Eaton Hall Railway

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Eaton Hall Railway
Belgrave engine shed, Eaton Hall Railway, Plate XI (Minimum Gauge Railways).png
The Belgrave engine shed on the Eaton Hall Railway c.1898.
Dates of operation1896–1946
Track gauge15 in (381 mm)
Length4.5 miles (7.2 km)
HeadquartersEaton Hall

The Eaton Hall Railway was an early 15 in (381 mm) gauge minimum gauge estate railway built in 1896 at Eaton Hall in Cheshire.

It was built for the Duke of Westminster by Sir Arthur Percival Heywood, who had pioneered the 15 in (381 mm) gauge with his Duffield Bank Railway, and connected the hall to the GWR station sidings at Balderton on their Shrewsbury to Chester Line, some 3 miles (4.8 km) away.

Laying the line[edit]

The total length of the line was four and a half miles (7.2 km), with the addition of several branches including one long one to the brick store and estate workshop at Cuckoo's Nest.

The track was steel flat-bottomed rail of 16.5 pounds per yard (8.2 kg/m), attached by spring clips to cast iron sleepers, 3 feet (0.91 m) long and 6.5 inches (165 mm) wide, spaced at 2-foot-3-inch (0.69 m) centres. Pointwork was prepared at the workshop in Duffield (for which Heywood charged £7/15s/0d each (equivalent to £881 in 2018)[1]), and carried to site. The maximum gradient was 1 in 70 (1.43%), Eaton Hall being 51 feet (16 m) above the sidings at Balderton.

For much of its length it followed the main driveway and crossed the park, including the major driveways. Therefore, the line had to be as unobtrusive as possible and was laid level with the ground with a central drainage pipe beneath. The ballast was red furnace cinder, 5 to 6 inches (127 to 152 mm) deep and 4 feet (121.92 cm) wide. On leaving the park the line was embanked. The line was not fenced - where it crossed between fields it was carried on girders over a deep ditch to prevent cattle straying.

There were bridges over one or two streams, the longest being 28 feet (8.5 m), but it crossed roadways on the level, at one point the main Wrexham to Chester road. Although Heywood had obtained wayleave, it could only be a temporary arrangement, since, for a private railway, the council was not able to enter in an agreement which bound its successors. Heywood therefore campaigned for a clause in the proposed Light Railway Bill which would allow permission for public road crossings to be granted in perpetuity.

The Eaton Hall Railway in relation to modern highways

Rolling stock[edit]

The first engine was "Katie", an 0-4-0 T with Brown/Heywood valvegear (it had originally been intended to fit Stephenson/Howe valvegear). Following this were two identical 0-6-0 T locomotives, "Shelagh" and "Ursula". Further details are given below. Katie proved capable of handling up to 40 long tons (40.6 t; 44.8 short tons) on the level, or 20 long tons (20.3 t; 22.4 short tons) on the gradient, at a speed of around 10 mph (16 km/h). Under test, 20 mph (32 km/h) was achieved in safety.

All rolling stock was built to negotiate curves of 25-foot (7.62 m) minimum radius. Self-acting coupler-buffers were fitted and measures were taken to ensure interchangeability of parts.

Thirty open wagons and a 4-wheeled brake van were initially provided, each wagon carrying about 16 long cwt (813 kg) of coal or 22 long cwt (1,118 kg) of bricks. The wagon 'tops' were removable to allow them to be used as flats, and bolster fittings were supplied to carry long items such as timber. An open 16 seat bogie coach, a bogie parcel van (for 'game') and a small open 4 wheeled brake 'van' were also provided at the opening. Finally, a closed bogie passenger vehicle, some 20 feet (6.10 m) long seating 12 people inside and four outside, a bogie brake van seating four inside and four outside were supplied after opening. Other wagons were constructed by the Eaton Estate and rebuilt over the years.


The design estimate for the line was around 5,000 long tons (5,080 t; 5,600 short tons) per year, mainly coal, timber, road metal and bricks. To Heywood's mind it was the ideal application for this gauge of railway. One of the suppliers to the Hall was local Chester fuel merchant Allan Morris & Co. It arranged for fuel supplies to be delivered by rail to Balderton sidings where they were transferred to the Eaton Hall wagons. Allan Morris commenced business in Chester in 1893, and the company still exists in Telford, and in Sandycroft, Wales.

The Eaton Hall railway closed in 1946 and was lifted in 1947. It was transported to the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway.[2]

A new 15 in (381 mm) railway, named the Eaton Park Railway was built in 1994 with a replica of Katie. It is not available for use by the public except on the various garden open days. The new line consists of a large loop with a spur leading to the engine shed. The latter section of track follows a small part of the original route.

The original Katie was sold to the newly built Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway and then in 1922 to the Llewellyn Miniature Railway in Southport. In 1923 she was sold to the Fairbourne Miniature Railway where she operated trains until scrapping in 1926. She was rebuilt in 2016 using original frames and is on display in the Ravenglass Museum, being commissioned for first service on the railway in 2018.


  • 1896 Katie 0-4-0 T
    • boiler 160 psi (1,100 kPa)
    • grate area 2.12 sq ft (0.197 m2)
    • heating surface 53 sq ft (4.9 m2)
    • cylinders 4.675 in × 7 in (118.75 mm × 177.80 mm)
    • wheel diameter 1 ft 3 in (0.38 m)
    • Brown/Heywood valve gear.
  • 1904 Shelagh 0-6-0 T
    • boiler 160 psi (1,100 kPa)
    • grate area 3 sq ft (0.28 m2)
    • heating surface 80 sq ft (7.4 m2)
    • cylinders 5.5 in × 8 in (139.7 mm × 203.2 mm)
    • wheel diameter 1 ft 4 in (0.41 m)
    • Brown/Heywood valve gear.
  • 1916 Ursula 0-6-0 T
    • as Shelagh

See also[edit]


  • Clayton, H. (1968) The Duffield Bank and Eaton Railways, The Oakwood Press, X19, ISBN 0-85361-034-7
  • Heywood, A.P. (1898) Minimum Gauge Railways, 3rd Ed., Derby: Bemrose. Republished (1974) by Turntable Enterprises, ISBN 0-902844-26-1
  • Smithers, Mark (1995) Sir Arthur Heywood and the Fifteen Inch (381 mm) Gauge Railway, Plateway Press, ISBN 1-871980-22-4.
  1. ^ UK Retail Price Index inflation figures are based on data from Clark, Gregory (2017). "The Annual RPI and Average Earnings for Britain, 1209 to Present (New Series)". MeasuringWorth. Retrieved 27 January 2019.
  2. ^ "Railway goes by rail". Dundee Evening Telegraph. Scotland. 9 June 1947. Retrieved 14 August 2017 – via British Newspaper Archive.

External links[edit]