The West Lancashire Light Railway
The Railway Today
The West Lancashire light railway is a 2' gauge railway of around 430 yards length. Like
several other UK projects it is not a preserved railway but an attempt to preserve the atmosphere
and locomotives of the narrow gauge era and as such is operated by the West Lancashire Light
Railway Association. The railway is appropriately located in an area which was once alive with
small industrial railways although these have now disappeared. The line itself is on a new site
(new to narrow gauge railways that is) skirting the edge of a worked out clay pit in the village
of Hesketh Bank between Preston and Southport.
The line possesses a wide range of locomotives with over twenty internal combustion locomotives
and a varied handful of steam engines, of course at any one time a smaller number of these are
available for service. The steam engines include examples built by Kerr Stuart, Orenstein and
Koppel, and of course two of the ubiquitous Hunslet locomotives from the slate quarries of North
Wales. Passenger stock is also varied and includes two coaches acquired second-hand from the
Southend pier railway. Of course passenger comfort is not a major issue on a line where the
journey is so brief.
Refreshments and souvenirs are on sale at Becconsall station where the passenger boards the
train for the short steam hauled journey passing Willow Tree Halt on the way to the run round loop
at Delph station. The visitor may notice that the line continues past Delph but the further 200
yards or so are not currently fit for passenger trains.
Although a small concern the WLLR offers the opportunity to get a taste of the narrow gauge
scene without spending a lot of time or money in an area where narrow gauge is now thin on the
ground. Do bear in mind however that the railway operates mainly on summer Sundays and bank
holidays and it is best to check that trains are running before your visit.
History and Origins
Who knows how many times a small group of school boys have dreamed of running their own
railway. This is exactly what happened in Lancashire in 1967, this group was destined to be
different and they eventually formed the nucleus of The West Lancashire Light Railway Society and
brought their dream to fruition at Hesketh bank.
The site at Hesketh Bank was found in September 1967 and material for the first 150 yards of
track was acquired from a nearby brickworks where railways of several gauges had been used over
the years. Examples of diesel traction was acquired early on but lack of funds initially prevented
the purchase of steam locomotives. When the Hunslet, Irish Mail, was eventually purchased it was
in very poor condition and lacked a boiler, one problem lead to another when a loco with a
suitable boiler was located at the top of the Dinorwic slate quarry where it had been stripped of
smaller components for spares and abandoned as recovery from its lofty perch seemed impossible!
The Hesketh bank group managed to remove Alice to a location where she could be loaded onto road
transport but it took them almost six months to do it!
The railway has grown steadily since it's pioneering days and now boasts a formidable array of
locomotives and a well equipped workshop for their maintenance as well as the 430 yard running
line which is now laid to a high standard. Future expansion on the site is possible and the WLLR
has a bright future ahead of it.