opened, however Havant Borough Council was using the former line as a cycleway and footpath, which would not allow a standard gauge line to reopen. A proposal to create a new narrow gauge railway sharing the former standard gauge line with the cycleway and footpath was made, yet this too was rejected. In consequence, supporters of the narrow gauge scheme created their own narrow gauge railway at the Mill Rythe Holiday Camp on Hayling Island, forming the East Hayling Light Railway. After the successful running of the East Hayling Light Railway, Havant Council proposed that a narrow gauge railway be set up at Hayling Island's pleasure beach. After the council initially refused planning permission for their own plan, in 2001 work on the new site for the railway began and on 5 July 2003 the Hayling Seaside Railway opened.

Facilities include a wide range of shops and the beach. At Beachlands there is Carousel Amusement Park Fairground and the railway's gift shop as well as at Eastoke Corner an outdoor gym and park with sandpit. Trains run every weekend and on Wednesdays. Hayling Island is accessible from the A27 and A3; simply follow the A3023 south over the bridge to Hayling Island. Once on the island the brown signs lead to Beachlands Central, where the main station and workshop are based behind the Funland Amusement Park. Alternatively the Hayling Ferry takes pedestrians and cyclists to the island from Portsmouth.

Hollycombe Steam Collection

Located just inside Hampshire on the Hampshire/Surrey border, the Hollycombe Steam Collection has a variety of traction engines, steam rollers and steam-powered funfair rides as well as a standard gauge railway, a 2-foot gauge railway and a 7¼-inch gauge railway. At time of writing the standard gauge railway has an established track ¼ mile in length, however the steam locomotive is currently undergoing restoration and no services on this line are as yet able to run.

Facilities at Hollycombe include a café, gift shop, traction engines and other assorted steam engines as well as the Edwardian steam funfair. This has a variety of rides including steam merry-go-rounds, one dating from the 1870s believed to be the oldest mechanical fairground ride in the world, as well as a razzle dazzle, haunted house, big wheel, chair-o-planes and fairground organs.

Quarry Railway

The 2-foot gauge railway, known as the Quarry Railway, was begun in 1968 with track and engines from the Dinorwic Slate Quarries in Llanberis, Snowdonia. It runs for 1½ miles and features impressive hilltop views. There are two steam engines on this line, Caledonia, an 0-4-0 well tank engine built in 1931 and Jerry M, an 0-4-0 saddle tank engine built in 1895. There is also a diesel engine. The station canopy was originally at Hayling Island Station, yet after the closure of the Hayling Billy Railway the canopy was bought and reassembled at Hollycombe.

Garden Railway

The 7¼-inch Garden Railway travels 400 yards in a circular layout near the picnic area. There are two locomotives on this line and two platforms.

Hythe Pier Railway

The Hythe Pier Railway is a 2-foot narrow gauge electric passenger railway that runs 2,100 feet between two stations located on the dry and wet ends of Hythe Pier. The Hampshire town of Hythe3 is located on the west bank of Southampton Water close to the New Forest National Park. The inhabitants of Hythe often travel to Southampton on the Hythe Ferry which docks at the end of Hythe Pier. Hythe Pier was built in 1881 and is the seventh longest pier in Britain4. Unlike the other railways, Hythe Pier Railway is primarily a passenger route rather than a leisure attraction per se, although it is frequently used by tourists.

Although a railway on the pier at Hythe had first been proposed in the 1870s when the proposals to build a pier were first made, it was not until 1922 that a railway line was constructed. Passengers on the pier had, however, been able to push their luggage along in trucks that ran on rails along the pier since 1909. In 1922 the electric railway opened, using two electric locomotives, powered by a third rail, that had been built in 1917 for use in the Avonmouth Mustard Gas Factory as part of the Great War. On 4 June 1944 King George VI used the railway in a surprise visit from Southampton, the day before D-Day. In 1999 the railway received a certificate from Guinness World Records stating that Hythe Pier Railway is the world's oldest pier train5.

The railway has four carriages, two of which are special driving cabs that control the train when travelling to the seaward, wet end of the pier, as the train runs with only one engine, located on the landward, dry end of the pier. The train runs once every half hour, taking passengers to and from the Hythe Ferry.

The cost of riding on the train is included as part of the 12-minute journey on the ferry between Southampton and Hythe, or for a small charge in Hythe a ticket just for the pier and train can be purchased. Tickets for the ferry and train are bought from coin-operated machines, although the operators are usually able to change a note. Hythe Pier is part of National Cycle Route 2 from Dover, Kent to St Austell, Cornwall. Although bicycles are not allowed on the train, and cycling through the two stations is forbidden, bicycles are welcome on the ferry for an additional small charge. The ferry from Southampton leaves from Town Quay. This is located at the end of Southampton's QE2 Mile opposite the Southampton city walls, where National Cycle Route 23 between Reading, Berkshire and Sandown, Isle of Wight travels on the Isle of Wight car ferry.

Marwell Zoo Railway

The Marwell Railway attraction at Marwell Zoo is, despite initial appearances, diesel powered but is pulled by a steam-outline locomotive. The engine is named the Princess Anne after Her Royal Highness the Princess Royal, who declared open the World of Lemurs at the zoo in 1992, Penguin World in 1997, Into Africa in 2000 and Life in the Trees in 2007. The 15-inch gauge track runs on the right-hand side of the zoo. The main station is near the zoo's entrance, beside the gift shop, and has another station at the furthest end of the zoo near the Encounter Village, although trains do not always stop or pick up passengers from this point. The route uses for the most part the same track with loops at either end to allow the train to turn around. Its 900-yard route passes enclosures for capybaras, rheas, flamingos, pygmy hippopotamus, white rhinoceroses and macaques.

The zoo railway has been operating since 1987 and riding on it is charged in addition to the zoo's admission fare. On busy days it is possible to purchase tickets on the train, at quiet times tickets must be purchased from the gift shop. Facilities at the zoo include a free car park, a wide variety of animals, gift shop, cafés and restaurants and children's playgrounds.

Moors Valley Railway

Technically this railway is just the other side of the Hampshire/Dorset border and in Dorset, but it is located so close to Hampshire it would be a pity to exclude it. Especially considering that until 1974 the River Moors was the Hampshire/Dorset border, and so during the age of steam the location of the railway was just within Hampshire. Moors Valley Railway is a 7¼-inch gauge railway with a mile long track which encompasses four tunnels, the Oak, South, Moors and Kings Tunnels, several bridges, signal boxes and two stations. Kingsmere Station is the main station near the railway's gift shop, workshop and engine shed and Lakeside Station, which is located next to the picnic area near the lake. There are 15 steam locomotives and a couple of diesel locomotives operating on the line and it is open weekends throughout the year and during school holidays.

Moors Valley Railway is located in the Moors Valley Country Park. In addition to the charge to ride the railway there is also a charge for car parking. Facilities in the country park include large segregated playgrounds for toddlers and older children, a visitor centre, an 18-hole golf course, wildlife walks and cycleway, a play trail and tree top trail, a Go Ape high-wire centre, a barbecue and picnic area, restaurant, café, toilets and a gift shop.

Moors Valley Railway opened in its current location in 1986. Between 1980 and 1985 the railway was based in Tucktonia in Christchurch, Dorset, a park which housed a model town and other attractions in the 1970s until it closed in 1985.

Paultons Park Railway

Paultons Park in Hampshire is a theme park that has, over the last 20 years, evolved out of a country park, gardens and aviary attraction located just within the New Forest National Park. One of the first rides in the park, dating from 1987, was the Paultons Railway, now known as the Rio Grande Railway after the name of the locomotive. This is a 15-inch gauge railway that runs from a large, covered station building that also houses a restaurant.

The steam-outline train travels 700 yards around the park in a route that circumnavigates the world's first Peppa Pig World, a section of Paultons Park dedicated to the British cartoon pig, her family and friends. The railway effectively marks the border between Peppa Pig World and the rest of the park6, although bird and meerkat enclosures, the Trekking Tractors ride and the Wave Runner slide are also within the railway's circuit. The rail journey itself passes near a river through an attractive wooded area. Travel on the train is included as part of the park entrance fee, and according to the park's brochures, riding on this train is a hoot hoot7.

There are several other rides that run on rails in the park, including numerous rollercoasters, although the Runaway Train ride closed in 1999. One other rail-related ride is the Grandpa's Little Train ride in Peppa Pig World. This is a small, mock train ride based on the classic Peppa Pig episode 'Grandpa's Little Train', in which Grandpa Pig reveals that he has constructed a miniature locomotive, called Gertrude, and that in order for it to drive on the road he has fitted it with tyres. Consequently, the Grandpa's Little Train ride does not run on rails, other than a small central rail used for guidance and electric power.

Paultons Park is easily located and well signed off Junction 2 of the M27.

Royal Victoria Railway

Not to be confused with Queen Victoria's Railway, the Royal Victoria Railway is a mile long 10¼-inch gauge railway located in the Royal Victoria Country Park near Netley, next to Southampton Water. The railway opened on the site of a former small railway, which serviced the military hospital that was on the site. The first train ran on 24 August 1996, borrowing coaches from the Poole Park Railway as its own coaches were not constructed until that November. The Royal Victoria Railway has acquired locomotives coming from the closed Age of Steam Railway in Cornwall and Margate Pier Railways. There are currently plans to extend the track by ½ mile to include a new station, a turntable and tunnel. There are two stations, Piccadilly Station and Chapel Road Station, although it is hoped as part of the extension to renovate both stations.

Other facilities in the area include the country park's 200-acre woodland and grassland, a café, a play area and a car park for which a parking charge applies. Between 1863 and 1966 this was the site of the Royal Victoria Hospital, Britain's largest military hospital. After the hospital closed, Hampshire County Council purchased the site in 1969, demolishing most of the buildings and the park was opened to the public in 1970. All that remains of the hospital is the central chapel. This is now the park's Heritage Centre, displaying a history of the hospital and has a 150-foot tall viewing tower, providing views over the park, Southampton Water, Hythe and Southampton.

Royal Victoria Country Park is on National Cycle Route 2, Dover to Cornwall.

Stansted Park Light Railway

On the Hampshire/Sussex border, Stansted Park Light Railway is idyllically situated in the South Downs National Park. The 7¼-inch gauge railway railway opened in 2005 and has a half-mile long track, described as being a 'bone shaped' layout, through the woods of Stansted Forest.

The railway opens on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays between 11-4pm and also on Bank Holidays, weather depending. There is one station containing three platforms, as well as impressive station paraphernalia including a signal box.

The railway is within the grounds of Stansted Park a short walk from Stansted House, a stately home rebuilt in the early 20th Century following a catastrophic fire. The house is open to the public on Sundays. In addition, the area has a garden centre, some small craft shops, a maze for which there is an additional charge and an arboretum. There is also a small play area with a slide and play house. Strangely, the picnic area is located next to the car park without a gate to prevent children from getting squished.

Standsted Park is easily accessible from either the A27 in the south or from the A3(M).

Viables Miniature Railway

The Basingstoke & District Model Engines Society have a railway located at the Viables Craft Centre in Basingstoke. This is a collection of businesses in former farm buildings, the farm itself having been lost due to the expansion and development of Basingstoke in the 20th Century.

The Viables Railway is a raised dual 3½-inch and 5-inch gauge railway that first opened in 1979 at a track length of 700 feet, and has now expanded to almost 1,000 feet including a tunnel, footbridge and a bridge over the pedestrian access to the railway. There is one station, complete with covered canopy, and trains run two loops of the track so each journey is approximately 2,000 feet. Both diesel- and steam-powered locomotives run, although the railway is only open to the public occasionally, usually twice a month between 11am and 4pm, weather depending.

It is a short distance from Junction 6 of the M3 and near National Cycle Network route 23 (Reading, Berkshire to Sandown, Isle of Wight via Basingstoke, Winchester, Southampton, Cowes and Newport). The centre has free parking, an eclectic range of shops and restaurants.

Watercress Miniature Railway

The Mid-Hampshire Steam Railway, commonly known as the Watercress Line as the route travels through Hampshire's watercress fields, was opened in 1865 and since 1977 has operated as a heritage steam railway. In 2010 it was announced that constructing a permanent 10¼-inch gauge miniature railway at Ropley station as part of their station improvement programme was approved by the East Hampshire District Council's North Planning Committee.

This is only a short straight section of track. Trains run forwards and reverse along this from a station named High Ropley Station. The miniature railway is located up a slope north of Ropley Station, a short, signposted drive from the A31. Use of the miniature railway is included in the price of a day ticket on the standard gauge main railway, and is open on weekends and during school holidays and special events.

Railway Gauges

The gauge is the inner distance between the two rails, from inner head to inner head8. In comparison, British standard gauge is 4 feet 8½ inches (1435mm), a measurement based on the usual width of a horse-drawn wagon and required by law by the 1846 Railway Regulation (Gauge) Act. Railways of 2-foot gauge or more, but less than standard gauge, are usually considered to be narrow gauge.

3½-inch (89mm)Bitterne Park Miniature Railway, Viables Miniature Railway
5-inch (127mm)Bitterne Park Miniature Railway, Viables Miniature Railway
7¼-inch (184mm)Bankside Miniature Railway, Bitterne Park Miniature Railway, Bursledon Miniature Railway, Cuckoo Hill Railway, Eastleigh Lakeside Steam Railway, Hollycombe Garden Railway, Moors Valley Railway, Stansted Park Light Railway
8¼-inch (210mm)Bankside Miniature Railway
10¼-inch (260mm)Eastleigh Lakeside Steam Railway, Royal Victoria Railway, Watercress Miniature Railway
12¼-inch (311mm)Exbury Gardens Railway
15-inch (381mm)Marwell Zoo Railway, Paultons Park Railway
2-foot (610mm)Bursledon Light Railway, Hayling Seaside Railway, Hythe Pier Railway, Hollycombe Quarry Railway

Advice for Visiting a Miniature Railway

If you visit a miniature railway, there are some basic safety rules to be aware of:

  • Keep an eye on young children at all times.
  • Never walk on the track. Only cross using official bridges and level crossings when it is safe to do so.
  • When travelling in the train, keep arms and legs inside the carriage at all times.
  • Do not rock the carriages – this could cause derailment and injury.
  • With steam railways, locomotives are powered by burning coal. There is a risk of smut and spark emissions, and you should take steps to protect yourself and your children from it.
  • Rides are usually subject to the weather.

Railways That No Longer Exist

There are several sites that used to house narrow gauge railways in Hampshire. These were particularly associated with military sites.

As well as the one mentioned above at the Royal Victoria Hospital, there used to be a narrow gauge railway at Calshot Castle. This, known as the Calshot Express, remained in service until the end of the Second World War and sadly no longer exists. However one engine, Douglas, still survives and now runs at the Talyllyn Railway in Wales. The Talyllyn Railway was a big source of inspiration for Thomas The Tank Engine author Reverend Wilbert Awdry, who gave many of his narrow gauge characters similar names to engines there that inspired them. The character of Duncan in the Railway Series is based on the former Calshot Express engine Douglas.

There were miniature railways in Southsea and Stokes Bay in the 1920s-1970s, both of which have gone, run by the same organisation as one in Poole in neighbouring Dorset. At Southsea, a model village and model railway is still there.

Nearby Railways

There are miniature railways in the neighbouring counties of Dorset, Wiltshire, Berkshire, Surrey and Sussex. The closest one to Hampshire that is just outside Hampshire's borders is the Frimley Park Lodge Miniature Railway in Surrey.

Standard Gauge Steam Railways

There is still one standard gauge steam railway in Hampshire, the Watercress Line at Alresford near Winchester. Other standard gauge steam railways in nearby neighbouring counties include the Isle of Wight Steam Railway, the Swanage Railway in Dorset and the Bluebell Railway in Sussex.

1A 'steam outline' engine is an engine designed to look like a steam train, but actually is powered by other means such as battery or diesel.2The others are at Alton Towers, Blackpool Pleasure Beach, Butlins Skegness, Chester Zoo and Flamingoland Theme Park in Yorkshire.3Not to be confused with Hythe, Kent.4After Southend, Southport, Ryde, Walton-on-the-Naze, Llandudno, and Ramsey.5Apparently railways that travel not only on piers but also elsewhere, such as the Isle of Wight Railway that, since 1880, has taken passengers to the end of Ryde Railway Pier do not count.6Access to Peppa Pig World is over a level crossing that crosses the railway tracks, with barriers that beep before they lower. This level crossing is next to the Miss Rabbit's Helicopter Ride, which also beeps when it starts. The helicopter ride's beeps consequently often cause people to stop using the level crossing.7This reflects the Paultons Park slogan in the days when it was primarily a bird park, which was 'It's a Hoot Hoot at Paultons Park'.8As rails are T-shaped to prevent derailing, it is the inner distance between the top of each T.

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