FOREWORDIt is the profound hope of the MDLR Preservation Society that visitors to the Railway will find this short History and Guide of benefit to them whilst they are in the area, and a pleasant reminder of their visit once they return home. The increased interest in our little Line shewn by Enthusiasts and the public at large has encouraged us to put pen to paper in an attempt to answer the many questions which come our way - we trust that this slim volume will serve that purpose.
Bagshaw Dale Works, 1991
B.L.Dominic, General Manager, Receiver and Engineer.
BACKGROUNDLate in the last century, the exploitation of the mineral riches of the White Peak area of Derbyshire was being hampered by the lack of good communications. Though lead ores had been extracted and removed by pack horse for many centuries, the increasing demand for fluorspar to be used as a flux in steel making, lead to pressure from the mine owners for a more effective means of removing the greatly increased quantities of minerals.
FIRST MOVESFirst thoughts were for a canal, but the same problems which beset the original Cromford & High Peak project, a combination of difficult country and poor water supplies on the summit level, quickly lead to its abandonment. A rail connection was considered ideal, so an approach to the Midland Railway was made. The thought at this stage was for a standard gauge branch from Rowsley through Alport and up Lathkill Dale, more or less on the line of the present Railway, but this once again came to nothing, mainly due to the narrowness of the head of the Dale, and the mine owners were thus thrown back onto their own initiative.
At this point, it was fortuitous that one of the mine owners visited North Wales, and saw the Festiniog Railway in operation. He came back to Derbyshire fired with enthusiasm, and he quickly organised a meeting of mine owners which decided to promote an independent two foot gauge Railway from the Monyash area to Rowsley, via Lathkill Dale and Alport.
Originally, the line was envisaged as a mineral railway only, but when a Public Meeting was called, and it very quickly became apparent that local people wanted much more than just a mineral line. They wanted to be able to go to Bakewell, the local Market town, which though only a short distance from Monyash as the crow flies, was a difficult journey over indifferent roads, and well - nigh impossible in winter. The local farmers could also see the benefit in being able to move their produce to Market by rail, so it was decided to apply for an Act to construct a Monyash and Bakewell Railway.
This revised project attracted the attention of the Duke of Rutland, the grounds of whose property Haddon Hall straddled the line of the proposed railway. He had already caused the Midland Railway a great deal of inconvenience, by requiring them to put their line in a shallow (and expensive) tunnel so that his view wouldn't be spoilt. An approach from the Committee set up to oversee the project was rather surprisingly not rejected out - of - hand, and when it was revealed that the line was intended to pass on the opposite (north) side of the Matlock - Bakewell road, out of sight of the Hall, the Duke gave the project his blessing. With this major hurdle out of the way, the Act was quickly prepared, and passed through all its stages in Parliament, where the Royal Assent was granted on 28th March, 1890.
With the Act obtained, the land required for the Railway was purchased, Thomas Brassey & Sons were appointed as Contractors, Superior Iron Rails were ordered from the Whitehaven Iron Company, and work quickly started at a number of points. The Bakewell end of the line was fairly easy to construct and was finished first, and a restricted service to Haddon was able to start as early as April 1st, 1892. Once past Haddon, as visitors to the Line quickly realise, the country becomes much more difficult - some blasting was needed to create a roadbed for the Railway past the quarries, and there was the major bridge over the River Lathkill to build before Alport (not yet a Junction) could be reached.
Construction up Lathkill Dale to Monyash and the end of the Railway proper was easier, and the whole Railway was ready for its Official Inspection (and had already begun to carry minerals) by October 1895.
The Inspecting Officer was extremely complimentary to this little Railway, praising the high standard of workmanship shown in the Haddon - Alport section in particular. "The stations", he commented "are unusually spacious and commodious for such a small undertaking, and great credit is due to all those involved". Once one or two minor matters (mainly incomplete facing point locks and odd bits of unfinished wall - the local wallers hadn't been able to keep up with the construction gangs) had been attended to, the Railway could be opened to traffic.
Monday, 3rd January 1896 dawned clear and frosty, and large crowds were soon gathering along the Railway to witness the celebrations consequent upon its opening. The first train, consisting of all the Company's coaches, and drawn appropriately enough by No.1 GORDON, left Bakewell at 10-00 am, carrying Railway and Civic dignitaries, and the Bakewell Silver Prize Band, whom, we are told, "played lustily throughout the entire journey". The second train, consisting of mineral wagons carrying ordinary passengers at no charge, left at 11-00 am and did not have the benefit of this early form of Muzak, but seem, by all accounts, to have enjoyed the journey none the less.
The stately progress of the trains was interrupted by the inevitable stop for water at Alport, but advantage was taken by the Duke (who was Guest of Honour) to make a speech welcoming "This manifestation of local Pride and Enterprise" (sic) "which shows that anything that can be done elsewhere, Derbyshire will do BETTER! (Loud and prolonged cheers)"
This said, the official party rejoined the train, which in due course made its way through the Dale to Monyash, where the Official Opening Ceremony took place, and further speeches made all round. Honour having been satisfied, as it were, the Official Party repaired to the newly - finished Bagshaw Dale Works, where the customary Sumptuous Cold Collation was taken, and the toast "Success to the Monyash & Bakewell Railway" was proposed, seconded and drunk in, what we are told was "an excellent wine". The workers made do with bread and cheese, washed down with Ale and Porter. This all having been satisfactorily concluded, the two trains wended their slightly inebriated way down the Dale, and everyone considered the Railway to have been well and truly opened.
The next morning, normal services started.
THE FIRST EXTENSIONS
The Railway as built had provided a route from Monyash to Bakewell, but the minerals which were the raison d'etre for its existence still had no access to the Railway at the Monyash end, and no means of transhipment to the main line at the lower end. These problems were addressed in the Monyash & Bakewell Railway (Extensions) Act of 1895, which allowed for the construction of two further railways - Railway Number 1 was a Mineral Extension of the main line from an end-on junction with the existing Railway at Monyash to exchange sidings and a network of lines to serve the various Mines, with a level crossing across the Monyash - Bakewell road, and Railway Number 2, a connection with the Midland Railway at Rowsley. The means by which this latter were to be achieved was deliberately left somewhat vague, as the Company was not certain of the best route or method to adopt. In the end, the Company decided on the bold (for that time) decision to install a Telpher Cableway, which would pick up complete wagon bodies from the M & B sidings, transport them through the air to the M.R. sidings, and tip their contents into large bunkers, from which s.g. wagons could be fed by gravity.
Construction of the Mineral Extension, which quickly acquired the title of the Flagg Extension proceeded apace, with the Mine owners providing some of the labour for a line which was much more lightly constructed than the Main Line proper, and followed the shallow depressions in the relatively flat top of the White Peak. The first mineral trains started to operate on this section early 1897, but at the south end the bold decision to use a cableway caused many problems, not the least being the difficulty of using a new technology. However, developments in cableways consequent on the construction of the Panama Canal resulted in better and more reliable equipment becoming available. However, the system was successfully commissioned and quickly became a familiar sight to drivers on the A6.
OPERATIONS - THE EARLY DAYS
The passenger train services provided from the opening of the Line were of the pattern which might be expected - an early Down passenger and milk train ("Down" for the M & B was always towards Bakewell), crossing at Alport with the first Up train, conveying newspapers and Mails. The main morning passenger service departed at 9-00am, but ran as a "mixed" on Mondays (Market day at Bakewell). Sometimes, an extra train for livestock was also required to cope with the traffic. Trains also left Monyash at 12-18 and 1-48, but then there was a lull until 4-18, when the afternoon train, leaving Bakewell with the school children brought Monyash residents back from the fleshpots of Bakewell. There was a departure at 5-06, and the final Up Evening train (departing Bakewell at 7-12), was, like the 9-00am Down, provided with a connection from Rowsley MR station for the London expresses, in the form of a Company one - horse Brake which transferred the passengers. This was much easier and reliable than the first attempt to provide a similar service at the Bakewell end of the line - the two stations were separated by the town centre which then as now can get extremely congested. Connections were frequently missed despite some hair - raising driving through the town by the Company's drivers. When one of these was brought before the Bench charged with dangerous driving, the Company decided enough was enough and moved the whole operation to Rowsley, having persuaded the MR to stop the appropriate trains there instead.
The first Goods service of the day was in fact the first train to move on the Railway - a very - early - morning Up Explosives train, delivering the wherewithal for Big Bangs to the quarries and mines. The Down Goods followed the 10-00am passenger service, and the Down Mineral left the exchange sidings at Monyash at 2-00pm, running direct to the sidings at Haddon, and returning the empties to Monyash for 4-30pm. The Up Goods (mixed on Market Days) left Bakewell at 12-30 and the last Down service was the Explosives Empties, ready for reloading for the morrow.
THE YOULGREAVE CONNECTION
The success of the M & B had not gone un-noticed in the rest of the White Peak. Moves to build a branch from the village of Youlgreave had first been made soon after the opening of the M & B, but nothing concrete occurred until 1899, when the nominally separate Youlgreave and Alport Junction Railway obtained an Act to construct a line from Alport, through the confines of Bradford Dale to Youlgreave. The junction itself was a trailing one in the Up direction, so trains from Bakewell to Youlgreave had perforce to reverse and simple through workings were impossible. What was usually done was to marshal Up passenger trains with the Monyash portion leading, the Branch locomotive collecting the Youlgreave portion at Alport Junction after the Main line train had left. In the reverse direction, the Branch train was timed to arrive after the Main line train, and the Branch loco would attach its portion to the rear of the train. This created a minor headache for the Operating staff, in that each half set of coaches worked alternately to the two extremities of the line, so finding lost property (and reuniting it with its owners) became something of a problem! To digress a little, in the Twenties the Joint Committee (of which more anon) invested in railcars for passenger traffic, and these proved a godsend to the Alport station staff, as the Youlgreave Branch trains became almost invariably worked by them, with cross - platform connections being provided, rather than a through service.
THE JOINT COMMITTEE
It very quickly became apparent to the managements of both Railways that running two separate undertakings under two separate Boards was a very cumbersome way to operate what was virtually one railway, and fairly soon a Joint Traffic Management Committee was set up to oversee the running of the Railways, which at this stage retained their own separate identities, tickets and timetables. However, when in the Twenties the financial pinch was felt, both Management Committees recommended to their Shareholders that the two Railways be combined, and managed by a Joint Committee. Thus on 20th May, 1922 the Mid-Derbyshire Light Railways (Joint Management Committee) Act passed into statute and it was then that the Railway acquired its present identity. New loco and stock liveries were introduced, the former Youlgreave and Alport Junction Company's workshop (which had in any case been sending its heavy repair work to the M & B's larger and better - equipped Bagshaw Dale Works for years) was closed, and the line began its aggressive marketing policy to attract the increasing numbers of tourists ("See the Beauties of the White Peak By Derbyshire's Toy Train").
WARS AND PEACE
The First World War affected the Railways as much as their larger brethren - many able-bodied men went to join the Colours, and the Railways were left to run their operations with old men, boys, and for the first time women, who took over many duties, from loco and coach cleaners and machinists in the Works to Station Master and Agent at all the principal stations, thereby allowing men to take on the more arduous and physically demanding jobs of driving and firing.
By the end of the Great War, women were firmly entrenched in a number of key positions, and retained these (particularly those on the Traffic and Administration side) for a number of years. During the Second World War, the Railway passed under Government control, and was worked very hard as demand for fluorspar had increased dramatically as a result of increased steel production for armaments. Unfortunately, as with their larger brethren, this increased workload was not matched with increased investment, so the Railway ended the War in a very run - down condition.
ENTER THE DIESEL
In the inter-war period, new technology in the form of the diesel locomotive was adopted by the Railway more whole-heartedly than on the Big Railway down the road. Events in the Irish Republic were watched with great interest and followed where it was felt appropriate. The mine owners were particularly quick to respond, and by the Thirties, a steam loco above Monyash Exchange Sidings was a rare sight. On the Main Line, diesel railcars and railbuses were adopted for passenger traffic. Though steam was still used at times of heavy demand, early morning and evening turns were almost invariably worked by this form of traction, as was Explosives traffic - crews were heartily pleased to be rid of steam locos on THAT duty!
There were a number of occasions during the year which merited special workings, and the MDLR was always willing to co-operate with requests for these.
Well Dressings have always been very important annual events in the life of a White Peak village, as in other parts of Derbyshire. When one was scheduled in a village served by the railway, the clergy and choirs would assemble at Bakewell Riverside, and would be transported to the nearest station by special train. This usually consisted of the Buffet and Observation Cars for the Clergy, plus as many other coaches as were required for the choirboys. Needless to say, the Bar remained firmly shut on the outward journey (though rumour has it that on the homeward trips, this was not always necessarily the case!). Other specials (of ordinary stock) were also put on for the many spectators (and later tourists) who also wished to witness these ancient ceremonies.
The annual Bakewell Show, held originally on the first Thursday in August (now Wednesday and Thursday) on the Showground in the water meadows next to the river, has had a long connection (in more ways than one) with the railway. A long siding, the Showground Spur, was laid in from Bakewell Riverside when it was realised that cattle and sheep being brought to the Show could be easily transported by rail. This was also used by one passenger train, the President's Special, which was provided free of charge by the railway each year for use of the President of the Bakewell Agricultural and Horticultural Society. Before the Show, the General Manager would discuss the arrangements for the Special with the President for that year, and when the President and his (or her) party arrived, the specially prepared train, which was usually held ready at Haddon station, was brought into the platform, the party entrained and were whisked in comfort straight into the Showground. The Bar in the Buffet Car WAS open on this occasion! If the President lived in a village directly served by the railway, arrangements could be made for the train to start from there instead.
The Show always caused traffic chaos in Bakewell itself, (though things have improved somewhat since the Show became a two day affair) and the Railway proved vital in helping to alleviate this problem. Normal services were suspended for the duration of the Show, and the fields round Haddon station were pressed into use as vast Car Parks. Non - exhibitors were required to park here, and take the train in what was a very early example of "Park and Ride". The service from Haddon to Monyash and Youlgreave was provided by Railcars and trailers or diesel locos with whatever stock was left over from the main service - an intensive steam - hauled service from Haddon to Bakewell Riverside, which adjoined the main entrance to the Showground. This service was operated using two long rakes of stock and four locos - as one train arrived at Haddon, the other one would be waiting to depart, and as soon as it arrived at Bakewell, a spare loco would be attached to the rear of the train ready for the return. The record for a turnround at Bakewell was set in 1959, when a full train was emptied and despatched in just over three minutes. On arrival at Haddon, the second spare engine took over the train and what had been the train engine laid over in the loco siding, where fire, water and crew would be rested in preparation for the next stint.
Before this started (at about 7-00 AM), the Exhibitor's Special would have left Monyash, met up at Alport with the Youlgreave portion, and worked down to the Showground siding. The return working left some time after the Show had closed, and once the Park and Ride service had ended and normal service restored.
THE FINAL FLING
What was to be the final fling of what we now call the Old Company came in the early 60's. The MDLR, along with the mines, had being going steadily downhill for some years, (the Flagg Extension and ropeway had both closed in 1954) but had resisted all offers of help from enthusiasts, indeed these were actively discouraged as "The MDLR is a working professional Railway, with no need of volunteer staff or help". The Railway would in fact have closed rather earlier than it eventually did, but for the fact that in 1968, Derbyshire County Council, in conjunction with the Peak Park Planning Board, evolved a scheme whereby vehicular traffic of all types was banned from entering the area served by the MDLR, and residents were only allowed out of the area in their vehicles once a week, except for emergencies. Police, Fire, and Ambulance vehicles were allowed access, but all bus services were reorganised to connect with an intensified train service to serve the villages. Freight traffic also underwent a terrific upsurge, with much extra traffic (including domestic rubbish and beer) being carried. One of the two ex WD bogie wagons was adapted to carry the half "standard size" containers which were used for transhipment traffic, and more would have been done in this direction had the scheme lasted more than two years. As it was, the MDLR was barely able to cope, the arrears of maintenance finally caught up with the Company's operations, and eventually there was nothing fit to run service. In a final nose - thumbing gesture to those who would have saved it, the railway was closed without notice on a Monday, and on the Wednesday, the whole of the motive power, rolling stock and rail was sold to the scrap man. The Old Company was then wound up, and the land and buildings were sold.
The howls of the enthusiasts were heard far and wide when the events recounted above became known. Two locos, GORDON and Simplex No 4 were rescued from the scrap man, and a Mid-Derbyshire Light Railway preservation scheme was floated. The first priority was to secure all the trackbed and buildings, and this was achieved with the aid of a Grant from the County Council. The section of line from Lathkill Dale station to Alport Junction was selected as the area with the best tourist potential, and the Preservation Society has succeeded in reopening this section of the original Main Line. Traffic is building up quite satisfactorily, and the long term plans of the Society include the reopening of the section from Lathkill Dale to Monyash, which has been re-laid in lightweight track to provide access to the Works at Bagshaw Dale. The Youlgreave Branch will follow, so that eventually trains will once more trundle through the Dales on their way to serve the people of the White Peak.
THE MOTIVE POWER OF THE OLD COMPANY
A Note on Locomotive Names
Before dealing with the locos themselves, a word about the Company's loco naming policy might not come amiss. Briefly, there wasn't one! Locos could be named at the whim of the Managing Director, the Works Manager, or anyone within or outside the Company who came up with a suggestion which was felt to be appropriate at the time, bearing in mind the loco itself or its origins.
The Permanent Way Department of the MDLR have always been something of an enigma and have always maintained an independent status within the Company. Though they normally use Company locomotives, they have had a succession of small low - powered trolleys for PW use, and these have traditionally carried the number 0. The earliest example of which any record has survived was of a small steeple - cabbed petrol loco of low power and doubtful reliability, which was furnished many years ago by the long - defunct Egger Locomotive Works. It originally had a small covered cab and Outdoor Sitting Area (a sort of Mobile Patio) for gang and tools, but said Gang objected to being left out in the open as the loco chugged up and down Lathkill Dale, so the loco was fitted with a larger engine and full size bonnet, in which form it was capable of hauling a proper PW train, complete with riding van.
The current carrier of this number is a skip chassis, which was taken into Bagshaw Dale Works by the Preservation Society and fitted with a Citroen 2CV petrol engine (capacity 602 cc, 29bhp) and gearbox. This latter has had a separate forward / reverse gearbox added, so it will go reasonably fast in both directions, but it is only capable of hauling one skip - the Gang has to walk! Polite name (not carried) ANDRE (Citroen) - other names unprintable!!
Number 1 GORDON The M & B started life with small 0-4-0 saddletank locos, built by North British to a design originally produced for the Himalaya & Darjeeling Railway in India. As the White Peak country was almost as difficult, though not as elevated, this choice appeared to be sound, as was in fact borne out by experience. The original example of this Class survives to this day, and is still operated by the Preservation Society.
Number 2 NODDY (6 wheel diesel)
In the immediate post - war years, the Railway was able to acquire a large amount of German light railway equipment, as part of reparations. This was a very mixed bag of locos and rolling stock, some of which survived until the end of Company operations and was extremely useful. Among these items was a batch of medium weight 6-wheeled diesels, fitted with the luxury (by the standards of the day) of a fully heated cab. Needless to say, they were seized upon with delight by the Operating Department, but delight turned to horror when it was realised;
1)that they were incredibly unreliable (though superb performers when they did behave)
2)Bagshaw Dale Works hadn't got any metric spanners to mend them!
In the end, three locos were cannibalised to keep one on the road. This particular example, named NODDY because his regular Driver had big ears, was regularly used on explosives trains, and was fitted with push-pull equipment for operation of light passenger trains with coach 114. The others were unofficially known as the Fawlty Class, and carried the painted names of BASIL, SYBIL, and MANUEL as they mouldered at the back of the Works.
Numbers 3 and 8 - BRIAN and TRIAL BALANCE
These locos originally started life as identical locos to GORDON, but in the Twenties they were subjected to a radical rebuild Great Western style - only the wheels and certain other fittings were reused. The resulting locos were powerful, neat, squat side tanks which were able to cope admirably with both the M & B's own traffic and the increased traffic of the Joint Lines. BRIAN was named after the General Manager of the time.
Number 4 (later MELD)
The MDLR never had a particular liking for the products of the Motor Rail and Tramcar Co, though one or more were usually to be found above Monyash Exchange Sidings, where their simple rugged design endeared them to the mine owners. However the Company eventually invested in one, which survived until the end of Company operations and was acquired by the Preservation Society.
Number 5 (diesel railbus)
This survivor of the 1920's was built by the Company to a German design and was originally fitted with a pair of petrol engines, which were quiet but didn't give much in the way of performance - hanging a van on the back resulted in late running all the way up hill. After the War, a pair of utility Guy Arab buses donated their Gardner 5LW diesel engines and gearboxes, which when coupled to new reversing gearboxes to give four speeds in each direction improved performance out of all recognition. With two drivers and both engines running, the beast would pull the proverbial house down, and use on freight and mixed trains was not unusual. There was one slight problem - the buses were fitted with gearboxes which were identical except that one had a reversed layout of gears to what is normally regarded as conventional. Of course, the Railway acquired one of each, so the drivers had to remember which end of the railcar they were driving, to avoid crunches and embarrassing lurches through changing gears wrongly. Two drivers only added to the possible permutations for disaster, and eventually the inevitable happened and two drivers tried to go at different speeds in opposite directions, totally shattering the transmissions and leaving the train standing on the main line. After this debacle, another gearbox was obtained, and modifications carried out to enable one driver to use both engines.
Number 6 GNU (Kerr Stuart diesel)
Readers will no doubt be familiar with the Kerr Stuart diesel prototype which worked on the Welsh Highland Railway, but what is generally not realised is that a similar machine was purchased by the MDLR, given its name as it was the "Gnu-est" loco on the line, and was successfully operated up to fairly recently, though it did get through no less than three engines, the last being a Gardner 5LW from the same source as the railbus's. The loco involved was classified by the builders as a "temperate" model, being fitted with external radiators and cab shutters to keep the Derbyshire winds away from the drivers. The standard open back to the cab was also covered in.
Number 7 SUPERB
Following the closure of the Lynton and Barnstaple Railway in 1935, the opportunity was taken to buy one of the Manning Wardle 2-6-2 tanks from that line. An option was taken on the others, and the first example, after modification to an 0-6-2 of massive proportions to reduce its wheelbase and renamed SUPERB duly entered service. Unfortunately, the tight curves on the MDLR played havoc with the loco's frames, which tended to crack and require repair regularly and therefore the option to purchase the rest was not taken up, and SUPERB was more often to be found stuck out of the way at the back of Bagshaw Dale Works.
Number 8 TRIAL BALANCE
See Number 3 above - named for the Company Accountant.
Number 9 LEVIATHAN (Bo-Bo diesel)
As will have now become fairly obvious, the Company tended to rely on other people's loco designs to a very great extent, and was never afraid to go abroad for equipment if this was felt to be the Best Thing. Thus it was, that when word reached the MDLR of the new Bo-Bo diesel hydraulics being built for the Austrian State Railway's 750mm gauge lines, a price for an extra one was obtained, and in due course one was ordered. When it arrived, a slightly embarrassing moment ensued when it was discovered that by some miscalculation a couple of overbridges were a VERY tight fit for what is the largest loco on the line, but after some slight tweaking of the track (and one of the bridges needed rebuilding anyway) all was well. As might be expected, this loco has always been highly regarded by the Operating Department, so when the Queen's Silver Jubilee was celebrated, this loco was selected for a special repaint, emerging with red bogies, blue body sides and white roof.
Number 10 PHNIX (Baldwin 2-6-2T)
One "preservation" project which was taken on by the Old Company was the reconstruction of an ex-WD Baldwin loco, which had been abandoned by the Ashover Light Railway shortly before its closure. As is well known, these locos were extensively cannibalised whilst in service, and the example bought by the MDLR was what is known as a kit of parts. For this reason, and as it was impossible to say that the loco was any particular one from the ALR, the name PHNIX (complete with diphthong) was decided upon. In one of the gross acts of vandalism committed by the Old Company in one of its rasher moments, the loco was sold to India in 1950, but has now happily returned to this country as one of the examples reimported some years ago.
THE PASSENGER ROLLING STOCK OF THE OLD COMPANY
The MDLR was very forward - looking when it came to allocating numbers to its rolling stock. Blocks of numbers were allocated to different types of vehicle, so these will be used to describe the various items.
4 - Wheel Passenger Stock (100 - 109)
104 Large Passenger brake/luggage van - obtained as part of the MDLR's War reparations. Matched bogie coaches 116/117 (q.v.)
105 Mine workers Coach built for the Flagg Extension workmans trains - the only survivor of a once - large fleet of these vehicles.
106/109 Small Passenger brake/luggage vans - fitted with toilets to the relief of all concerned. Habitually operated with trains made up from coaches 111-115, which did not have these facilities.
107 Modern open - balcony coach (as used by many German lines) again imported after the last War.
108 Small First Class coach obtained from the Tal-y-lyn Railway when it closed in 1950.
Bogie Passenger Stock (110 - 120)
110 Steel Bogie Brake - one of very few modern items of passenger rolling stock - built by Bagshaw Dale Works to a design cribbed from the Vale of Rheidol!
111/115 Bogie Thirds with wooden bodies of the Railway's standard design. (By some odd coincidence again similar to the VoR!)
112/113 Observation/Buffet Cars (permanently coupled pair). Rebuilt in 1931 from a pair of standard coaches (which carried the same numbers) for Tourist Trains. The Observation Car was fitted with separate chairs (ex Pullman Car) and a premium was charged for travel in this vehicle and the Buffet Car, which of course had a Bar serving Offilers Ales - very popular on the evening trains.
114 Driving Trailer. Again a rebuild from a standard coach of the same number, but a much simpler job with a glazed partition to separate the end compartment, which was fitted with a glazed end and a full - width Driver's desk, the controls to which could be connected to loco 2 NODDY which was specially fitted. When not in use for this duty, could often be found pressed into service as a substitute Observation Car.
116/7 A pair of very fine old fashioned German 2nd bogie saloon coaches with open end balconies, imported after the last War. Understandably not popular in the winter, but saw much use in summer. Particularly favoured by the "smuts in the hair" brigade.
118 Side corridor 3rd Lavatory bogie coach of a more modern design than 116 and 117 (indeed with its flush - panelled sides with 110 the most modern coaches on the line). Widely used, if only because it was the only coach on the line fitted with toilets.
119 Railbus Trailer - a short bogie saloon, finished in Railcar Red-and-Cream. Something of an enigma as records of its origin appear not to exist. The design suggests a Continental steam tram trailer, but the end balconies appear to have been destroyed before the coach arrived, and replacements were fitted at Bagshaw Dale.
120 ex-Ashover Light Railway coach. Acquired with PHOENIX and in a similar state - was undergoing its second restoration when the Old Firm shut down and may yet see rebuilding by the Preservation Society.
THE GOODS ROLLING STOCK OF THE OLD COMPANY
Records of the Goods rolling stock owned by the MDLR and its constituents were somewhat sketchy to say the least, and the following notes have been gleaned from a combination of Company records and observations made by enthusiasts over the years.
4 wheel Vans (201-5)
Apart from 201, which was a survivor from the original MDLR standard design, these were built to a more or less standard pattern (cribbed from the Lynton & Barnstaple) and were used for general traffic, except for 202, which was painted LNER Apple Green and used for Perishable Traffic.
Cattle Wagons (231-3)
Built by Pickering of Wishaw, to a design very similar to that used by the Welshpool & LLanfair.
Sheep Wagons (234-6)
An unusual design, resembling a roofless cattle wagon, built at Bagshaw Dale specially for the Company's rather specialised livestock traffic.
Bogie Van (250)
Built to cater for a very important local traffic - the transport of beer, both in cask and bottle. To be rebuilt by the Preservation Society as soon as funds permit!
Oddly enough, the MDLR was never blessed with many brakevans, despite the considerable freight traffic. The two which did exist were originally built to the same design as van 201, but in 1931 Van 292 was taken into Works for a rebuild, and re-emerged with a stylish veranda end, which was much appreciated by guards in summer.
4 wheel Open Wagons (301-4)
A motley collection, some rebuilt with sheet steel bodies, and one wooden open coal hopper (301), all with a capacity of 2 tons, and used for almost anything!
Bogie Open Wagons (351-2)
Two designs - 351 was a large wagon (12 tons) acquired from Germany, and 352 was an ex-WD Class D bogie wagon, which by the end was much rebuilt. There was a second, identical wagon numbered 353, which was rebuilt in 1968 for the Traffic Free Scheme.
Bogie Flat Wagon (360)
(Ex - 353) Stripped down to the underframe to carry containers for the Traffic Free Scheme, it had a spectacular end when it was literally pulled apart in traffic, following a particularly poor start from Conksbury Bridge Halt.
Large Hopper (478)
Built by the MDLR as a prototype for a new design of Large Steel Hopper for Fluorspar traffic which in the end was not proceeded with.
Mine Cars (501 on)
Allocated numbers purely for accounting purposes, there were a total at one time of over 200 4-wheel hoppers of various designs belonging to and being maintained by the various mines, and used exclusively for fluorspar traffic. The mine owners adopted a special system of wagon marking - sloping, vertical and horizontal coloured stripes in various combinations and positions made identification at Haddon or Monyash Exchange Sidings a rapid and accurate process, and ensured that each wagon went back where it belonged (and more importantly that the Bills for transport were right!)
SOCIETY LOCOS AND STOCK
Since the take - over of the MDLR from the Company, the Preservation Society has had to acquire what stock it can from wherever it was to be found.
Readers will recall that 1 GORDON and 4 were acquired from the scrap man when the Railway was sold. Number 1 had a heavy rebuild to a squatter outline (and to a 6 - coupled) some two years back, at which time it was re - named SUSAN after the present Managing Director's wife. It has recently received a light overhaul and repaint.
Further locos have been acquired by the Society:
An ex - British Coal battery underground loco of surprising power and durability, used mainly by the PW Department when ANDRE is not available or not man enough for the job. Finished in a striking bright yellow livery.
A Ruston Class LJT 4 wheel diesel - originally fitted with a VERY squat cab which has now had its roof raised considerably, much to the relief of crews.
The Simplex (number 4) was taken into service soon after being acquired, but was not named until the General Manager stood with the Preservation Society's publicity Stand at a Model Railway Exhibition, opposite the Deltic Preservation Society's Stand, complete with videos. After a weekend of rude comments (look at all that smoke, it must be a steamer.....) the name MELD suggested itself - it was nice and short too!
Orenstein & Koppell "Midget" 4w DM bought by a consortium of Society Members - named because it is totally cabless, so crews have to wear a flat cap. Nevertheless a very useful piece of equipment.
0-4-0 steam loco, constructed by the Malins Locomotive Works in the Black Country - received an extensive rebuild in Wales before entering service with the Society and now very highly regarded by the staff.
7 HAIRY MAN
Not yet in service, a 20hp Armoured Simplex, complete with original petrol engine. Will be used as Works shunter at Bagshaw Dale, and will only see use on the main line on high days and holidays, but nevertheless a delightful thing to have.
Like the Old Company, the Preservation Society also appreciates the advantages of the Diesel loco, so the opportunity to acquire a cancelled export order from the Friog works in Merioneth in 1991 was gratefully accepted - the result was named "BRUCE" after a particularly keen supporter of the Preservation Society.
When the Preservation Society was offered a German 60cm gauge railcar in 1991, it took very little persuasion to decide to acquire it for the line. The transport costs were paid by Argus Specialist Publications, hence the name. This example is rather older than the Old Company's 5, and has a matchboarded wooden body, rather than the metal panelled one on its forerunner.
Construction of new passenger rolling stock is still continuing, but at present the running fleet comprises the following:
21 4 wheeled passenger brake with a small saloon seating 10 with a balcony end, and at the other end a large Guard's compartment. Built at Bagshaw Dale and fitted with electric lighting.
22 A tricomposite bogie coach, the first of a rake of 3 or 4 matching panelled "old-fashioned looking" coaches which are planned.
23 Open passenger coach based on a design of the Tal-y-lyn Railway - seats 16 in 3 open - sided compartments.
24 A similar vehicle, currently awaiting a major rebuild after a serious runaway when it was virtually written off. Fortunately, the coach was empty when this occurred.
25 The brake coach in this rake of three - fitted with a Guard's compartment but with only two compartments for passengers.
26 The second of the "old-fashioned looking" rake, this is a 4-wheeled brake third, fitted wit distinctive duckets to the Guard's compartment.
27 The only other "old-fashioned looking" coach on the line is a 4-wheeled full brake, which in addition to carrying parcels and mail has also been fitted out to carry passengers in wheelchairs - access is easy through the double doors, and there is plenty of room to carry the ramp needed for wheelchair passengers to board.
Wagons and Vans
4 Wheel Open Wagons (101 - 109)
101 - an ex-FR/LNWR high-sided coal wagon, bought by a Society member long before the Society was ever thought of, and placed on loan by him to the Society when it was formed. Used on occasions for loco coal, but really more of a Museum item.
102 - also an ex-FR wagon, in this case with an iron body. Currently not in service.
104 - 107 are wooden bodied inside framed wagons, acquired from peat workings in Somerset. Much used for almost anything, but at the moment mainly for ballast. A further example was acquired, but has been rebuilt into a Van - see 151.
108/9 - a pair of new 4-wheel open wagons. 108 was built from parts supplied from the Society's Norfolk Branch, but 109 was built in Bagshaw Dale Works to an identical design.
Flat Wagons (113-4)
113 - the first piece of rolling stock to be constructed in Bagshaw Dale Works by the Society. Used by the PW Department, but too light to be used in normal service.
114 - constructed during 1993 for general use - it has removable sides so can double as a small open wagon if required.
151 - built on the chassis of a Somerset peat wagon - small but very useful for diesel-hauled trains.
152 - a very large van for 2 foot gauge, donated by the Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway. Very useful as an auxiliary van on passenger trains - recorded capacity 38 crushed humans!
As with all preservation schemes, a number of skips have been acquired for ballast traffic. There were originally 7, but as previously noted, one was "borrowed" for conversion into Number 0 ANDRE.
This vehicle was sold as a body to a local farmer, and has been repurchased and restored by the Society. Originally built to the same design as van 201, but rebuilt in 1931 with a stylish veranda end, which is much appreciated by guards in summer.
............As you possibly might have guessed by now, much of the foregoing is a product of my imagination. The places exist, the fluorspar mines exist, though not producing enough to warrant a railway to remove it, but the imaginary Railway was originally conceived as an excuse for a series of model railway layouts, initially in 4MM scale (009).
Haddon was the first station modelled, Monyash to Bagshaw Dale was next, and plans were laid for further layouts featuring Lathkill Dale, Alport Junction, the rock section to a rebuilt Haddon, Bakewell and the Flagg Extension. Each layout was intended to be able to stand alone, but also to be joined to the section adjoining, so that on odd occasions it would be possible to assemble the whole lot into one massive layout, in which trains would move over scale distances in real time. (It is these layouts which are represented by the "Old Company" of the story.)
Before this happy state of affairs was reached, an attack of F.F.O.E.H. (Five Fingers On Each Hand) Syndrome struck, and modelling moved up two scales to 16MM, and out into the garden, where Alport Junction and Haddon have been modelled. Lathkill Dale to Conksbury Bridge and Monyash is to follow, and long - term plans include a (non - prototypical) link to Haddon provide a long continuous run.
This history has also evolved over the years - I have always worked on the basis that in railway modelling one should always have an excuse for everything and many of the excuses have been set down here for the first time. I hope you have enjoyed reading it as much as I have enjoyed setting it down.
Created on 27th February, 2003