Great Whipsnade Railway
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|Great Whipsnade Railway|
Locomotive No. 3 Conqueror at Whipsnade Central station.
|Dates of operation||1970–present|
|Track gauge||2 ft 6 in (762 mm)|
|Length||2 miles (3.2 km)|
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 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. You 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 you can see when leaving or approaching the station platform.
|No.||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.|
|No.||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.|
- Thomas, C.S. (1995). The Whipsnade & Umfolozi Railway and the Great Whipsnade Railway. The Oakwood Press. ISBN 0-85361-478-4.
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