British military narrow-gauge railways

These are narrow-gauge railways at military establishments and former UK Government-owned explosives sites. These locations were often subject to the Official Secrets Act and other government restrictions, so many of them are less well documented.

Locomotive Yorkshire on the Chattenden and Upnor Railway

The industrial use of narrow-gauge railways was quite extensive amongst the various military and civilian explosive factories, for example ICI Nobel's works at Ardeer and the Agency Explosive Factories run by ICI Nobel in the Second World War. In another example, the Ministry of Supply (MOS) Factory Dalbeattie used 2 ft 6 in (762 mm) gauge with a variety of bogie trucks mostly pushed by teams of three to six women. Stores, explosives, chemicals, rubbish and sewage, were all transported on this narrow-gauge system, which used at least 8 miles (13 km) of track.

Weapons range railwaysEdit

Name Opened Closed Gauge Location Notes
DOE Okehampton Gun Ranges[1] ? after 1979 2 ft 6 in (762 mm) Okehampton, England Target railway
DOE Redesdale Ranges target railway[2] ? ? 2 ft 6 in (762 mm) Redesdale, England Target railway
Fort George Range ? ? 2 ft (610 mm) Inverness, Scotland Target railway
Lydd Ranges[1] 1936 Present 2 ft (610 mm) Lydd, England Principally a target railway, though also carries personnel and equipment around the ranges. At least 39 locomotives and powered trollies have worked here.
National Rifle Association Bisley Tramways[3] 1898 after 1971 2 ft (610 mm) Bisley, England The NRA originally had a temporary shooting range and railway on Wimbledon Common but in 1888 moved to Bisley. Initially using a Merryweather steam tram locomotive, later using diesel locomotives.
RAF Hell's Mouth target railway[4] late 1930s 1945 ? Abersoch, Wales A target range railway operated by hand or rope-hauled in the dunes southeast of the airfield.
Romney Marsh weapons range railway[5] before 1975 present ? 2 ft (610 mm) New Romney, England Locomotive-worked network of lines across Romney Marsh
Rowtor Target Railway 1958 ? 2 ft (610 mm) Okehampton, England Disused target railway with an unmanned Wickham trolley

Armaments depots and ordnance factoriesEdit

Name Opened Closed Gauge Location Notes
Ministry of Munitions National Filling Factory No.2[6] World War One ? 2 ft (610 mm) Aintree, England Munitions factory supplied with early Baguley-Drewery railcars.
CAD Eastriggs Depot railway[7][8] ? closed 2012 2 ft (610 mm) Eastriggs, Scotland Extensive WW II armaments depot line using parts of the site of the former HM Factory, Gretna. A sub-depot of CAD Longtown.
Priddy's Hard[9][10] about 1850 about 1960 18 in (457 mm) and also later 2 ft 6 in (762 mm) Gosport, England Ammunition transport railway, within the Royal Naval Armaments Depot, between store houses and piers. Eight battery-electric locomotives were used after 1929.
Chatham Dockyard[11] 1860s 1930s 18 in (457 mm) Chatham, England Internal rail system serving the dockyard.
Chattenden and Upnor Railway[11] 1885 1961 2 ft 6 in (762 mm) Chattenden, England Light railway serving Chattenden barracks and armament stores
Davington Light Railway[12] 1916 1918 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 38 in) Faversham, England Short-lived metre-gauge line serving an Admiralty munitions factory. The three locomotives were sold to Brazil where at least one survived until 1988.
HM Factory, Gretna ? 1917 2 ft (610 mm) Gretna, Scotland Extensive WW I Cordite factory line
Lodge Hill and Upnor Railway 1873 1885 18 in (457 mm) Chattenden, England Served the construction of the Chattenden and Upnor Railway.
Royal Air Force Chilmark Depot railway[13] late 1930s 1995 2 ft (610 mm)[disputed ] Chilmark, Wiltshire, England Extensive WW II armaments depot lines using underground Chilmark Quarries and above-ground storage at satellite site at Dinton, Wiltshire.
RAF Fauld Depot railway by 1979[1] 2 ft (610 mm) Fauld, England Underground ammunition store during WWII with supply railway.
Royal Arsenal Railway[3][14][15] 1873 1966 18 in (457 mm) and 1 ft 11 12 in (597 mm) Woolwich, England Extensive internal rail system serving the Royal Arsenal.
RCAF Seaford Head target railway[7] after 1939 by 1945 2 ft (610 mm) Seaford Head, Wales Horse drawn target range railway about 1 mile long.
RNAD Broughton Moor railway[1][2] before 1943 1992 2 ft 6 in (762 mm) Broughton Moor, England Locomotive-worked line hauling ammunition around the depot.
RNAD Dean Hill Depot railway[10][16][17] before 1942 2003 2 ft 6 in (762 mm) West Dean, England Locomotive-worked line hauling ammunition around the depot.
RNAD Trecwn 1938 1990 2 ft 6 in (762 mm) Near Fishguard, West Wales Locomotive-worked line hauling ammunition around the depot. Infrastructure built of copper to reduce sparks
ROF Bishopton 1940 1950s - 2000 2 ft 6 in (762 mm) Bishopton, Scotland Approx 80 miles of internal rail system serving the World War II Cordite factories.
Royal Navy Holton Heath Cordite Factory[18] 1914 1946 2 ft 6 in (762 mm) Holton Heath, England Extensive explosives factory complex using battery electric and fireless steam locomotives
Ministry of Munitions National Filling Factory No.7[6] World War One ? 2 ft (610 mm) Northolt, England Munitions factory supplied with early Baguley-Drewery railcars.
Royal Navy Stokes Bay railway[10] 1880s 1919 Stokes Bay, England Steam locomotive worked line.
Royal Navy Underwater Weapons Establishment[1] after 1979 2 ft (610 mm) Weymouth, England Battery-electric locomotive worked line.
Vickers Engineering Wyke Regis Pier railway[18] before 1921 1968 2 ft (610 mm) Wyke Regis, England Pier railway used to transport torpedoes from the factory to ships.

Supply depotsEdit

Name Opened Closed Gauge Location Notes
Deptford Special Reserve Depot[3] 1916 1919 18 in (457 mm) Deptford, England Extensive WW I food supply depot line. At least four steam locomotives worked here, two or three of which went to the Sand Hutton Light Railway after the war.


Name Opened Closed Gauge Location Notes
Braefoot Bay 10 in (254 mm) ? Aberdour, Scotland Fortification supply railway
Flat Holm Battery 2 ft (610 mm) Bristol Channel, Wales Fortification supply railway
Hoo Ness Tramway[1] before 1914 after 1979 2 ft (610 mm) Hoo Ness, England Locomotive-worked tramway. May have been 2 ft 6 in (762 mm) gauge previously
Hurst Castle[10] 1895 1956 18 in (457 mm) Hurst Castle, England Line for moving ammunition and supplies around the castle. Used hand and donkey hauled wagons. Much track still in situ.
South Heighton railway[7] 1941 1941 2 ft 6 in (762 mm) Newhaven, England Hand-worked line to aid construction of HMS Forward underground command centre.
Steep Holm railway[19] 1880s 1946 2 ft (610 mm)? Steep Holm, North Somerset, England Fortification supply railway. Palmerston forts, shown on 1886 Ordnance Survey maps. Relaid in World War II. Finally Demolished 1946.

Training campsEdit

Gate across the railway at Strensall Ranges. The trolleys are hand-pushed to take the targets out to the range, but the targets remain static and the railway is used for transportation only.
Name Opened Closed Gauge Location Notes
Aldershot Narrow Gauge Suspension Railway 1872 Unknown 18 in (457 mm) Aldershot Garrison Experimental monorail
Kinmel Camp Railway[20] 1914 1917 2 ft (610 mm) St. Asaph, Wales Locomotive-worked construction railway for the Kinmel Camp
Longmoor Military Railway 1903 1907 18 in (457 mm);[21] 2 ft 6 in (762 mm)[2] Weaversdown, England Early 18 in (457 mm) gauge construction line used to assist in the demolition of army huts. Relaid as standard gauge starting in 1905-1907. 2 ft 6 in (762 mm) gauge line at the extensive railway training centre at Longmoor.
Strensall Ranges, HQ Strensall Training Centre, 1870 Present 3 ft 3 1/2” Strensall, York, England Specifically built to carry targetry to the ranges, originally 6 in number, F Range was converted to a SARTS Range and the rails were removed. Still continues to be used for its original purpose, Range trolleys are named after characters from “Thomas the Tank engine”. The system has a “siding” behind each front mantlet allowing trolleys to clear the main line. 1,165 yds long.
RAF Calshot Camp railway[10] 1919 1946 2 ft (610 mm) Calshot, England Short line serving Calshot camp and pier. Steam locomotives were used, one of which is preserved on the Talyllyn Railway as Douglas.


Name Opened Closed Gauge Location Notes
Royal Navy Haslar Hospital[10] by 1910 1918 18 in (457 mm) Haslar, England Hand worked line to move ammunitions and stores around the hospital site.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e f Industrial Railway Society. (1979). Industrial Locomotives 1979: including preserved and minor railway locomotives. Industrial Railway Society. ISBN 0-901096-38-5.
  2. ^ a b c "List of 2 ft 6 in gauge railways".
  3. ^ a b c Mitchell, Vic & Smith, Keith (2003). Surrey Narrow Gauge including South London. Middleton Press. ISBN 1-901706-87-7.
  4. ^ Corser, W.J.L. (April 2003). Wings on Rails: Industrial Railways in the Logistics Support of Britain's Air Defence Forces. Arcturus Press. ISBN 0-907322-85-9.
  5. ^ Nicholson, Peter (1975). Industrial Narrow Gauge Railways in Britain. Bradford, Barton. ISBN 0-85153-236-5.
  6. ^ a b Webb, Brian (1973). The British Internal Combustion Locomotive 1894-1940. David & Charles. ISBN 0715361155.
  7. ^ a b c "List of 2 ft gauge railways worldwide". Archived from the original on 2005-02-06. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  8. ^ Tele Rail (1994). The Longtown Military Railway. Carforth: Tele Rail.
  9. ^ Semark, H.W. (1997). The Royal Naval Armament Depots of Priddy's Hard, Elson, Frater and Bedenham (Gosport, Hampshire): 1768 to 1977. Hampshire County Council. ISBN 1-85975-132-6.
  10. ^ a b c d e f Mitchell, Vic & Smith, Keith (2004). Hampshire Narrow Gauge including the Isle of Wight. Middleton Press. ISBN 1-904474-36-5.
  11. ^ a b Yeatman, D. (December 1966). "Lodge Hill & Upnor Railway". The Industrial Railway Record. 12: 277–292.
  12. ^ Mitchell, Vic & Smith, Kevin (2000). Kent Narrow Gauge. Middleton Press. ISBN 1-901706-45-1.
  13. ^ Tele Rail (1994). Marchwood & Chilmark Military Railways. Carforth: Tele Rail.
  14. ^ "Woolwich Arsenal Railway".[permanent dead link]
  15. ^ Clarke, B.R. & Veitch, C.C. (1986). The Eighteen Inch Gauge Royal Arsenal Railway at Woolwich. privately published by B.R. Clarke. ISBN 0-948951-00-1.
  16. ^ "Visit Reports". Industrial Railway Society Bulletin. 746: 6–7. November 2003.
  17. ^ "Dean Hill RNAD depot".
  18. ^ a b Mitchell, Vic & Smith, Keith (2006). Dorset and Somerset Narrow Gauge. Middleton Press. ISBN 1-904474-76-4.
  19. ^ Rendell, Stan and Joan (1993). Steep Holm: The Story of a Small Island. Stroud: Alan Sutton Publishing. ISBN 0-7509-0323-6
  20. ^ Hindley, Philip G. (September 1985). "The Kinmel Camp Railway". The Industrial Railway Record. The Industrial Railway Society. 102: 309–322.
  21. ^ Farmer, Keith (March 1966). "Longmoor Military Railway". The Industrial Railway Record. The Industrial Railway Society. 9: 195–205.

External linksEdit