Hastings Miniature Railway
The Hastings Miniature Railway is a 10 1⁄4 in (260 mm) gauge miniature railway located on the seafront at Hastings, a seaside resort, town, and ancient cinque port, in East Sussex, England. Opened in 1948, it remains a popular tourist attraction to the present day. The line was re-opened in the summer of 2011 after a period of reconstruction and restoration, which coincided with a forced closure of the eastern part of the line, to facilitate building work on a new art gallery adjacent to the railway.
The railway entrepreneur Captain J.E.P. Howey, who built and owned the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway, had a great interest in miniature railway locomotives generally, and acquired several locomotives of assorted gauges. One was a 10 1⁄4 in (260 mm) gauge model Great Western Railway pannier tank which Howey had rebuilt as an 0-6-0 tender locomotive named 'Firefly'. He also acquired a scale model Royal Scot engine of the same gauge. Although these engines were of too narrow a gauge for his railway, they did briefly operate after the second world war on a short length of track re-gauged for the purpose, near New Romney. They also operated (particularly Firefly) near Dymchurch, on a section of 10 1⁄4 in (260 mm) gauge track established alongside the main 15 in (381 mm) gauge running lines just before the outbreak of war, and continuing there until 1947. They were then relocated to St Leonards-on-Sea where Howey operated a small miniature railway for less than a year. Local complaints led to the line being relocated to Hastings and sold to Ian Allan and Jim Hughes, which was the beginning of the Hastings Miniature Railway, opening in 1948.
- Rock-a-Nore Station is the headquarters of the railway. Originally it had one platform, later developed to two; it has now returned to a single platform. A turntable was installed around 1960, and removed around 1980. In 2011 the turntable was restored. The station has always featured a station building, engine shed, carriage shed, and sidings. Since 2011 it also features a purpose-built engineering workshop. The station is located in the fishing industry's area of Hastings, and is surrounded by fishing net houses, fishing boats, and the fishermen's church and museum.
- East Beach Street Station was the original western terminus of the line from 1948 to 1959. Also known as 'East Beach Station' and as 'East Hastings Station', it featured two platforms (one to the north of the running lines, and one central island platform) and a station building. After the line was extended westwards in 1959, East Beach Street became a through station, and was equipped with signals to permit two-train operation. The station closed around 1970. The central island platform was removed in 1981 and the passing loop was removed in 1990. However, in 2010 the passing loop was restored, and trains now pass each other at this location again. One platform (the northern platform) is still in place. The station is located on the beach, near the lifeboat station.
- Marine Parade Station has been the western terminus of the railway since 1959. There is a single platform (to the south of the running line), a large station building and ticket office, and a run-round loop. The station is located in the centre of the tourist area of Hastings, on the main coast road, and is surrounded by hotels, attractions, rides, amusements, and restaurants. Following track relaying in early 2012, the station track-plan also features a short siding.
Operation from 1948 to 1984
The railway's headquarters and engine sheds were constructed in 1948 at Rock-a-Nore, an urban area of old Hastings, dominated by the fishing industry, and the line ran from here along the beach (known locally as 'The Stade') to a railway station near the lifeboat station. This station has variously been named East Hastings Station, East Beach Station, and East Beach Street Station. For a while in the 1950s (possibly into the 1960s) scale model buses were operated alongside the station in a similar manner to the Kerr's Miniature Railway today.
In 1959 the line was extended to a new terminus at Marine Parade, provided with a single-platform station and run-round loop, and taking the full extent of the line to a little over 600 yards. The original station, now at the centre of the line, was retained, and provided passing facilities for two trains travelling in opposite directions. Rock-a-Nore station had one platform, a waiting shelter, a water-tower, a double-road engine shed, and a three-road carriage shed, including the main running line which passed through this shed, but was also available for storage of rolling stock at night. A second platform was later provided (by the addition of a concrete island between the main platform and the run-round loop), and a turntable was installed around 1960, having previously been sited at East Hastings.
The line was operated by scale model steam locomotives, particularly 'Firefly', the engine with the most celebrated and long-lived association with the railway. Diesel locomotives later operated, of which the most well-known was 'Uncle Jim', operating from 1968 to 1989. Through the bulk of this period, these two locomotives provided the regular service, and it is 'Firefly' and 'Uncle Jim' who were iconically depicted on the railway's advertising hoarding at Marine Parade.
In 1984 the railway changed ownership and from that point onwards only diesel locomotives were used.
- Firefly, built H.C.S. Bullock, in 1936 (as GWR 0-6-0PT No 3007); rebuilt 1945 by RHDR engineers as 0-6-0 tender locomotive. This engine is perhaps the one most closely associated with the Hastings Miniature Railway, having operated there from the opening of the line in 1948 until 1984, when it was sold to the Kerr's Miniature Railway in Scotland. Having been the principal engine at Hastings, it has retained that role (and the original number, 3007) in Scotland, where it still runs today.
- Royal Scot, built Bassett-Lowke in 1938, a 4-6-0 tender locomotive No 6100, being a scale model of LMS Royal Scot Class 6100 Royal Scot. Purchased in 1947 from the Marquess of Downshire by Captain J.E.P. Howey. This locomotive was steamed by the eccentric Howey in his living room, causing enormous damage to the property. The engine operated at Hastings for many years from the line's opening in 1948, until spring 1975 when it was sold, and appears in many historic photographs. It was later relocated to the Oakhill Manor Railway. Subsequently exported to the United States of America, the locomotive returned to England in 2002 and now operates at the Royal Victoria Railway.
- Hampton Court, built Twinings Models, in 1939 (as a simple 4-4-2 design), supplied to Dudley Zoo Railway as a third engine there. After running on railways at Cleethorpes, Lowestoft, and Hunstanton, the engine came to Hastings in 1958 and was rebuilt by Jim Hughes as a GWR Saint Class 4-6-0 tender engine No 2943, Hampton Court. The engine was sold in 1974 and moved to the Stapleford Miniature Railway, where it continues to operate.
- Uncle Jim, built J. Hughes, in 1968, a 4-4wDM (no number). Uncle Jim provided diesel motive power at Hastings, and ran from 1968 to 1993. The locomotive was the first to be constructed at Hastings, and wore a blue and yellow livery, and later a deep maroon livery with gold lining-out, and still later a deep green livery. For a while the engine ran in bare-metal silver. It provided a simpler means of operation than the traditional steam locomotives. The locomotive subsequently operated at Knebworth Park Miniature Railway in Hertfordshire until 2012. It has now returned to Hastings and, following a full overhaul, has re-entered service on its original railway, now carrying the fleet number 5 (see below).
- Western Meteor was a 'Meteor' type diesel locomotive which operated on the railway from 1979 until 1982.
- MIS-NAT was a bizarre central-cab diesel engine, of unusually ugly proportions. It operated on the railway from 1984 to 1990 and was replaced by Swee' Pea. Never popular, and known to locals as the 'Mecano engine', it appeared to be made out of spare parts.
There have been occasional visiting locomotives on the railway. Victoria, a scale LMS Jubilee Class 4-6-0, operated trains on the railway in 1978 for just one weekend, on the occasion of the naming of the diesel locomotive 'Uncle Jim' (see above).
Operation since 1984
During the 1980s there was a decline in the railway's fortunes and operations. Sidings at Rock-a-Nore were lifted or allowed to become overgrown, and facilities became shabby. In 1992 the owner removed most final traces of the now disused East Beach Station (a single platform remains on the landward side of the running line) and removed the passing loop at this location, bringing an end to the possibility of two-train operation. The remaining locomotives were sold, and a new steam-outline diesel-powered locomotive (Swee' Pea) was purchased from the Alan Keef engineering company in Herefordshire.
In 2008 the railway's old passenger carriages (still in regular use) were repainted in a standard livery (they had previously been painted assorted colours since the late 1980s) and a new railway logo was applied. Eleven passenger carriages were then available - seven in the main articulated set, and four spare vehicles. The locomotive Swee' Pea was rebuilt to a less angular design.
In January 2010 the railway changed ownership and a new lease was granted to the railway on the condition that vast changes and investments were made.
In August 2010 the railway had an official re-opening after extensive rebuilding and restoration work. Two new locomotives were added to the fleet, and construction began on a fourth engine, to enter service in 2011. Swee' Pea was repainted in a black livery, and the carriages were rebuilt, with new bodies on the original underframes. Two full rakes of carriages are now provided, and the railway has resumed the operation of a two-train service at busy periods. To facilitate this, the passing loop has been restored at East Beach Station, and in 2010 two trains passed each other for the first time in twenty-one years.
In early 2011 there has been extensive work at Rock-a-Nore Station, which has seen a vast improvement in presentation, and the restoration of much of the historical layout, features, and facilities of this station. The turntable has been reinstated, and the original two-road engine shed brought back into use. A new engineering workshop has been constructed and the platform lengthened.
In early 2012 similar work was undertaken at Marine Parade Station, with all track relaid and renewed, and a new locomotive-stabling short siding installed.
In April 2012 the railway was presented with the Railway of the Year award by the Ten and a Quarter Inch Gauge Railway Society.
The current numbering system of the locomotive fleet was introduced in 2011 by the railway's new owners, Dan Radcliffe and David Miller. The numbers represent the sequence in which the current locomotives arrived (or arrived back) at Hastings, and not their chronological age, nor their time in service at Hastings.
|1||Princess Swee' Pea||Steam-outline diesel||0-6-0 DH||Alan Keef Engineering / RVM Engineering||Chassis (AKL)1990 Body,Tender and Mechanical (RVM) 2012||Originally constructed by Alan Keef Ltd, all that remains is the front chassis and smoke box.|
|2||Jerry Lee||Diesel hydraulic||4w-4w DH||RVM Engineering||2011||Constructed on site using part of body from ex Shepherton Metals Loco.|
|3||Firefly||Steam||0-4-0 T||Bob Yates||1991||Arrived at Hastings in 2010.|
|4||Speedy Fizzle||Diesel Hydraulic||4w-4wDH||RVM Engineering||2010-2011||Constructed on site in memory of railways engineer Daryl Mark Valentine.|
|5||Uncle Jim||Diesel Hydraulic||4-4wDH||Jim Hughes||1968||Constructed on site in 1968, the engine operated from 1968 to 1989 and was then sold to the Knebworth Park Miniature Railway in 1993. In 2012 the locomotive returned to Hastings and has re-entered service (fully overhauled) on its original railway.|
|7||Tilby||Diesel Mechanical||0-4-0||RVM Engineering||2013||Constructed on site out of bits and pieces. This locomotive was literally built from scrap. Built to look like a steam tram this locomotive has been fitted with a face to look like Toby the tram.|
- Derek Smith (2008-08-29). "Dymchurch 10.25" gauge railway". Retrieved 2011-05-10.
- "Hastings Miniature Railway". Miniature Railway World. Retrieved 2011-05-11.
- See the Railway's official pages at Facebook.
- See stock listing (with photograph) at Kerr's Miniature Railway official website.
- See report on page 81 of: Snell, J. B. (1993) One man's railway, Rev. ed., Nairn: David St John Thomas, ISBN 0-946537-80-1 (Plus photograph on page 88).
- One example of a photograph of Royal Scot operating at Hastings from Hastings Borough Council.
- See locomotive chronology (and photograph) at Stephenson Locomotive Society website.
- Photographs available at this site.