|If you lived in Gloucestershire
between 1990 and 1992 you might remember a weekly
newspaper called The Gloucester Journal. In The
Gloucester Journal was a feature called Railspot, which I
wrote. Each week, Railspot would include a picture, 500
words describing it, and often some pub quiz type
questions about railways.
|One of my favourite aspects of Railspot was the book reviews, and here is one for a classic work - still in print I understand - from 27 July 1992. Incidentally, Shire books are available from all good stockists - including Gloucester Folk Museum.|
INDUSTRIAL NARROW GAUGE RAILWAYS
|Coupled to a trailer with a dead
weight, the chassis of a lightweight diesel locomotive is
tested at the works of Lister and Company in Dursley,
Gloucestershire. Although renowned for their stationary
engines, Listers branched out into rail vehicles during
the 1930s following the success of their petrol driven
"auto-truck" - designed for factory work.
This parallelled both the use of a Fordson Standard agricultural tractor engine by Hudsons of Leeds and that of a sports car type Meadows powerplant by the Kent Construction Company in its "Planet" class locomotives. Indeed, the move from steam to internal combustion on industrial narrow gauge railways prefigured that on Britain's main lines by several decades, just as these obscure, plebian yet fascinating systems pre-dated the standard gauge networks of today.
This transition from steam to diesel - and a spectacular one from battery electric to chain haulage - are just some of the topics discussed within "Industrial Narrow Gauge Railways" published by Shire Books. Containing 45 monochrome pictures between its full colour covers, this 32 page album has been written by Ian Dean, Managing Director of the Mid Hants Railway plc since 1989 but more importantly the Director of the Amberley Chalk Pits Museum in Sussex during the decade before. This experience, combined with a boyhood love of the gravel, brick and cement works railways of his native Eastbourne give him both a unique grasp of the industrial narrow gauge scene and a style of writing which is enthusiastic yet entertainingly concise.
The gauge of early railways, Mr Dean relates, was fixed at about four feet as this was a comfortable space for a horse to walk in and as most of these lines were canal "feeders" unconnected to each other they escaped the controversy between Brunel and the Stephensons over the "standard" gauge for a national network. Rather, the industrial narrow gauge scene moved during the 19th Century from being the cradle of the railways to its outermost tentacles: probing ground otherwise inacessable to trains by virtue of its cheapness, lightness, and ability to be relaid easily round sharp curves and along steep gradients. Among the applications found for these little lightweight lines were slate quarries, potato fields, civil engineering projects and, after 1914, supplying front -line troops across the quagmire of the Western Front. Indeed, it was the Great War that not only "standardised" a narrow gauge of 2 feet between the rails but hastened the advent of lorries and bulldozers that would sound the death knell for so many industrial railways.
Happily though, many systems, with steam, diesel, electric, horse, compressed air and even man power still survive either in preservation or continuing industrial service. Each one has had its own quirks - such as dedicated rolling stock, unusual turnouts or even double flanging - and a wide range of examples at home and abroad are described with a list of places to visit and a bibliography.
Indeed, the industrial narrow gauge story is not over yet. For the delight of 009 enthusiast and CBI member alike the final image of the book is of a peat train hauled by a 14 horsepower diesel - built by Alan Keef Limited of Lea near Ross on Wye. Long may its twin pistons keep busy in their cylinders say I!
|For more on models of industrial narrow gauge railways click here for SM32 format and click here for smaller gauges|
|For more on Lister Auto Trucks - used to help lay kerbs on the A38 in Gloucestershire from 1950 to 1970 - Mercury Tugs and other similar small industrial trucks click here|
OTHER RELOADED RAILSPOTS
|British Standard Steam|
|English Electric Type 3 Co-Cos|
|The Midland & South Western Junction Railway|
|Southern Railway Class N15 "King Arthur" 4-6-0s|
|Warship Class Diesel Hydraulic Locomotives|