We’d love to see them when they’ve been coloured in – and here’s the best bit! We will give away a 20-ride ticket to each of our four favourite coloured in pictures. Simply post a photo of the finished work of art on our Facebook page, or email it to us, and we will pick four winners when we reopen.
Following recent Government guidance, we have reluctantly taken the decision to close the railway during the current Coronavirus outbreak.
As many of our regular visitors know we always try to keep the trains running whatever the world throws at us – but at the moment the health and well-being of our staff and customers is most important.
We will reopen when it is safe to do so and will of course update here when we know that is.
Please keep yourselves safe during these uncertain times – and we will hopefully see you again in the near future!
2020 started with the WMR team heading off to Yorkshire on a busman’s holiday!
A number of us went off to dismantle the Orchard Farm Lakeside Railway, which sadly had closed. However this has yielded some useful equipment for us here in Watford, which we have detailed below.
New Diesel Locomotive
One of the most attractive parts for us is a bogie diesel hydraulic locomotive, of a similar size to Conway Castle. To keep the trains running reliably all summer we really need a third working diesel as back up to Conway Castle and Nikki Louise, and this will provide exactly that.
It was part dismantled and removing it from the garage it was stored in was, shall we say, challenging! However there is not much work required to get it running and therefore we plan to have it running down the park this summer; work is already underway in our workshop.
You can read further details about the diesel here.
New Steam Locomotive
We have also gained another steam locomotive, based on those used on the Ffestiniog Railway in Snowdonia.
Marri has worked very hard over the last two years and we do need another steam locomotive to help take the strain. Although we do have Pilgrim and Chiltern Shuttle, these are privately owned and therefore will tend to run a little less. Therefore a second railway-owned steam locomotive will help ensure we can keep steam in regular operation all year round.
The new steam loco is currently in parts and does need quite a bit of restoration/rebuilding work, which won’t start until Chiltern Shuttle has returned from her restoration later this year, so it will be a year or two before she is running down the park.
You can read further details about the steam locomotive here
As many know our station is very open and therefore at the mercy of the elements – when it rains (even a little) everyone gets wet! Some form of shelter to keep waiting passengers dry is part of our plans to improve the station (more details of our plans here), so this canopy proved a perfect acquisition.
We have also been offered (from another location) a station building, which we hope can be sited to provide a small shop and event space, adding to our station facilities. Both the canopy and station building will require a number of permissions to be gained, so we expect it will be next winter at the earliest before we can erect them.
As the next step in celebrating our 60th Anniversary Year, for the summer we have reunited Conway Castle with her twin Rhuddlan Castle.
The two Castles were built by Fenlow Engineering in 1972 for a railway at Prestatyn in North Wales. When this line closed they were bought by the Nicholson family and ran during the 80s on a railway at the Suffolk Widlife Park, but it is now 30 years since the two engines have been together.
Rhuddlan Castle is in largely original condition, whereas Conway Castle was rebuilt to more modern standards in the mid 1990s, so there is an interesting contrast between the two!
We are very grateful to Stuart Madgin at the Vanstones Woodland Railway who has kindly let us have Rhuddlan on loan for the summer. Rhuddlan is not in daily use, but will fill in as needed when one of our diesels is undergoing maintenance, and there will also be a few special days where the two Fenlow diesels are running together.
The weekend of 27th & 27th April
saw a celebratory event held to mark the 60th anniversary of the
Watford Miniature Railway.
Located in Watford’s award-winning Cassiobury Park, the
railway has become part and parcel of the town’s culture since it opened in 1959
and is now one of the oldest operating park railways in the UK.
Despite some variable weather trains ran all weekend, with
the railway’s normal locomotives being joined by ‘Meteor V’, a petrol
locomotive which ran on the railway until the early 1990s. Also on display was a new resident steam
locomotive ‘Pilgrim’, which will be entering service soon after some minor
repair work is completed.
The Park’s Hub building hosted an exhibition of the
railway’s development and history over the past 60 years, including over 200
photos never seen in public before.
There were also model railways on display, free children’s entertainment
and live music. On the Saturday there
was a birthday cake cutting ceremony attended by Mayor of Watford Peter Taylor,
railway staff past and present, and a number of park visitors – and, of course,
there was a free piece of cake for all visitors!
A commemorative book has also been produced detailing the history of the railway, which can be purchased here or in person at the railway.
Plans are now being developed by the railway’s current
operators to help improve the facilities and secure the railway’s future for
many more generations to come.
Railway owner Charles O’Mahoney commented “For generations
the railway has been part of a visit to the park for local residents. We regularly have visitors who rode as a
child returning now with their children or grandchildren, and in fact three
generations of my family have ridden on the train here as children. I don’t think there is a park railway
anywhere else that has that strength of social history. Not many miniature railways survive beyond 20
years so it is remarkable we have reached our 60th birthday.
We have very basic facilities – we don’t even have mains power or water – and we really want to improve these and the experience for our visitors. By improving what we have I hope the railway can ultimately reach its centenary in 2059!”