Leighton Buzzard Light Railway

The Leighton Buzzard Light Railway (LBLR) is a light railway in Leighton Buzzard in Bedfordshire, England. It operates on 2 ft (610 mm) narrow-gauge track and is just under 3 miles (4.8 km) long. The line was built after the First World War to serve sand quarries north of the town. In the late 1960s the quarries switched to road transport and the railway was taken over by volunteers, who now run the line as a heritage railway.

Leighton Buzzard Light Railway
A train on the LBLR being pulled by No. 11 PC Allen
TerminusPage's Park, Leighton Buzzard
Commercial operations
NameLeighton Buzzard Light Railway
Built byA.J. Arnold and G. Garside
Original gauge2 ft (610 mm)
Preserved operations
Operated byLeighton Buzzard Narrow Gauge Railway Society
Length3 miles (4.8 km)
Preserved gauge2 ft (610 mm)
Commercial history
Preservation history
1968First passenger trains run by preservation society

History edit

Sand extraction edit

A bed of Lower Cretaceous sand across Bedfordshire has been quarried on a small scale for centuries. The most significant occur around Leighton Buzzard. In the 19th century sand was carried by horse carts from quarries south of the town to be shipped on the Dunstable-Leighton Buzzard railway. The carts damaged roads and resulted in claims for compensation against the quarry owners from Bedfordshire County Council. At the end of the century steam wagons were introduced which increased the damage to roads.

The outbreak of the First World War cut off supplies of foundry sand from Belgium. Sand was needed for ammunition factories and new sources were sought. Leighton Buzzard sands proved well suited and production increased. After 1919 the quarry companies were told they could no longer transport sand by roads, so a private industrial railway was proposed to take the traffic.

Original railway edit

George Garside's quarry in 1980, just before industrial rail operations ended

Leighton Buzzard Light Railway opened on Thursday 20 November 1919, linking the sand quarries (Double Arches at the far end of the line) with the mainline railway south of the town at Grovebury sidings. The line was built using surplus equipment from the War Department Light Railways. The railway was built to a gauge of 2 ft (610 mm) and laid using mostly 30 lb/yd (14.9 kg/m) rail. The line opened using steam traction by two Hudswell Clarke 0-6-0 side tank steam locomotives. These proved inappropriate for the tightly-curved line and the steam locomotives were sold in 1921. From that point the railway was run using internal combustion, almost exclusively the products of the Motor Rail company. It was one of the first railways in Britain entirely operated by internal combustion.

After the Second World War sand traffic returned to the roads. In 1953 a strike on mainline railways pushed more traffic onto the roads. By the mid-1960s only one sand quarry, Arnold's, still used the light railway. The BR line to Dunstable was closed in 1965, apart from a short stretch from Leighton Buzzard to Grovebury interchange sidings, which survived until 1969.

Preservation edit

In 1968 the line was more lightly used and volunteers under the name of "The Iron Horse Railway Preservation Society" took over the line on weekends to run the first formal passenger services on the line. Part of the agreement between the railway and the volunteers was that volunteers would repair the permanent way. This was undertaken, the group having purchased secondhand rolling stock and four Simplex diesels from the St Albans Sand and Gravel company, which were dismantled and formed into one machine. The last sand train ran on the main line in 1969, although several quarries continued to use the lines within their quarries. These were eventually replaced by roads and conveyor belts and the last internal quarry line was abandoned in 1981. Today the line is run purely as a heritage railway.

A large collection of steam and internal combustion locomotives run on the line. Visitors can ride the train and are issued with an Edmondson ticket. There is a collection of industrial railway locomotives at Stonehenge Works towards the northern end of the line.

The railway is promoted by the Campaign to Protect Rural England.[1] On 22 June 2013, John Travolta visited the railway with his son Benjamin.[2]

Route edit

Map of the Leighton Buzzard Light Railway

The line is unusual as it runs mostly through modern housing built since the 1970s, although the last half mile runs through countryside. There are open level crossings for which trains stop.

The railway began at Grovebury Sidings, where sand trains unloaded into washers and the sand was shipped to standard-gauge trains on the Dunstable branch or to road. The sidings and industrial plant at Grovebury were replaced with an industrial estate in the early 1970s.

Trains from Grovebury crossed Billington Road by a level crossing and worked up a steep grade to Page's Park. Here a branch line south connected to the line's main engineering workshop and the Pratt's Pit quarry. In 2006 Page's Park forms the southern terminus of the heritage railway.

From Page's Park the line curves north towards a summit at Red Barn. From there it descends at 1 in 60 (1.7%) before climbing again to cross Stanbridge Road. On the left is the site of Marley's Tile Works, now a housing estate, which was connected to the railway for most of its existence. The line descends Marley's Bank at a maximum of 1 in 25 (4%). Loaded sand trains to Grovebury Sidings often needed a banking locomotive.

At the bottom of Marley's Bank the line turns sharply north and runs along the level to Leedon Loop. The line here passes through housing. After Leedon, the railway crosses Hockliffe Road and crosses the Clipstone Brook and begins to climb again on a 1 in 50 (2%) gradient to cross Vandyke Road.

Immediately after crossing Vandyke Road the line curves 90 degrees to Vandyke Junction where there was a passing loop. Here the branch line from Chamberlain's Barn and New Trees quarries joined the main line. A short section of this branch remains intact although heritage trains do not use it. The railway then runs parallel to Vandyke Road, climbing steadily to Bryan's Loop then descending again to cross the Shenley Hill Road. The line levels and continues to Stonehenge Works now the engineering workshop of the preserved railway. This is also the northern terminus of modern operations.

From Stonehenge the line continues northwards with a 1 mile (1.6 km) of double track, climbing towards the two Double Arches sand quarries, owned by Joseph Arnold and George Garside.

Preserved locomotives edit

These are the locomotives on the preserved railway. All are 2 ft (610 mm) gauge nominally, except where noted.

Steam edit

No. Name Wheel Type Builder Works No. Year Built Origin Livery Notes Image
1 Chaloner 0-4-0VBT De Winton n/a 1877 Penyrorsedd slate quarry, north Wales Lined black Worked at the Penybryn quarry until 1881, then Penyrorsedd until 1960. Purchased by Alfred Fisher and transferred to Leighton Buzzard in 1968. Too small for regular use but used on gala days. Undergoing major overhaul which will require a new boiler.  
2 Pixie 0-4-0ST Kerr Stuart 4260 1922 Devon County Council, Wilminstone Quarry Lined green One of 27 of the Wren class ordered for a sewer contract in Essex, sold to Devon County Council in 1929. Purchased by the Industrial Locomotive Society in 1957; entered service at Leighton Buzzard in 1969. Has previously been on loan at the Devon Railway Centre and has now returned to LBNGR. Can be seen running on gala days but as of 2017 is currently undergoing overhaul.  
3 Rishra 0-4-0T Baguley cars Ltd. 2007 1921 Hoogly Docking & Engineering Co., Rishra, India Lined green The only remaining locomotive of this type. Spent all of its working life in Calcutta, where it shunted coal wagons at a water pumping station. Purchased by Mike Satow in 1963 and repatriated to Leighton Buzzard. Entered service in 1971. Too small for regular use and only used on gala days. Operational as of 2017.  
4 Doll 0-6-0T Andrew Barclay 1641 1919 Sydenham Ironstone Quarry, King's Sutton, Oxfordshire Lined blue Transferred in 1926 to Bilston Furnaces, where it ran until 1960. Purchased by the Bressingham Steam Museum in 1966; sold to Henry Williams in 1969; purchased by Leighton Buzzard Light Railway in 1972. A major overhaul which involved the construction of a new boiler, was completed in 2004 and the locomotive was used regularly on passenger trains. Returned to service in 2017 after a ten-yearly overhaul.  
5 Elf 0-6-0WT Orenstein & Koppel 12740 1936 Likomba Development Company, Cameroon, Africa Lined umber Purchased in 1973 after serving on plantation railways in Cameroon until 1971. Wood-burning with a spark arrestor. Now converted to coal. Stored awaiting overhaul.
11 PC Allen 0-4-0WT Orenstein & Koppel 5834 1913 Solvay Alkali Works, Torrelavega, Spain Unlined green and black Was originally built for the internal railway system at the chemical works of Solvay & Cie, Torrelavega, Spain. Purchased by Sir Peter Allen in 1963, transferred to Leighton Buzzard in 1970. Returned to service in 2014 following a major overhaul but now withdrawn requiring boiler repairs.  
9 Peter Pan 0-4-0ST Kerr Stuart 4256 1922 Devon County Council, Willminstone Quarry, Devon Unlined green Wren class locomotive that worked with Pixie in Devon. Purchased in 1972 by Graham Hall who found the locomotive in a garden in Bromsgrove.
778 4-6-0PT Baldwin Locomotive Works 44656 1917 War Department Light Railways Unlined black Baldwin Class 10-12-D. One of 495 locomotives built by Baldwin in 1917, for the UK War Department Light Railways. They operated on the thousands of miles of narrow-gauge tracks that supplied the front line trenches in the First World War. It then worked in India until the 1980s, finishing at the Upper India Sugar Mills in Uttar Pradesh. Entered service in August 2007 and is regularly used on passenger trains. The completion of the restoration made 778 the first locomotive of this type to operate in Britain since 1950.[citation needed]  
4 Sezela 0-4-0T Avonside Engine Company 1738 1915 Sezela sugar-cane plantation, Natal, South Africa Unlined green Built for the 125 mile line that served the Sezela sugar-cane plantation in Natal, South Africa. Returned to service after overhaul in 2019.  
Gertrude 0-6-0T Andrew Barclay 1578 1918 Sydenham Ironstone Quarry, King's Sutton, Oxfordshire Lined red Transferred in 1926 to Bilston Furnaces where it ran until 1960 with classmate Doll. It steamed for the first time in preservation at the Welsh Highland Heritage Railway in 2010. She remained there until 2019 where she moved to the Leighton Buzzard Railway. She is undergoing overhaul to be returned to operational condition.  
2023 0-8-0T Krauss 7455 1918 First World War service in the German Army Unlined grey One of 2500 of this design to be built to serve the German Army in World War I. Following the war it was used on the sugar-beet railway at Maizy in northern France. Finally, it moved to a sand quarry in Variscourt in 1964 before being acquired for preservation in 1970. Acquired by the Leighton Buzzard Railway in 2014 and is awaiting restoration to full working order.  
Pedemoura 0-6-0WT Orenstein & Koppel 10808 1922 Douro Valley coal mines, northern Portugal Lined green Is one size larger than Elf and is a powerful locomotive. After operating for the Douro Valley coal mines in northern Portugal, it was shipped over to the UK in the 1970s for preservation. Following an extensive restoration, the locomotive re-entered service for the first time in over 50 years in July 2016.[3]  
Nutty 4wVBT Sentinel Waggon Works 7701 1929 Fletton Brickworks Yellow 2 ft 6 in (762 mm)  
Penlee 0-4-0WT Freudenstein 73 1901 Red Rebuilt by ARC c1983[4]  
Elidir 0-4-0T Avonside 2071 1933 [4]
0-4-0WT Orenstein & Koppel 2544 1907 [4]

Internal combustion edit

No. Name Type Builder Works No. Year Built Origin Livery Notes Image
(1) 4wDM Motor Rail 5612 1931 St Albans Sand and Gravel Co. Ltd. Nazeing, Essex Dismantled by 1988. Restored and returned to service to celebrate the 100th anniversary in 2019.
(2) 4wDM Motor Rail 5608 1931 St Albans Sand and Gravel Co. Ltd. Smallford, Hertfordshire Converted to a brakevan, c. 1970
(3) 4wDM Motor Rail 5613 1931 St Albans Sand and Gravel Co. Ltd. Smallford, Hertfordshire Converted to a crane, c. 1970
7 Falcon (Pam until c. 1978) 4wDM Orenstein & Koppel 8986 unknown Woodham Brick Co. Ltd., Wotton, Buckinghamshire Blue Only surviving member of the MD2 class in Britain. Rescued from a Newport Pagnell scrapyard in 1970 by Peter Hodges.
8 Gollum 4wDM Ruston Hornsby 217999 1942 Featherby's Brickworks, Rochford, Essex
9 Madge 4wDM Orenstein & Koppel 7600 1935 Oxstead Grestone Lime Co. Ltd., Oxstead, Surrey Single cylinder RL1C class
10 Haydn Taylor 4wDM Motor Rail 7956 1945 British Industrial Sand Ltd. Middelton Towers, Norfolk Originally loaned by its owners in 1971. Nicknamed "Breadbin" due to its unusual cab shape. Rebuilt in 1973 with a conventional cab.
12 Carbon 4wPM Motor Rail 6012 1930 Standard Bottle Co., New Southgate, Middlesex Arrived in 1972 via M.E. Engineering, Cricklewood.
13 Arkle 4wDM Motor Rail 7108 1937 George Garside, Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire Original Leighton Buzzard sand quarry loco, operated until 1981  
(14) 4wDM Hunslet 3646 1946 Crumbles Gravel Pits, Eastbourne, Sussex Arrived 1972
15 Tom Bombadil (after 1990) 4wDM F.C. Hibberd 2415 1941 Butterley & Blaby Brick Companies Ltd., Ripley, Derbyshire
16 Thorin Oakenshield 4wPM Lister 11221 1939 Guard Bridge Paper Co. Ltd., Leuchars, Fife
17 Damredub 4wPM Motor Rail 7036 1936 George Garside, Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire Original Leighton Buzzard sand quarry loco, operated until 1981
18 Fëanor 4wDM Motor Rail 11003 1956 British Industrial Sands Ltd., Middleton Towers, Norfolk Dark Maroon  
19 4wDM Motor Rail 11298 1965 British Industrial Sands Ltd., Middleton Towers, Norfolk
20 4wDM Motor Rail 60S317 1966 British Industrial Sands Ltd., Middleton Towers, Norfolk
21 Festoon 4wPM Motor Rail 4570 1929 George Garside, Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire Original Leighton Buzzard sand quarry loco, preserved 1981
22 Fingolfin 4wDM LBLR 1 1989 Constructed from parts of Ruston Hornsby 425798 and 444207
23 4wDM Ruston Hornsby 164346 1932 West Kent Main Sewage Board, Littlebrook, Kent Second oldest Ruston Hornsby locomotive in existence
24 4wDM Motor Rail 11297 1965 British Industrial Sands Ltd., Middleton Towers, Norfolk
(34) RED RUM 4wDM Motor Rail 7105 1936 Red  
36 Caravan 4wDM Motor Rail 7129 1938 Redland Flettons Brick Company Yellow An unusual variant of the Motor Rail Simplex class with an overall cab.  
(40) TRENT 4wDM Ruston & Hornsby 283507 1949 Blue  
43 4wDM Motor Rail 10409 1954 Leighton Buzzard Light Railway Company, Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire Original LBLR mainline locomotive; purchased by John Cohring in 1972
NG46 4wDH Baguley-Drewry 3698 1973 [4]
NG51 "River Sark" 4wDH Barclay 720 1987 Eastriggs Munitions Factory, Dumfries-Shire, Scotland. Arrived 2022. visited the FR for the 1995 Gala. Nameplates currently removed.
81 PETER WOOD 4wDH Hunslet 9347 1994 [4]  

Electric edit

No. Name Type Builder Works No. Year Built Origin Livery Notes Image
NG23 4wBE Baguley-Drewry 3702 1973 Rebuilt by Andrew Barclay 1987[4]  

Previous running stock edit

Alice at the Bala Lake Railway
Locomotive No. 740 on shed at Pages Park
No. Name Wheel Type Builder Works No. Year Built Origin Notes
6 Alice 0-4-0ST Hunslet 780 1902 Dinorwic slate quarry Now running at the Bala Lake Railway
(24) 4wPM Motor Rail 4805 1934 J. Arnold & Sons Ltd., Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire Original Leighton Buzzard sand quarry loco, dismantled by 1980
740 0-6-0PT Orenstein & Koppel 2343 1907 Matheran Light Railway, Maharashtra, India Restored to working order, has rare Klein-Linder radial axles. She first worked at Leighton Buzzard on 7 September 2002.

Visiting locomotives edit

DHR19 in the station at Leighton Buzzard
Number Name Builder Year Visited Location Notes
Gertrude Andrew Barclay 2009 Welsh Highland Heritage Railway Restored and operated by Exmoor Transport, sister locomotive to Doll, built as works No. 1578 in 1918.
DHR19 Sharp Stewart Beeches Light Railway Works No. 3518, built for the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, B Class No. 19 (778 under the all-India number scheme)
22 Montalban Orenstein & Koppel West Lancashire Light Railway
Woto WG Bagnall Alan Keef Ltd
Elidir Hunslet September 1991 Llanberis Lake Railway
Britomart Hunslet Ffestiniog Railway
Jack West Lancashire Light Railway
Irish Mail Hunslet West Lancashire Light Railway
Barbouilleur Decauville Amberley Museum Railway
1 Bronhilde Berliner Maschinenbau (Schwartzkopff) Bredgar and Wormshill Light Railway Built in 1927
2 Katie Arn Jung Bredgar and Wormshill Light Railway Built in 1931
10 Naklo Fablok (Chrzanow) South Tynedale Railway Built 1957
Triassic Peckett Bala Lake Railway
Alan George Hunslet Teifi Valley Railway Works No. 606, built in 1894
4 Stanhope Kerr Stuart 2001 West Lancashire Light Railway Owned by the Moseley Railway Trust, Tattoo class 2395 built in 1917
939 Justine Arn Jung 1986 North Gloucestershire Narrow Gauge Railway
1091 Henschel 2009 North Gloucestershire Narrow Gauge Railway [5]
1652 Type 17 Decauville 2009 Froissy Dompierre Light Railway [6]

See also edit

References edit

  • Leleux, Sydney (1996). The Leighton Buzzard Light Railway (2nd ed.). The Oakwood Press. ISBN 0-85361-460-1.
  • Hughes D.N.R.; et al. (1974). Leighton Buzzard Narrow Gauge Railway Guide. Leighton Buzzard Narrow Gauge Railway Society Ltd.
  1. ^ Members Guide. Campaign to Protect Rural England. 2012.
  2. ^ "John Travolta visits Leighton Buzzard Railway with son". BBC News. 27 June 2013. Retrieved 30 May 2020.
  3. ^ Creagh, Bev (20 July 2016). "Buzzrail's latest baby steams into town". Leighton Buzzard Observer.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Industrial Locomotives: including preserved and minor railway locomotives. Vol. 17EL. Melton Mowbray: Industrial Railway Society. 2015. ISBN 978 1 901556 88 9.
  5. ^ "Latest news". www.btinternet.com. Archived from the original on 22 October 2012. Retrieved 13 January 2022.
  6. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 7 January 2005. Retrieved 14 June 2009.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)

External links edit

51°54′31″N 0°39′6.32″W / 51.90861°N 0.6517556°W / 51.90861; -0.6517556