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Miniature Railways

Published on June 2nd, 2023

A family day out and a ride on the miniature railway - what a treat! Presenting a special selection of photographs from The Francis Frith Collection of children (of all ages) enjoying the special, simple thrill of a ride on miniature railways.

Featuring photographs from the 1920s to c1965 of miniature railways in favourite family destinations like Hythe, Fairbourne, Rhyl, Cromer, Clevedon, and Saltburn-by-the-Sea, amongst many others. We hope you enjoy them all!

The miniature railway in Clevedon opened in 1952 on a small circular track. The train in this photograph was the original one. The line was upgraded with a Severn Lamb Rio Grande locomotive in 1976 and ran in this form until 2012, when it was put up for concession. Under its new operator, the track was regauged in 2013 to 15 inch to accommodate a new steam outline locomotive and two open Severn Lamb carriages. Trains now run round the outskirts of a field next to the seafront, perhaps sometimes towing the grandchildren of the riders seen in this 1962 photograph!

Photo: Clevedon, The Miniature Railway 1962.

Photo: Dymchurch, Light Railway Station 1927.

The Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway is said to be the world's smallest public railway service. The 15 inch gauge line opened in 1927, and was the brainchild of Henry Greenly, Captain J E P Howey and Louis Zborowski. From Hythe to New Romney the line is double tracked, so trains travelling in the opposite directions can pass each other. However, beyond New Romney the line is a single track to Dungeness with a passing place at Romney Sands. It is still running today, and serves both as a novelty for holidaymakers and as a commuter train for local schoolchildren.

Photo: Hythe, And Dymchurch Light Railway 1927.

The miniature railway affectionately known as the ‘Little Train’ proved to be an enduring attraction at Rhyl over the many years of its operation. The line was opened in May 1911 to much public acclaim. Circuiting the marine lake, it initially operated from ‘Central Station’ in the shadow of the Big Dipper.

Photo: Rhyl, Miniature Railway, Marine Lake c.1920.

Porthcawl’s miniature railway ran alongside the Eastern Promenade between the harbour and the entrance to the seaside resort’s fairground.

Photo: Porthcawl, Passengers On The Miniature Railway 1938.

The holiday camp phenomenon had been developed by Billy Butlin before the Second World War. By the 1950s, the popularity of a cheap and cheerful holiday camp atmosphere brought thousands of visitors to camps like Wick Ferry in Dorset each year. The model steam train was a popular attraction, as it took campers along the edge of the Holiday Park.

Photo: Christchurch, Miniature Railway, Wick Ferry Holiday Camp c.1955.

One of the most popular attractions on the seafront at Lowestoft in the 1950s was the miniature railway, pulled by a Midlands Class 5 engine called ‘Sonia’.

Photo: Lowestoft, The Pier Miniature Railway c.1955.

Photo: Bexleyheath, Danson Park, Miniature Railway c.1955.

Photo: Hunstanton, The Pier And Miniature Railway c.1955.

The popular 10.25 inch narrow gauge railway at Poole Park in Dorset, laid in 1949, is one the longest established in England. The line runs for half a mile round the smaller lake. Steam was replaced by diesel in 1970, but the four carriages are from the original train.

Photo: Poole, The Miniature Railway c.1960.

Photo: Littlehampton, Miniature Railway c.1955.

Who do you think is having the most fun as this delightful little train speeds round its circuit – the little boy driving it, or the older man acting as the passenger?

Photo: Cromer, Train, Peter Pan Railway c.1960.

An excited group of passengers look forward to their journey on Lakeside Miniature Railway, the engine being named 'Prince Charles'.

Photo: Saltburn-By-The-Sea, The Miniature Railway c.1955.

Always a highly popular attraction, the miniature railway was opened in the Valley Gardens in 1947. It has since undergone various changes of ownership and modifications to the line and equipment, but its appeal to visitors young and old has never waned.

Photo: Saltburn-By-The-Sea, The Miniature Railway c.1955.

Photo: Porthmadog, Ffestiniog Miniature Railway c.1955.

Charles Wicksteed founded an engineering works in Kettering in 1876 and later diverted into manufacturing playground equipment. He shared his business success with Kettering by buying 150 acres on the edge of town which by 1921 he had turned into an enormous playground for children, Wicksteed Park; it had two boating lakes, and a model railway. Two locomotives on the miniature railway in Wicksteed Park in its early days were called ‘King Arthur’ and ‘The Lady of the Lake.’

Photo: Kettering, Wicksteed Park c.1960.

Photo: Dungeness, Romney, Hythe And Dymchurch Railway c.1960.

Photo: Fairbourne, Miniature Railway c.1960.

All aboard the Zoo Express! We’re off to see lions and tigers and bears!

Photo: Chessington, Zoo, The Train c.1965.

Photo: St Anne's, The Miniature Railway c.1960.

This post has the following tags: Memories,Nostalgia.
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