Great Whipsnade Railway

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Coordinates: 51°50′56″N 0°32′42″W / 51.849°N 0.545°W / 51.849; -0.545

Great Whipsnade Railway
ConquerorGWR.jpeg
Locomotive No. 3 Conqueror at Whipsnade Central station.
Locale England
Dates of operation 1970–present
Track gauge 2 ft 6 in (762 mm)
Length 2 miles (3.2 km)
Headquarters London

The Great Whipsnade Railway, also known as The Jumbo Express, is an English, 2 ft 6 in (762 mm) narrow gauge heritage railway that operates within ZSL Whipsnade Zoo.

Overview[edit]

Construction started in 1970 and the initial line opened on 26 August 1970. The line provided rides within the animal enclosures and an additional attraction in its own right. Originally called the Whipsnade and Umfolozi Railway, it began as a short line running from near the children's zoo. It was later extended to form a loop through several paddocks. The railway is now over a mile in length.

The line was primarily equipped from the Bowater's Railway (now Sittingbourne & Kemsley Light Railway) in Sittingbourne, Kent, which was the last steam-operated narrow gauge industrial railway in Britain. The railway is now equipped with four steam locomotives and five diesels (although one has been sold to the Sittingbourne & Kemsley Light Railway). Steam services run once every half-hour, usually during the summer holidays.

The route[edit]

Locomotive No.2 Excelsior pulling the train past the emu paddock

The train normally travels clockwise around the loop. Leaving the station the train travels east under the foot bridge and passing the children's play area and children's farm on the left. At this point the track crosses the road. There are no barriers but the crossing is controlled by an automated warning system. Past the crossing the track begins to curve to the right and descend slightly, passing the emu paddock on the right and the train yard, including the engine shed, on the left. Visitors can sometimes catch a glimpse of a steam or diesel locomotive sitting in the shed, or the diesels Hector and Victor in a siding adjacent to the running track.

The track then curves more sharply to the right before straightening up and passing the first elephant paddock on the left. The route then crosses a wide foot path used to move the elephants between paddocks. This crossing is equipped with barriers. The Route continues roughly straight and level past the elephant and Asian rhino paddocks on the right before crossing over a road and entering into the area of the zoo known as passage through Asia. Here there are no barriers between the train and the animals, which consist of Bactrian Camels, Yak and Pere David Deer.

The track then crosses the big Ha-ha and turns to the right passing through the deer park (also known as Cut throat paddock) and the Przewalski horses on the right. Here the track slopes downhill before passing through the tunnel.

Emerging from the tunnel into round close paddock the train passes the Africa paddock on the left which contains Gemsbok, Ostrich and common Zebra and Lake Daedelus on the right. Here the track curves more sharply to the right and climbs uphill back to the station level crossing central avenue just before reaching the platform. This level crossing has gates and is manned by platform staff during train operation. The Whipsnade Central station has an old-fashioned signal box which can be seen when leaving or approaching the station platform.

Locomotives[edit]

Steam locomotives[edit]

Name Builder Class Type Works Number Built At GWR Notes
1 Chevalier Manning Wardle 0-6-2 T 1877 1915 No Built for the Chattenden and Upnor Railway, purchased for the Bowaters Paper Railway at Sittingbourne in 1950, worked the first passenger train at Whipsnade, sold to Bill Parker in 2006. Was the first locomotive to enter GWR service in 1970.
2 Excelsior Kerr Stuart Brazil 0-4-2 ST 1049 1908 Yes Newly built for the Bowaters Paper Railway at Sittingbourne, arrived at Whipsnade in 1970. Mainly runs during the summer holidays.
3 Conqueror W.G.Bagnall 0-6-2 ST 2192 1922 No Built new for the Bowaters Paper Railway at Sittingbourne, arrived at Whipsnade in 1970. Sold in 1994 to the Phylis Rampton Trust.
4 Superior Kerr Stuart Baretto 0-6-2 T 4034 1920 Yes Built new for the Bowaters Paper Railway at Sittingbourne in Kent, arrived at Whipsnade in 1970.

Diesel locomotives[edit]

Name Builder Type Works Number Built At GWR Notes
8 Victor John Fowler 6wDM 4160005 1951 Yes Built for a failed groundnuts scheme in Africa, sold to British Portland Cement Co.'s works at Lower Penarth, Glamorgan. Sold to the Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway in 1968, arrived at Whipsnade in 1972.
9 Hector John Fowler 6wDM 4160004 1951 Yes Built for a failed groundnuts scheme in Africa, sold to British Portland Cement Co.'s works at Lower Penarth, Glamorgan. Sold to the Welsh Highland Railway in 1968, arrived at Whipsnade in 1975.
10 Mr. Bill Ruston Hornsby 4wDM 221625 1944 No Built for the Royal Navy Armaments Depot Broughton Moor military railway. Arrived at Whipsnade in 1992. Named after Sir William McAlpine.
11 Edward Lloyd Ruston Hornsby 4wDM 435403 1961 No Built for the Nettleton Top iron ore mines. Arrived at Whipsnade in 1970. Sold to the Sittingbourne & Kemsley Light Railway in 1972.
Motor Rail 4wDM 5060 No Built as a 3 ft (914 mm) gauge locomotive for the London Brick Company. Arrived at Whipsnade in 1971. Sold in 1983 to Alan Keef.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  • Thomas, C.S. (1995). The Whipsnade & Umfolozi Railway and the Great Whipsnade Railway. The Oakwood Press. ISBN 0-85361-478-4. 

External links[edit]