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Barking Park, in the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham, in east London, is a park covering just under 30 hectares to the east of Barking town centre. It lies north of Longbridge Road, and is near the boundary with Loxford. The park was the first council-controlled park in the Borough, and was established as a classic Victorian park in 1896. It was officially opened on 9 April 1898 by Councillor C. L. Beard JP, Chairman of Barking Town Urban District Council.
The park's most significant feature is a 910 metre long boating lake on the north side of the park. Rowing boats were introduced first, and then on 1 April 1953, motor boats and a Mississippi style paddle steamer called Phoenix II made their debut. The paddle steamer continued to operate on the lake until 1967.
Other facilities include tennis and basketball courts, two bowling greens (indoor and outdoor), a children's playground, a waterpark, football pitches and a flower garden. A lido was built in 1931 but this was closed permanently in 1988. The longstanding park cafe was demolished and a roller-skating park built on the site.
The park contains a war memorial, renovated in 2000, for men of the Barking Town Urban District who fell in World War I and World War II. Every year on Remembrance Day (usually the 2nd Sunday in November) a commemorative ceremony is held at the war memorial preceded by music from a local marching band.
In 2006 the council received "stage one" funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund to develop a proposal for restoration and improvement of the park. Funding of over £3 million was approved, and works were completed between 2010 and 2012, including two lengthy new pathways, a children's play area and splash park.
Barking Park Light Railway
|Barking Park Light Railway|
|Locale||The Park Lodge, Longbridge Road, Barking, Essex|
|Dates of operation||early 1950s - 2005
|Track gauge||7 1⁄4 in (184 mm)|
|Previous gauge||9 1⁄2 in (241 mm)|
|Length||340 metres (1,120 ft)|
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Barking Park Light Railway, a miniature passenger railway, opened in the early 1950s. It originally consisted of three coaches hauled by a steam locomotive named "The Empress", running over a length of 9 1⁄2 in (241 mm) gauge track, from the main park entrance at Longbridge Road to a turntable at the boating lake. After being replaced by a sit-in diesel locomotive named "Little Nan", The Empress was eventually restored and re-gauged to 10 1⁄4 in (260 mm) and is now running at the Eastleigh Lakeside Steam Railway.
About halfway along the line, trains went through a gated level crossing. When trains were not running, the level crossing afforded access to the park from the adjacent Park Avenue, but this side entrance has now been permanently closed.
The railway ran until 2005 when it was closed by the owner, who felt that it was no longer cost effective to maintain and repair the train; however, the railway has since been redeveloped by a father & son team who bought the line from the previous owner. It now features new trains, and new 7 1⁄4 in (184 mm) gauge track, with wheelchair-friendly station access. The new train service ran a few times during 2008 but the official grand re-opening took place at Easter in 2009. The previous level crossing was removed.