Downs Light Railway

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Downs Light Railway
Type Private
Locale The Downs School, Colwall, Herefordshire, England
Coordinates 52°05′14″N 2°21′10″W / 52.087310°N 2.352882°W / 52.087310; -2.352882Coordinates: 52°05′14″N 2°21′10″W / 52.087310°N 2.352882°W / 52.087310; -2.352882
Stations 1
Opened 1925 (1925)
Owner Downs Light Railway Trust
Track length 0.75 mi (1.21 km)
Track gauge 9 12 in (241 mm)
Old gauge 7 14 in (184 mm)

The Downs Light Railway is the world's oldest private miniature railway,[citation needed] with a track gauge of 9 12 in (241 mm). The railway is located within the private grounds of The Downs School in Colwall, near the town of Malvern in the English Midlands. It is owned by the Downs Light Railway Trust.

The Downs Light Railway is one of only two railways to be operated by children, and the only one by those aged between 7 and 13 years, as an educational extra-curricular activity.


The railway was built and opened in 1925 under the guidance of Geoffrey Hoyland (Headmaster) as a 7 14 in (184 mm) gauge railway, for the principal purpose of education. The railway was regauged during the 1930s to the larger gauge of 9 12 in, to allow for new locos to be used on the line. After Geoffrey Hoyland fell ill and retired from the school, the railway deteriorated until it became unsafe to use by the late 1960s.

During the 1970s, restoration work began by former pupils of the school, most notably James Boyd. In 1983, the railway was handed over to the Downs Light Railway Trust, who became responsible for its ownership, preservation and operation.


  • Tubby 2-6-2 Tender (Steam): Arrived in 1924. One of the first 7 14 in (184 mm) gauge locomotives to utilise a narrow gauge outline. Design was by Henry Greenly using Parver / Bassett Lowke parts. The locomotive underwent two modifications; the first during the early 1930s, and the second in 1937 where it was re-gauged to 9 12 in (241 mm). The locomotive remained in service up to the 1980s, where it retired, and was dismantled.
  • Maud 2-6-0 Tender (Steam): Arrived in 1929. The locomotive was a scale model to Great Western Railway outline. Maud never wore its own nameplates; however, other than information retained by the School, its name is referred to in an edition of the Model Engineer. Locomotive sold during the late 1930s. Its present existence is not known, nor details of its subsequent ownership(s).
  • Ranmore 0-4-2 Tank (Steam): Arrived in 1937 to 9 12 in. Sold in 1942.
  • George 4-4-2 Tender (Steam): Built in 1939, it was bought in 1941 and remained in service up to 1986. The locomotive was sold in 1989 to the Cadbury family. The locomotive remained as a static display in the Downs School, until 2003 following a change of ownership. The locomotive underwent a complete rebuild and returned to the railway in 2006.
  • Brock 0-4-0 Tank/Tender (Steam): Built by David Curwen in 1973 for James Boyd. The locomotive was bequeathed to the Downs Light Railway Trust in 1995.
  • Tim 0-6-0 (Petrol-Hydraulic): Built by the Downs Light Railway Trust in 1984.
  • James Boyd 2-6-2 Tender (Steam): Built by John Milner in 1991 for the Downs Light Railway Trust. The locomotive re-used some parts from Tubby and arrived as Tubby II. The locomotive was officially named James Boyd in 1992.
  • Orion paid a visit on 24 April, 2005 for its first public steaming in many years, following its disappearance, rediscovery and restoration.[1]

External links[edit]



  1. ^ R.A.S. Hennessey & Mike G. Fell, "Orion, Darroch and the 'Alfreds'", Backtrack, May 2006.[1]


  • James Boyd, Don't Stand Up in the Tunnel, 75th Anniversary Edition, RailRomances, 2001.