Narrow Gauge Pleasure

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.

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