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New arrivals for 2020

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

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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

Station Canopy

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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.

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2020 Opening Dates

Our planned opening dates for 2020 are now available:

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Christmas Trains 2019

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Ernest Henry Upton visits

Over the weekend of 9/10 November we played host to a visiting steam locomotive ‘Ernest Henry Upton’.

Built by Guest Engineering in 1937, Ernest is a classic park railway steam locomotive, and normally lives at the Eastleigh Lakeside Railway near Southampton.

Despite poor weather on the Saturday Ernest’s visit proved popular and has set in train plans for next year!

Many thanks to Rob from Eastleigh for letting us borrow Ernest, and Dan from Hastings Miniature Railway for helping with transport.

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Ghost Train

All aboard the Cassiobury Park Ghost Train!

On Sunday 27th October things will be getting a little spooky down at the railway.

From 5pm to 7pm we will be running the Ghost Train around the Haunted Woods, all at the normal price of £2 per person.

Trains will also be running 11am – 4pm during the day with some of the spooks, surprises and decorations, for those who would prefer a daylight trip.

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Gala Weekend

To finish our daily summer season, we will be holding a gala weekend on the 28th & 29th September.

  • All our locomotives in use over the weekend
  • Last opportunity to see the twin diesels together (Conway Castle & Rhuddlan Castle)
  • Visiting steam locomotive subject to availability
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Twins Reunited!

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.

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60th Anniversary Weekend a success

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!”

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60th Anniversary Weekend

Come along on the 27th & 28th April to celebrate 60 years of the WMR!

The Cassiobury Park Hub building will host a free exhibition detailing the history of the railway, how it came to be and how it has developed over the past 60 years. This will include many photographs never seen in public. Also in the Hub will be a number of model railway displays.

From 1pm to 4pm on both days there will be an event area next to the railway with live music, local stalls and children’s activities.

On Saturday the Mayor of Watford will be attending to help launch the celebrations and, of course, cut the obligatory birthday cake!

Trains will be running from 11am on both days with both resident and visiting engines, as shown below:


Marri

Nikki Louise

Conway Castle

Meteor V

Pilgrim
All engines subject
to mechanical
availability
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Say Hello to Pilgrim!

Another steam locomotive has joined the fleet for this summer.

Pilgrim is an 0-6-0 tank engine originally built by David King in 1982. Commissioned brand new for the Wells and Walsingham Railway in Norfolk, she later spent many years on a touring portable railway, before ending up at the Knebworth Park Railway on the other side of Hertfordshire. After a comprehensive overhaul in 2013/14, she was placed back on loan to the Wells Railway. However she has now moved to join us to help celebrate our 60th anniversary.

Pilgrim requires a boiler test (in layman’s terms, a steam engine MOT) and air brakes fitting before she can haul our trains, but we hope to have this work finished in time for our 60th Anniversary Weekend on the 27th & 28th April.

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