Mystery engine and driver

Saturday, August 29 2009


Unknown loco with unknown driver.
Photo Dalehead & Stocks in Bowland website

Imagine a 3 ft gauge narrow gauge railway with a ‘main line’, sidings and temporary track adding up to 13 miles. Some 13 steam engines operate over the 3ft gauge tracks. In addition for lighter duties over very temporary track some 20 ex War Department 20 hp and 40 hp run over a 2 ft gauge system. Amazingly, a significant section of the ‘main line’ remains in situ until the 1980s.

While our sister blog Behind The Water Tower regularly issues alerts about the parlous state of Poland’s surviving narrow gauge railways, it is easy to forget that in the inter-war years England had a rich collection of industrial narrow gauge lines, a few of which survived into the 1950s and 60s. The narrow gauge paradise described above was started in 1922. The railways were built to aid the construction of the Stocks Reservoir at Dalehead on the Hodder Valley near Clitheroe. A base was established at Tosside and railway sidings were specially built at Long Preston on the LMS line near Hellifield. Material was brought to Tosside in a Foden steam lorry or in a trailer hauled by a Fowler traction engine from the sidings at Long Preston.

The ‘main line’ ran 5 miles from Tosside to the site of a dam that was being built to retain the waters of the Hodder; another line ran to quarries from which the stone needed for the construction work was obtained. A temporary village was constructed for the workers with its own pub. The 3 ft gauge railway ran down the middle of ‘Main Street’. A short branch line allowed beer wagons to be delivered straight into the pub’s cellar.

The construction of the reservoir is documented on the Dalehead & Stocks in Bowland website. The railway, its engines and the men who worked them appear in many of the photographs. The website is comprehensively illustrated and is a delight to read and explore. The only gripe that one could possibly have is that no map of the railway is included.



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