Category Archives: Railways Blog

The Uganda Railway during the First World War

I recently picked up a copy of each of the two volumes of ‘Permanent Way‘ written by M.F. Hill and published in 1949. The first volume [1] is a history of ‘The Uganda Railway’ written in the 1940s when the railway company was known as ‘The Kenya and Uganda Railways and Harbours’ and published at the end of that decade under the jurisdiction of the new ‘East African Railways and Harbours’ which was formed to formally include the infrastructure in the modern country of Tanzania.

Hill’s first volume provides a detailed history of the Uganda Railway until just after the end of World War II. This article covers the period of WW1.

Hill provides, at least as far as I can tell, what appears to be a very fair compilation of activity throughout the East Africa Protectorate (EAP) and the Uganda Protectorate UP) during the War. [1: p344ff] There was significant unrest in the EAP contributed to by a range of incompetencies exhibited by the EAP Government based in Nairobi, during the first year of the War. He highlights the importance of a meeting of Settlers in September 2015, which pressed on the Government the need for effective organisation and which resulted in the first elected representation for the Settlers onto a War Council.

Hill says that organisation improved markedly from this time on, although there were still significant losses in the community and the forces particularly due to fever. The German resistance throughout the War is noted by Hill as being one of “courage, endurance and astounding ingenuity” before it surrendered eventually on 25th November 1918. [1: p354]

Hill’s summary of the EAP campaign says: “The most ardent advocate of the East African campaign cannot maintain that it contributed to the ultimate to the ultimate defeat of Germany. The most caustic critic cannot deny that the story of the campaign is an epic of human endurance in the face of terrible trials. Fever, disease and starvation, through the breakdown of a suicidal system of supply, were von Lettow’s [2] allies, and they caused far more casualties than his soldiers.” [1: p354]

British troops after their train has run over a German mine. [3][4]

Hill points to the War Office record which states that, “during the campaign, 976 officers and 17,650 other ranks were killed, died or missing. Those figures covered the East African, South African, West African, British and Indian troops engaged in the campaign. In addition, 44,572 African porters were killed or died of disease. The maximum strength employed at any time was 24,156 combatants and 187,369 non-combatants. Altogether 112,000 fighting troops and 261,000 non-combatants took part in the campaign. Of the vast army of African porters, on which the transport and supply of the troops in the field mainly depended, nearly 60,000 were recruited in Uganda and the great majority of the remainder came from the Native tribes of the East Africa Protectorate. They were called upon to pay a terrible price in human life and misery because the First German War overspilt from Europe into Africa ” [1: p355]

H.M. armoured train, ‘Simba’ was built in the workshops at Nairobi to counteract the German mounted patrols that carried out nuisance raids on the railway during the War. [3][4] It was destroyed by a mine.

He goes on to talk about ‘The Uganda Railway’. Throughout the text of the chapter on the War, Hill again provides details of the working profit each year:

1914-1915     –      £180,600     [1: p355]

1915-1916     –      £287,300     [1: p360]

1916-1917     –      £351,815     [1: p364]

1917-1918     –      £208,986     [1: p368]

1918-1919     –      £152,255     [1: p370]

During 1915, Parliament approved a loan of £1.868 million for further expenditure at Kilindini Harbour, for railway improvements and for roads and bridges. Only a fraction of the loan was spent until the end of the War. Survey work onthe line from Nakuru across the Uasinn Gishu Plateau did continue. Oil storage at Kilindini and at Kisumu was increased along with work to piers at several ports and Harbours associated with trade on Lake Victoria. One new ship, the ‘Rusunga’, was launched on the lake. [1: p355f]

Hill highlights locomotive developments in 1915: 3 new tank engines were put into service; seven ‘G’ class engines were erected but not out into service until 1817 for lack of flangeless tyres for the leading powered axle/wheel set.

Twenty-nine of the ‘F’ class locos were still working. By the start of the War, the annual engine mileage was 1,862,453 of which the ‘F’ class locos were doing about 50%. The Mallets (18 No.) were doing good work, hauling satisfactory loads, but we’re proving very expensive to maintain. [1: p356]

The Magadi Line opened on 14th January 1915, the Thika Line was still passenger only and already paying its way. The Busoga Railway was crippled by the major drop in export and import traffic. It had also been realised that the costs associated with making Lake Kioga navigable would be exorbitant.

Towards the end of 1915 it was decided to build a new branch line from Voi to Maktau to solve supply problems for the proposed offensive into German East Africa. In due course this line would be extended to Kahe and so would link The Uganda Railway with the line from Tanga to the foothills of Kilimanjaro. [1: p358]

At around this time the military took control of The Uganda Railway. [1: p358f]

By June 1915,1,166 vehicles were being dispatched  monthly from Kilindini. In January 1916 this had increased to 2,994 vehicles. Before the end of March 1916, 25 engines and 200 ten ton covered wagons had been imported from India, mainly for the Voi-Maktau line, but also to receive pressure on the main line. Further wagons were purchased from the contractors for the Magadi Line. [1: p359]

A working profit of £287,000 was achieved in the 1915/1916 financial year but there was no significant allowance made for necessary maintenance and a renewals fund had still not been created. The survey of the line across the Uasin-Gishu Plateau was completed and the first mention appeared in an Annual Report of the General Manager of this route becoming the start of a trunk line through Uganda to the Congo. [1: p361]

In November 1915, the Port at Kilindini was taken over by the Royal Navy and closed to civilian traffic. The inadequate Old Port at Mombasa had to be used for all exports.

The March 1817 report if the General Manager drew attention to the wretched state of engines and rolling stock.

Little had changed by March 1919. The General Manager’s report was a repetition of the difficulties of previous years:

“Little had been done to remedy a chronic decay, the difficulties had, inevitably, become more critical. Several engines had been taken out of service either for lack of spares or as not worth repairing. In February 1919, fifteen new ‘G’ class engines were ordered, but they were not expected to arrive before the end of the year. Meanwhile, of the railway’s ninety-two engines, only seventy-seven were in working order and many of those were in bad shape. Most of the railway’s original rolling-stock particularly the second- and third-class carriages, was virtually beyond repair except at great and uneconomic cost. The majority of the machines in the workshops were worn out and incapable of turning out accurate work.” [1: p371]

All the subsidiary lines were also showing a loss and it was recognised that the two lines in Uganda (Busoga and Port Bell) were too small to be operated effectively as separate systems. [1: p372]

“For years the Treasury of the EAP had pillaged the railway in order to balance its budget. Now the Treasury had extended the field of pillage to Uganda. By this time the state of the railway was so derelict and critical that some radical reorganisation could not long be avoided. The surcharge, and the protests of Uganda, proved to be the last straws. Undoubtedly they impelled the series of events and the design of policy which eventually placed the railway on a sounder constitutional basis and a very much sounder financial basis. Unfortunately, this ill-advised surcharge, following upon the long struggle to secure to Uganda a fair allocation of the customs revenue derived from its imports via Kilindini, left a legacy of suspicion and resentment which exercised an unhappy influence on relations between the two territories for many years.” [1: p373]


  1. M.F. Hill; Permanent Way – The Story of the Kenya and Uganda Railway – Volume 1; Hazel, Watson & Viney Ltd, Aylesbury & London, 1949.
  2. Lieut.-Colonel (later General) von Lettow-Vorbeck was the German commander-in-chief in East Africa and remained so throughout the conflict until the end of November 2018 when surrender became inevitable.
  3., accessed on 28th December 2020.
  4. Lieutenant Colonel Charles Hordern; Military Operations East Africa August 1914 – September 1916; Battery Press, Nashville, Tennesse, 1990.
  5. The featured Image at the start of this article comes from, accessed on 28th December 2020

The Uganda Railway at the beginning of 20th century.

I recently picked up a copy of each of the two volumes of ‘Permanent Way‘ written by M.F. Hill and published in 1949. The first volume [1] is a history of ‘The Uganda Railway’ written in the 1940s when the railway company was known as ‘The Kenya and Uganda Railways and Harbours’ and published at the end of that decade under the jurisdiction of the new ‘East African Railways and Harbours’ which was formed to formally include the infrastructure in the modern country of Tanzania.

Hill’s first volume provides a detailed history of the Uganda Railway until just after the end of World War II. This article covers the period from the beginning of the 20th century up to WW1.

The railway was handed over to the administration of the East Africa Protectorate on 1st October 1903. [1: p236] Before that date, the line was in use  first, until 1901, primarily as a construction line. The period from the beginning of 1902 until 31st March 1903 was treated as one accounting year. In that first ‘year’, the working deficit of the line was £49.690. This figure excludes interest on the capital  cost of the line. [1: p236]

The actual capital cost was assessed as £5,502,592 which had been financed by annuities by HM Treasury. An annual payment of £319,112 [1: p242] serviced these annuities. When they were finally discharged in November 1925, the Uganda Railway had cost the British taxpayer just under £7,909,295. [1: p243]

In the years following its opening a working deficit was converted into a working profit. Yearly figures are provided by Hill within the narrative of following chapters of his book.

1903/1904       –      -£60,101      [1: p280]

1904/1905       –         £2,639      [1: p280]

1905/1906       –       £56,678      [1: p290]

1906/1907       –       £76,763      [1: p293]

1907/1908       –       £64,713      [1: p300]

1908/1909       –       £64,838      [1: p304]

1909/1910       –       figures not provided by Hill

1910/1911       –       £98,519      [1: p308]

1911/1912       –     £131,373      [1: p320]

1912/1913       –     £209,046      [1: p330]

1913/1914       –     £213,484      [1: p337]

Hill provides a snapshot of the situation on the Uganda Railway on 31st March 1905: “the staff of the railway consisted of 53 Europeans, 176 Eurasians, 1,254 Indians and 3,050 Africans. … The railway had 70 engines, 209 units of coaching stock and 947 units of good stock. The engines consisted of the 34 English-built Class F and 36 American-built Class B, which had all been used on construction.” [1: p290]

The profit margins quoted above were struck “without making provision for the renewal of wasting assets, without any charge for interest on the capital cost, and it accrued not to the railway, but to the Treasury of the East Africa Protectorate.” [1: p280] This was done so as to meet the debt owed to the British taxpayer both resulting from grant-aid and the loans made to cover the costs of building the railway. The grant-aid to the East Africa Protectorate was £2,843,383. The charge on the capital cost, as noted above, was £319,112 per annum. [1: p281]

Winston Churchill in 1907, taken in London close to the time of his African Safari. [4]

Winston Churchill visited Uganda in 1907. Speaking about that time he commented that the Uganda Railway was “one of the most romantic and wonderful railways in the world.” [2: p3]

He writes: “Short has been the life, many the vicissitudes, of the Uganda Railway. The adventurous enterprise of a Liberal Government, it was soon exposed, disowned, to the merciless criticism of its parents. Adopted as a cherished foundling by the Conservative party, it almost perished from mismanagement in their hands. Nearly ten thousand pounds a mile were expended upon its construction; and so eager were all parties to be done with it and its expense that, instead of pursuing its proper and natural route across the plateau to the deep waters of Port Victoria, it fell by the way into the shallow gulf of Kavirondo, lucky to get so far. It is easy to censure, it is impossible not to criticize, the administrative mistakes and miscalculations which tarnished and nearly marred a brilliant conception. But it is still more easy, as one traverses in forty-eight hours countries which ten years ago would have baffled the toilsome marches of many weeks, to underrate the difficulties in which unavoidable ignorance and astonishing conditions plunged the pioneers. The British art of “muddling through” is here seen in one of its finest expositions. Through everything—through the forests, through the ravines, 5through troops of marauding lions, through famine, through war, through five years of excoriating Parliamentary debate, muddled and marched the railway; and here at last, in some more or less effective fashion, is it arrived at its goal.” [2: p4-5]

On the Cow-catcher. (Mr. Currie, Mr. Marsh, Col. Wilson, Sir J. Hayes-Sadler, Mr. Churchill.) [2: p7]

Churchill continues: “The Uganda Railway is already doing what it was never expected within any reasonable period to do. It is paying its way. It is beginning to yield a profit—albeit a small profit—upon its capital charge. Projected solely as a political railway to reach Uganda, and to secure British predominance upon the Upper Nile, it has already achieved a commercial value. Instead of the annual deficits upon working expenses which were regularly anticipated by those most competent to judge, there is already a substantial profit of nearly eighty thousand pounds a year. And this is but the beginning, and an imperfect beginning; for at present the line is only a trunk, without its necessary limbs and feeders, without its deep-water head at Kilindini, without its full tale of steamers on the lake; above all, without its natural and necessary extension to the Albert Nyanza.” [2: p6]

Winston Churchill was clearly impressed with the line, in the state that he found it, in 1907.

It was under the tenure of Sir Percy Girouard as Governor that serious thought was first given to real development of the railway and other transport infrastructure – railway, roads, hospitals and schools, and agricultural, veterinary and social services. “The railway needed a deep water quay, or pier, at Kilindini, and branch lines to bring traffic from potentially productive areas, remote from the main line.” [1: p307]

Sir Percy decided that a branch line North from Nairobi through coffee and sisal plantations and on into Kikuyuland was needed, with the hope that later on it could be extended towards Mt. Kenya. This did not receive support from the Treasury until the plan was revised to request permission to build a ‘tramway’ thirty miles long from Nairobi to Thinks. [1: p307]

The Jinja Pier was built in 1912, it once served as the main export gate for Uganda. The the railway tracks can still be seen in the timber planking of the deck. [3]

Winston Churchill was a significant player in a decision to build a line from Jinja to Kakindi (the Busoga Railway) which was reviewed in 1911 as the port facilities developed were inadequate. A decision was taken to extend the line to Namasagali where better quay/port facilities could be developed. An amount of close to £170,000 was allowed for this line which could become a longer route to Lake Albert, a project put forward by Churchill which would have cost around £1.25 million. [1: p309-310]

Magadi Soda Works in 1994 (my photograph).

At a similar time, negotiations were ongoing with the Magadi Soda Company, a new venture, which was given a site at Kilindini to erect godowns and a pier for the storage and shipment of its products. The plan was to build a 106 mile branch line to Lake Magadi to permit economic transport of soda products to the coast. Capital of about £1.3 million was set aside for the whole project on the founding of the company. The Treasury agreed to £350,000 of expenditure on the mail line to upgrade buildings, locomotive fleet and rolling stock. [1: p311]

In order to expedite the development of facilities at Kilindini, the Railway took over responsibility for the port in August 1911.

In 1912 David Lloyd-George, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, pushed a bill through parliament in the UK which allocated a loan £500,000 for the development of the port at Kilindini. In addition a series of smaller sums were agreed to cover the cost of: the line to Namasagali; the branch line to Thika; and the main line improvement to facilitate the branch to Lake Magadi. [1: p322]

However, the story of these years before the beginning of WW1 was one of inadequate stock and locomotives, with investment never quite keeping pace with demand. [1: p322ff]

In Uganda in 1912, “In addition to the loan of £170,000 for the building of the Busoga Railway, His Majesty’s Government granted a loan of £125,000 … for the improvement of communications in the Eastern province of the protectorate and the building of a short railway from Kampala to Port Bell on Lake Victoria.” [1: p327]

By March 1913, the Locomotive Superintendent reported: “With the power on order, there will be some 100 engines on the line, eighteen of which will be Mallet engines, equalling 36 ordinary type engines.” [1: p332] Of these Mallets, two were already in service and seemed, after some initial problems with the lack of familiarity of staff with the the locomotives, to be giving effective service. By the middle of 1913, eight Mallet engines had been delivered along with three further shunting engines.

The original Thika Railway tracks before the upgrading and refurbishment in the 21st century. [5]

Major Taylor, the General Manager, reported in March 1913, that the 6 mile long Port Bell railway was under construction and that the Thika line would be open to traffic by the end of October. [1: p333] His promise came to fruition with the opening of the line and in the same month a daily passenger service was inaugurated between Nairobi and Mombasa. [1: p337]

At the end of 1912, the Magadi Railway had reached Lake Magadi. However, it was not until 1914 that the Magadi Works was ready to start production. In the spring of the same year Parliament approved another loan to the East Africa Protectorate – a sum of £3 million of which £610,000 was allocated to Kilindini harbour, £957,000 to railway improvements. There remained £90,000 available from the previous loan associated with the harbour. This meant £700,000 could be spent on the renewed works at Kilindini. [1: p340-341]

Part of the main line improvement was the construction of 18 new crossing stations which would greatly increase the frequency of trains and the strengthening of bridges and viaducts to allow for a maxim.axle load of 15 tons. [1: p335, p337] Also of paramount importance was the strengthening of the rails from 50lb to 80lb and the replacememt of the sleepers with 109lb steel. The old 50lb rail was to be use for the branch lines. [1: p337]

By 1914, “the European population of the East Africa Protectorate was few more than 3,000. Of the 2,321 men of fighting age – including civil servants, missionaries and aliens – 1,987 served in the armed forces of the Crown, some for part of the war and some throughout the war.” [1: p342] The barest minimum of expatriates remained in the Protectorate throughout WW1.


  1. M.F. Hill; Permanent Way – The Story of the Kenya and Uganda Railway – Volume 1; Hazel, Watson & Viney Ltd, Aylesbury & London, 1949.
  2. Winston Churchill; My African Journey; William Briggs, Toronto, 1909.
  3., accessed on 26th December 2020.
  4. accessed on 26th December 2020.
  5., accessed on 26th December 2020.

Uganda at the end of 19th century and the events leading up to the construction of the Uganda Railway.

It has been some time since I last posted about the Uganda Railway. I have very recently picked up a copy of each of the two volumes of ‘Permanent Way’ written by M.F. Hill in 1949. The first volume [1] is a history of ‘The Uganda Railway’ written in the 1940s when the railway company was known as ‘The Kenya and Uganda Railways and Harbours’ and published at the end of that decade under the jurisdiction of the new ‘East African Railways and Harbours’ which was formed to formally include the infrastructure in the modern country of Tanzania.

In order to provide the context for the construction of the Uganda Railway, M.F. Hill saw it as imperative in his book to provide a social and economic history of the East African region. It is impossible for me to judge the veracity of what he writes, but it clearly is written from a British Colonial perspective. In addition to covering the strife between the European powers who sought to increase their influence in the Great  Lakes region of the continent of Africa, Hill provides extensive quotes from leading British figures in the region about the Uganda that they knew before the coming of the railway.

It must be acknowledged that the perspective is essentially that of those who were seeking to enhance British influence and eventually to establish Colonial rule, however, it also has to be said that these men (and it was always men) sought, within their own Colonial and paternalistic terms of reference, to be a benign civilizing force. The picture which develops, as one reads M.F. Hill’s book, is, on the one hand, one of competition for influence between Germany, Britain and to some extent, France and Belgium, but on the other hand, a significant and seemingly quite unhealthy competition between three main religious groups, Roman Catholics, Protestants and followers of Islam.

Within the sphere of the Buganda ‘nation’, the influence of the two forms of Christianity was very significant, with adherents to the Muslim faith being a significant minority. The conflict between these groups has to be seen as one of the major influences on the choices made by Colonial emissaries. Yes, there was also an urgent consideration of competition with Germany for control over the Great Lakes region but it is significant that much of the focus of those who were leaders in the development of the British sphere of influence seems to be on the internal tribal conflicts in the region which seemingly were fueled by the rivalry between Protest and Catholic leaders.

Sir Gerald Portal, who led an overland expedition to Uganda in the early months of 1893 at the insistence of the 5th Earl of Rosebery (Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in the 4th Gladstone administration) commented in a despatch to Lord Rosebury on the situation he discovered on his arrival in Uganda in March 1893, “he emphasised both the evils of the native system of administration and the curse of the religious conflict which largely arose from political causes.” [1: p103]

The decisions being made about the possible/probable construction of ‘The Uganda Railway’  were equally focussed on the possibility of these tribal/faith conflicts flaring up as they were on firmly establishing British interests over-and-against those of Germany.

In this light, it is worth quoting directly from Hill who is himself predominantly quoting Portal:

Portal described Uganda as a ‘whited sepulchre’, and traced the country’s tragic story from the bloody despotism of Mutesa, and the early years of Mwanga’s reign, when the condition of Uganda had been scarcely rivalled by the horrible records of Dahomey.

“The form of government in Uganda,” he wrote, “is nominally a despotic monarchy, and in the days of the late Mutesa it was really so; but his successors, and notably the present King Mwanga, have been unable to maintain either the prestige or the power of the Crown. . . . At the time when I arrived, the whole population of Uganda was divided into three semi-religious parties, two of which acknowledge no authority on the part either of Mwanga or his Council. Uganda is divided into ten provinces, each of which is under the nominal governorship of a chief. Under these governors again are an immense number of minor chiefs, one below the other, in a complicated system of transmitted authority. . . . In theory, at first sight, this organisation would appear to be not a bad one; in practice, it has proved to be the cause of a vast system of oppression and robbery. The unfortunate peasantry are forced to toil for the support and glory of an immense number of useless and idle petty chieftains who would think it beneath their dignity to do a stroke of any sort of work from one end of the year to another. In recent times, even the small chiefs had powers of life and death over the peasants, and although this has been stopped, there can still be no doubt that cruelty and oppression in various forms are rife throughout the provinces. Economically, the present system is as bad a one as could be devised; certain taxes in kind have to be paid to the King from each province; these taxes are levied solely from the lowest classes, but as they have to pass through the hands of a long gradation of chiefs, the amount which ultimately reaches the King does not represent more than a fifth part of what has been paid by the villagers.”

Portal pointed out that this administrative system accounted for the importance attached by the Bishops and the political leaders of the opposing parties to the possession, on their side, of certain chieftainships or provincial governorships. The acceptance by a great chief of the Protestant creed might mean the addition of a thousand fighting men to the Protestant cause, whilst the appointment of a Catholic governor to the command of a province might mean that every chief, sub-chief and villager in the province had to make up his mind quickly between embracing the same faith, or being forthwith turned adrift and deprived of his house, dignity and position.

The miserable history of Uganda during the previous few years had shown how inextricably religion and politics were interwoven. The three great parties, Mohammedans, Catholics and Protestants, were nominally divided only by religious tenets, but in fact they were adverse and jealous political factions, two of which were led, to all intents and purposes, by European missionaries. [1: p103-104]

Portal went on to say:

“That the missionaries, on both sides, are the veritable political leaders of their respective factions there can be no doubt whatever. As regards the Catholics, Mgr. Hirth and the Fathers would probably be the first to admit this to be the case. On the Protestant side, it is not, I believe, admitted, but the fact unfortunately remains. . . . The present state of affairs is that the natives on both sides have acquired the habit of appealing to their respective missionaries on every possible question, whether it be a personal quarrel with one of the opposite faction, an assault case, an eviction from a plantation, a murder, a decree from the King, or a decision or order from Her Majesty’s Commissioner. There has thus grown up a sort of dual or even triple system of government, which adds very seriously to the difficulties of administration. It will from this be readily understood that the race for converts, now being carried on by the Catholics and Protestants in Uganda, is synonymous with a race for political power. To-day the Protestants are the strongest, and the most numerous, party; to-morrow a successful battle might place the Catholics in a dominant position and, in such case, that religion would gain on the second day many thousands of converts, from among those who are now reckoned as belonging to the Protestant party. Catholics and Protestants here seem to look upon each other as natural enemies; no doctrine of toleration, if it has been taught on either side, appears to have been received by the native Christians; the fear of English officers and of the Nubian soldiers at the Fort may keep them from overt acts of hostility towards one another while this control remains here, but as soon as it is withdrawn, the war of extermination will at once be renewed. It is this feeling which, through the introduction of the two forms of Christianity into Uganda, has cost so many hundreds of lives, and has thrown the country fifty years back in its advance towards prosperity. It is deeply to be regretted that the avowedly great influence of missionaries in Uganda is not used to introduce a spirit of tolerance and peace even at the risk of the loss to the party of some political power of a few wealthy chieftainships.” [1: p104]

Hill continues:

The Mohammedan party was weaker in numbers, wealth and arms than either of the two Christian parties. In the event of the withdrawal of British control, the strength of the Mohammedans lay in their power to hold the balance between the two Christian factions. When it became known that the Company proposed to withdraw from Uganda, overtures to the Mohammedans were made, almost simultaneously, by the Catholics and by the Protestants. Portal realised that the Mohammedan influence in Uganda was inevitably doomed. If civil war again broke out, whichever party gained the Mohammedans’ affiance would certainly win the day—and then turn upon and annihilate the allies who had assured their victory. If peace continued, the Mohammedan party would inevitably be wrecked on the same rock which destroyed the power of so many Mussulman states—that of slavery. [1: p104-105]

Mwanga II was kabaka in Buganda from 1884 – 1888 & 1889 – 1897. He died aged 34 or 35 in 1903. There are notes about his reign below the references at the end of this article.

In retrospect it seems as though there is ample evidence in the story told here for a rejection of all religious influence in matters of state/politics. However, the world is not such a simple place. Portal did not regard all the Christian converts in Uganda as animated solely by political or material motives. He knew that only “a proportion of the so-called Catholic and Protestant parties could truly be called Christians, but Christianity had undoubtedly gained a firm hold in the country. Mwanga’s persecutions, [2] a few years previously, had proved that there were a considerable number of sincere-Christians prepared to die for their faith.” [1: p105] In addition, politics is a descriptive term for all interactions between differing groups of people. Where people exist, politics will occur. It is to be sincerely regretted that denominational loyalties in the West were imported into the Great Lakes region of Africa in such a way as to promote conflict rather than tolerance and understanding! The level of trust between the principal Christian denominations was not high in Europe at this same time.

The primacy of religious leaders in the politics of the time meant that one of Portal’s first tasks was to seek an accommodation between Bishop Tucker, the Protestant Bishop of East Equatorial Africa and Mgr. Hirth, the Rpam Catholic Bishop of Thereste and Vicar Apostolic of Nyanza. Careful negotiation brought reluctant agreement to the partition of provinces between Catholic and Protestant factions.

On 8th April 1893, 40 Protestant Chiefs signed a statement agreeing to release all their slaves. On 29th May, Mwanga also signed an agreement which accepted British authority. On that same day, Portal left for the coast.

By late 1893, Portal’s health was failing and he made his last report to his masters in London before setting off for the UK himself, where he died very early in 1894. Much of the report had to do with the management of British interests in the Great Lakes region. As [part of that report he strongly recommended the building of a railway from the coast to Kikuyu, not to Lake Victoria Nyanza, but including a significant enhancement of the British fleet on the Lake. That report was considered, after his death, by Parliament in London.

In June 1894, the British government was still hedging its bets and not making a commitment to the construction of a railway, although a decision was taken to declare a Protectorate over Uganda. This move was proclaimed in Uganda in August 1894 and was heartily welcomed. A further Protectorate covering the area from Uganda to the coast was proclaimed in 1896 – the ‘East African Protectorate’.

The Report of the Committee on Railway Communication with Uganda was submitted in April 1895, by the end of June 1895, Lord Rosebery’s Government had fallen and the new Tory administration under Lord Salisbury lost no time in deciding that the railway should be built. It was seen as essential to the life of the Uganda Protectorate. Preliminary expense were granted in the sum of £20,000 in August 1895. And the decision was taken to construct the full length of the railway from the coast at Mombasa to Lake Victoria Nyanza – a distance of 650 miles. Through choosing a reduced gauge and a lighter rail, the cost estimate for the work was set at about £2,700 per mile – a reduction from £3,409 per mile in the early estimates of cost. However in April 1896, a Government committee recommended that the gauge should be increased to one metre and the rail weight restored to that originally recommended – 50lb per yard.

The engineering team arrived in Mombasa in late 1895 but the empowering Act was not to achieve its passage through Parliament until August 1896 with a budget of £3 million.

Earlier posts in my series on the Uganda Railway cover the line and its construction. That story starts with the following article on this site:

Hill continues with the story of the building of the line. [1: p139-244] Given that this series is meant to be primarily about the Uganda Railway, this article has been something of a diversion.

As I am an Anglican priest it seems worthwhile to me to  return to the religious issues mentioned above. These will, in due course, be the subject of a further article in this series.

To restore the balance in favour of the railway itself. I will finish this post with some images directly associated with the railway which come from the pages of Hill’s book. [1]

Sir George Whitehouse KCB., the first Chief Engineer and General Manager of the Uganda Railway. [1: facing p144]

Rope Inclines on the Eastern face of the Rift Valley during construction in March 1900. [1: facing p179]

Kilindini in 1900. [1: facing p208]

Nairobi Railway Station in 1900. [1: facing p228]

Nairobi in 1900. [1: facing p228]

Uganda Railway – Class G 0-4-2 steam locomotive Nr. 101 and passenger train (Hawthorn 1746/1878). This locomotive was a one-off import from India, ex South Indian Railway. This image was posted recently on a French language site associated with the LRPresse Magazine(s), rather than coming from Hill’s book [3]

British East Africa in 1910. The Uganda Railway from Mombasa to Victoria Nyanza. Also included on the LR Presse forum. [3]


  1. M.F. Hill; Permanent Way – The Story of the Kenya and Uganda Railway – Volume 1; Hazel, Watson & Viney Ltd, Aylesbry & London, 1949.
  2., accessed on 17th December 2020. Part of the text of this Wikipedia page is reproduced in italics below.
  3.; accessed on 19th December 2020.

Mwanga came to the throne at the age of 16. He increasingly regarded the greatest threat to his rule coming from the Christian missionaries who had gradually penetrated Buganda . His father had played-off the three religions, Catholics, Protestants and Muslims, against each other and thus balanced the influence of the European colonial powers that were backing each group in order to extend their reach into Africa. Mwanga II took a much more aggressive approach, expelling missionaries and insisting that Christian converts abandon their faith or face death. A year after becoming king he executed Yusufu Rugarama, Makko Kakumba, and Nuuwa Sserwanga, who had converted to Christianity. On 29th October 1885, he had the incoming archbishop James Hannington assassinated on the eastern border of his kingdom.

For Mwanga, the ultimate humiliation was the insolence he received from the (male) pages of his harem when they resisted his sexual advances. According to old tradition the king was the centre of power and authority, and he could dispense with any life as he felt. It was unheard of for mere pages to reject the wishes of a king. Given those conflicting values Mwanga was determined to rid his kingdom of the new teaching and its followers. Mwanga therefore precipitated a showdown in May 1886 by ordering converts in his court to choose between their new faith and complete obedience to his orders and kingdom.

It is believed that at least 30 Catholic and Protestant neophytes went to their deaths. Twenty-two of the men, who had converted to Catholicism, were burned alive at Namugongo in 1886 and later became known as the Uganda Martyrs. Among those executed were two Christians who held the court position of Master of the Pages, Joseph Mukasa Balikuddembe and Charles Lwanga. They had repeatedly defied the king by rescuing royal pages in their care from sexual exploitation by Mwanga which they believed contrary to Christian teaching.

These murders and Mwanga’s continued resistance alarmed the British, who backed a rebellion by Christian and Muslim groups who supported Mwanga’s half brother and defeated Mwanga at Mengo in 1888. Mwanga’s brother, Kiweewa Nnyonyintono, was elevated to the throne. He lasted exactly one month and was replaced on the throne by another brother, Kabaka Kalema Muguluma. However, Mwanga escaped and negotiated with the British. In exchange for handing over some of his sovereignty to the British East Africa Company, the British changed their backing to Mwanga, who swiftly removed Kalema from the throne in 1889. He later converted to Christianity and was baptised.

“Moved by Steam” by Richard Inwood and Mike Smith

Published by Silver Link Publishing Ltd in 2009, this excellent book is made up of the personal reflections of the two authors on their memories of following steam as teenagers in the years 1962 to 1967. [1] This was a particularly poignant time in the life of Britain’s railways as the Modernisation Plan saw the relatively rapid demise of steam power.

In his forward to the book, Davis St. John Thomas says: ‘Here is a book with that tingle factor to bring memories flooding back to those old enough to remember the colourful last days of steam’. [1: p7]

I picked up a signed secondhand copy of this book and its sequel, ‘Steam Tracked Back’ online during the second lockdown in 2020. I had just written an article about clergy and railways [2] and was encouraged by someone who read the article to purchase these two volumes. The signed copies were a real bonus.

I mention the article about clergy and railways because one of the authors of these volumes was a retired member of the clergy. Bishop Richard Inwood was Suffragan Bishop of Bedford in St. Alban’s Diocese until his retirement and lived, in retirement in Chesterfield.

His obituary, carried by the Church Times in May 2019 [3] mentions his co-authorship of books on railways during his time as a Suffragan. It also highlights parallel with my own experiences. Like him: I taught for a short time in Uganda; attended Holy Trinity, Platt in Rusholme, Manchester; studied at St. John’s College, Nottingham. My time working for the Church of England as a parish priest and first Area Dean then Borough Dean did not mirror in anyway his later career as Archdeacon and then Suffragan Bishop.

I marvel at his capacity to write books about his love of the railways alongside sustaining a demanding ministry as a Bishop.

In the days before the end of steam on mainline duties on the railways of Britain, Richard Inwood and Mike Smith developed from trainspotters into railway photographers. They first met as schoolboys at the beginning of the 1960s. Subsequently, as members of their school’s Locospotters’ Club, they attempted to record as much British steam as possible in its last years, from Derbyshire to Dorset, from Oxford to Oxenholme.

This volume charts their growing desire to follow what was left of steam as it was being withdrawn across the whole rail network. It is a deeply personal account  which ‘brings to life some of the excitement tinged with sadness of those times’. [1: p7] It is supplemented by some great photographs of the railways around Burton-on-Trent and further afield. Each of these photos is carefully annotated

I was delighted to find a few pictures of the line between Hereford and Gloucester, and particularly one photograph taken at the Aylestone Hill end of Hereford Barrscourt Station. My modelling interest centres on the City of Hereford and its railways. [4]

As an aside, I read this volume very soon after I read ‘Platform Souls’ by Nicholas Whittaker to which also comes out of a teenage spent trainspotting in Burton-on-Trent!


  1. Richard Inwood & Mike Smith; Moved By Steam; Silver Link Publishing Ltd., Kettering, Northants, 2009.
  2., published on 14th November 2020.
  3., accessed on 10th December 2020.
  4. – the articles on this page are substantially about the model that I have been creating in the vicarage loft. The first article is a general comment on the use of N Gauge (2mm to the foot) as a modelling scale. The remainder focus on Hereford.
  5. Nicholas Whittaker; Platform Souls; Orion, London, 1995 (Revised Edition, 2015).

Railways in Iran – Part 11 – Anglo-Persian Oil Company Ltd.

The Anglo-Persian Oil Company (APOC) was founded in 1908 after the discovery of a large oil field in the South of what is now Iran. [2] Masjid-i-Sulaiman was the location where oil was first discovered in the Middle East. [3]

At the beginning of the 20th century, Khuzestan was one of the most impoverished and least urbanized areas of Iran, itself a desperately poor country. “In 1900 Iran was a fairly primitive, almost isolated state, barely distinguishable as an economic entity. About one fifth of the population lived in small towns; another quarter consisted of nomadic tribes, while the rest eked out an existence in poor villages” [9][11]. “Historical cities of Shushtar, Dezful, Ramhormoz, Hoveyzeh, and Behbahan, had small populations ranging between 7 and 25 thousand. Ahvaz (the provincial capital to the North of Abadan) was initially a large village, but it had been turning into a fast growing market town following the opening of Karun in 1880s to steamship commerce and the construction of the mule transport “Lynch Road” from there through Zagros to Esfahan.” [9].

William Knox D’Arcy, under contract to Ali-Qoli Khan Bakhtiari, obtained permission to explore for oil in Iran, he discovered oil near Masjid-i-Sulaiman in 1908. [3][4][5] This was the first time that oil  had been discovered in the Middle East, changing the history of the region and resulting in wealth beyond what country leaders could ever have hoped for or imagined. The oil discovery led to a petrochemical industry and the establishment of industries that strongly depended on oil.

Masjid-i-Sulaiman, is situated among the foothills of the Iranian plateau, about 130 miles inland from the Persian Gulf. The reserves are very significant and resulted in the construction of a pipeline to link Majid-i-Sulaiman, and another oilfield at Haft Kel, with the Persian Gulf, an oil depot, and what became a large refinery at Abadan.

An early view of the Oilfield at Masjid-i-Sulaiman. [16]

Near Masjid-i-Sulaiman, the pipe line is carried on a suspension bridge. In this illustration men are seen assembling the lengths of pipe line after the completion of the bridge. [17]

Construction of the refinery commenced in 1910 and the contraction was completed in 1912. Its capacity was 2500 barrels/day and it was the first oil refinery in the Middle East. [18]

The island at the junction of the Euphrates and Tigris. The depot of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company. Oil fuel was of utmost necessity for the Mesopotamian river traffic in the advance on Baghdad in the First World War. This image is a a view of Abadan from the river at the junction of the Euphrates and Tigris, seen at night. There is a dhow with sails down in the foreground, and the lights and outlines of an oil depot in the background. Date: (First World War). [12]

In 1914, the British government purchased a 51% stake in the oil company, [6] and during the First World War, Abadan refinery was expanded to provide fuel for warships. [18]

The development of Abadan oil refinery accelerated in 1932 and in 1935, APOC was renamed the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC) when Reza Shah Pahlavi asked foreign countries to refer to Persia as Iran. An institute of technology was established at Abadan in 1939. [18]

In World War II, after the Allies lost the Burmese oil and refinery, more attention was paid to the expansion of Abadan refinery and it became the largest refinery in the world. It supplied 25,000 barrels/day of aircraft gasoline during the war with the amount of 25,000 barrels per day and, as a result, contributed significantly to the Allied victory in WWII. [18]

Embed from Getty Images

An aerial view of barges in a dock at Abadan, Iran, 12th January 1947. (Photo by Pictorial Parade/Archive Photos/Getty Images) Parts of the 3ft gauge rail network are visible in this image. One track runs alongside the road to the left of the image. Two lines run parallel to each other to the left of the dock wall. They run between the legs of the rail mounted cranes. Wagons can be made out on these lines. This image is embedded from the Getty Images website with their kind permission. [14]

Later the government of Mohammad Mosaddegh nationalized the company’s local infrastructure assets and gave the new company the name National Iranian Oil Company. Mohammed Mosaddegh was Prime Minster of Iran from 1951 until 1953, when his government was overthrown in a coup d’état which was orchestrated by the CIA and MI6. [7]

An aerial view of Abadan in 1951, when the Iranian government nationalized the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. Source: The Illustrated London News, London, 8th September 1951, (Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial 4.0 International) [13].

In 1954, after the coup, the Company was renamed again to the British Petroleum Company (BP). [2] The products of Abadan refinery were once again sent to international markets at a rate of up to 300,000 barrels/day. By 1977, the capacity of the refinery had increased to 600,000 barrels/day. With that expansion, Abadan refinery regained its status as the largest refinery in the world. However, in 1980, the Iran/Iraq war brought all production to an end. [18] 

Recovery and further development has been slow and has been significantly affected by the international blockade.

The Railway Network in and around Abadan

The Anglo-Persian Oil Company had its own railway network at their Abadan Oil Depot and had a series of other lines which accessed the oil fields. The Wonders of World Engineering Magazine which was published from Spring 1937 to Spring 1938, [16][17] has two articles about the Iranian oilfields. The adjacent sketch map  is included in the second of those articles. [17] The dark lines represent oil pipelines which were already transporting oil in 1937/1938. Of interest for this article are the two railway lines shown. One is the Trans-Iranian Railway which heads North from the port of Bandar Shahpur. Eariier articles in this short series about the railways of Iran cover that line. Towards the top of the map is a short line running from Dar-i-Khazineh to the oilfield at Masjid-i-Suleiman.

Also, it is interesting to read a military report which was written in 1940. Iain Logie, an online acquaintance through the Continental Railway Circle (CRC) and author of an article about the Dar-i-Khazineh Fields Railway in The Narrow Gauge magazine [32], pointed me to this document which is available on the Qatar National Library website. [19] That document focuses on possible supply routes from the Persian Gulf to the North of Iran and so is not particularly interested in the pipeline supplying oil to Abadan.

It is probably very appropriate to note at this point that Iain Logie’s scholarly article in The Narrow Gauge magazine [32] is a comprehensive and detailed look at the Dar-i-Khazineh Fields Railway. I only received a copy of the article after having written this present article based around the 1940 Military Report. I have reviewed the text below in the light of receiving Iain Logie’s article and corrected some things which were incorrect.

The landscape between Abadan and Ahwaz. The River Karun was used for transporting oil/good to and from Masjid-i-Suleiman. (Google Maps)

I find the content, of what was a very long military report fascinating, but for our present purposes, we need to focus on the route to the oilfields. The report tells us that in July 1940: “From Basra, Mohammerah (Khorramshahr) or Abadan the recognised and only reliable all-weather route to the oilfields is by river craft. At Ahwaz transshipment is necessary owing to the rapids.” [19: p13]  The river used was the River Karun. Details regarding transshipment are given later in the military document. I have unearthed some footage from the early 20th century which is shown below. Transshipment took place by means of a tramway at Ahvaz. Sadly I cannot translate the Persian subtitles which appear from time to time.

The Military Report from the 1940s has a plan showing the new railway link to the Trans-Iranian Railway in the centre of Ahvaz. The transshipment tramway is marked on that plan and is highlighted by a light red line on an extract from that plan below. [19: Map 3] By the time the report was written the tramway was no longer in use.

Central Ahvaz in the late 1930s. [19: Map 3]

The short film above and the author of the military report confirm that, “Dar-i-Khazineh is the riverhead, and a light railway (via Tembi) and metalled road to the oil-field (Masjid-i-Suleiman) area start from there.” [19: p13]

The Dar-i-Khazineh Fields Railway

Dar-i-Khazineh is North-northeast from Ahvaz on the River Karun. The location is shown on the satellite image immediately below. The transshipment wharf was at the riverside. The railway only had a few access sidings at that location. A little further to the Northeast were a series of holding sidings.

Dar-i-Khazineh in the 21st century. (Google Maps)

The plan below was included with the 1940 military report, it is from a survey undertaken in the late 1930s and shows the Dar-i-Khazineh site. It is followed by two enlarged extracts. A key to the numbered buildings has also been enlarged below. The railway layout is clear on these plans.

Alongside these sidings you can see the locomotive shed which was the oil-supply point for the locomotives ((10) on the plans). (7)(8) and (9) were the stores, offices and railway workshop. (5) and (6) were living accommodation. (3) was a goods shed and (4) was a store house. (2) was an explosives store. (12) was guest accommodation and (13) was the superintendent’s house. (14) was the site water tank and (15) was the water pump-house.

At Dar-i-Khazineh, the wharf was 150 to 200 feet long and could accept 5-ton axle loads. Access to the wharf was by good metalled roads and the light railway. The wharf was occasionally submerged during periods of floods – around once in 5 years. Two cranes served the barges. One 15-ton Scotch derrick and one 10-ton travelling crane. [19: Appendix X, p91]

Dar-i-Khazineh transshipment point between river and rail. [19: Map 4] If the numbers can be made out in the image then the key below will be useful!Dar-i-Khazineh, riverside. [19: Map 4]Dar-i-Khazineh, sidings. [19: Map 4]

Key to the maps above. [19: Map 4]

The Light Railway from Dar-i-Khazineh to Masjid-i-Suleiman was a single line 2ft 6 in gauge railway of 36 miles in length, (increasing to 40 miles if sidings are included). The Rails on the earliest section of the railway were 30 lbs. secured to steel sleepers by steel keys. The track was ballasted with sandstone and river shingle. The notes go on to say that the railway had:

“Curves 5° to 45°. Maximum grade 3.2%. There are 3 main bridge[s of] Hopkins Truss type of spans 105, 120 and 120 feet. The line follows the metalled road from Dar-i-Khazineh towards Masjid-i-Suleiman to Abgah after which it turns south-east following the Tembi River to Tembi Power Station and thence runs to Masjid-i-Suleiman and Chashm-i-Ali. There are stations at D.i.K., Abgah (12 miles) Batwand (16 miles) Tembi (27 miles) M.i.S. (32 miles) Chashm-i-Ali (36 miles). The average time taken from D.i.K. to Chashm-i-Ali is 4.5 hours.” [19: p19]

The old railway followed the metalled road between Dar-i-Khazineh and Abgah, (Google Maps). The route f the line has been imposed on the satellite image as a faint red line hugging the South side of the road.The narrow gauge railway followed the road from Abgah to Batvand. It’s approximate route is shown by a faint red line imposed on the satellite image. Close to Batvand the line left the metalled road and followed the course of the River Tembi. 

As a point of clarification, the old railway probably dictated the route of the metalled road at least as far as Abgah. [32] Iain Logie includes a superb picture of the bridge which carried the railway over the River Tembi close to Batvand. [32] His article also includes the map below.

Iain Logie produced this plan of the route in 2017 and included it in his article about the railway [32] Used by kind permission.

I have not been able to find any sign of the route of the railway on Google Earth close to the River Tembi. Nor can I find any modern reference to Tembi Power Station on the internet. For the military report to refer to it, it must have been a reasonably significant structure. All we know from that military report is that between Batvand Railway Station (the location of which I have failed to ascertain) and Tembi Railway Station close to the Power Station was a distance of around 11 miles (18 kilometres).

There was apparently a short branchline from the main line to Masjid-i-Suleiman which was built to serve the construction work on the power station. [32]

The river approaches Masjid-i-Suleiman from the Southwest, that was the direction from which the narrow gauge railway approached the town. Iain Logie has an excellent map of the route of the line and some additional pictures which come from the BP archive.

Masjid-i-Suleiman Station Yard. [20]

I have been able to find one relatively grainy image of the station yard at Masjid-i-Suleiman on wikiwand. It shows what appears to be a saddle tank (possibly an ALCO 0-6-0ST which would have been supplied from Egypt) in steam and a range of goods wagons. [20]

Further searching on the internet identified one Iranian website which covers the story of the construction of the line and provides some other interesting pictures. [21]

That site tells the story like this (translated using Google Translate): “In 1921 AD, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company started the construction of a railway line from the River Karun to Masjed Soleiman and completed it in 1923 AD. The length of this railway was 57 km and the track-gauge was 76 cm. In fact, a railway of this length had never been built in Iran until then. Previously, the only railway linked the city of Rey with Tehran. The national railway of Iran was not inaugurated until 15 years later.” [21]

Stations were established along the way which included Abgah, Haji Abad, Tembi, Malkarim, Masjid-i-Suleiman and Chashm-i-Ali, and finally a Food Depot and Gunpowder Depot. The train stopped at these stations to supply the coal and water it needed, or to pick up and drop off passengers. At Tembi station, the sulfur for transport to Abadan or abroad was loaded. At Malkarim a passing loop was provided and alongside the line a Gypsum Factory produced gypsum for delivery by goods train to various places for use. At Chashm-i-Ali there was a goods warehouse and locomotive maintenance depot.

The railway had eight locomotives, initially it commenced operation with light locomotives that  had been received from the Army Delegation and Sales Board at Kantara railway station in Egypt. (These locomotives were used in World War I). In 1925, two 2-6-0 tank locomotives made by Kerr Stuart and 25 wagons from Britain were transferred to this line. And in later years newer locomotives were added to the line. The fuel for these locomotives was initially coal, but soon changed to oil. [21]

There were several small and large bridges along the railway, some of which still remain. There were four large bridges, three of which were at the intersection of the Tembi River, which were made of metal, and another with crescent-shaped openings on the Behlool River (Batvand), where only traces of concrete or stone pillars are visible. In general, the route has disappeared.” [21]

At the peak of its activity, the railway moved about 9800 tons of goods per month. During its 27-year life, the railway transported more than one million tons of goods and during the first years of its operation also transported passengers. It played a very important role for the oil industry and the development of Masjed-e-Soliman. [21]

The 1940 Military Report continues:

“From D.i.K. to Abgah and from Tembi to M.i.S. the maximum useful lift per train is 45 tons; between Abgah and Tembi, 85 tons.

At present, the A.I.O.C. run an average of one train per day. moving 60 tons from end to end. The maximum ever moved by them in one month is 3,600 tons, or 120 tons average per day.” [19: p19]

The military report then goes on to estimate how much greater use could be made of the line and notes, in 1940, that the locomotives in use burned oil fuel. 

Locomotives and Rolling Stock

The military report [19] has an Appendix which covers the available motive power and wagons in 1940. [19: Appendix XI, 19: p92-93] There were 3 No. Peckett Locos and 3 No. Kerr-Stuart Locos on the line at that time. In addition a Drewry Railcar was available as an inspection vehicle. This does not tell the full story of what motive power was available at different times on the line. But we consider the 6 oil-fired steam locomotives mentioned in the military report, first.

Peckett and Sons Locomotives

It is known that at least two locomotives were supplied to the railway by Peckett and Sons of Bristol. A detailed description of one of these locos is provided in a paper in the Industrial Railway Record (IRR). [8] The paper was a reproduction of an article first published in ‘The Locomotive Magazine and Railway Carriage & Wagon Review’ on 14th March 1931.

0-6-2 tank locomotive, 2 ft. 6 in gauge, for the Anglo-Persian Oil Co., built by Peckett and Sons, Bristol. This locomotive is No.1750, ‘D.I.K 1928’, of February 1928, a Peckett Type M5. [8]

These locomotives were oil-fired. When fully loaded they carried 520 gallons of water and 200 gallons of fuel oil. [8]

That same article explains that there were around 40 miles of track “linking up the different oil wells at Masjid-i-Sulaiman and providing means of transport for stores and supplies between that district and the depot at Abadan, which is also the port of shipment for the oil.” [8]

Martyn Bane also provides a copy of the paper in the IRR [8] He goes on to say that the “Anglo-Persian Oil Co. must have been happy with their locomotives as “Peckett’s later supplied two more machines: Locomotive No.1816 of October 1930, named ‘D.I.K. 1930’ came first and was followed by No.1909, ‘D.I.K. 1936’ in October 1936.” [1] It was Martyn Bane’s article that first alerted me to the 2ft 6in network at Abadan.

No.1909, ‘D.I.K. 1936’ of October 1936. It is possible that this photograph may be a re-touched version of the photograph above showing No.1750. [1]

Wikipedia lists these locomotives as below:

4 No. Peckett Locomotives used at Abadan. [15] It seems that, at the time of the military inspection only three of these were available. [19: p92] Since first publishing this article. I have been informed that No. 1751 was not built. The M5 classification is also strictly incorrect as these locomotives were a variant, an M5 special. The M5 locos were 0-4-0T locomotives.

Kerr Stuart Locomotives

The following Kerr Stuart Locomotives were purchased by Anglo Persia Oil Co. for their 2ft 6in gauge line running from the River Karun to Masjid-i-Suleiman:

Kerr Stuart No. 4189 – May 1923 (Huxley Boiler).
Kerr Stuart No. 4190 – May 1923 (Huxley Boiler).
Kerr Stuart No. 4191 – May 1923 (Huxley Boiler).

They were from a series of 21 No. 104 H.P. 0-6-2T locomotives to a design first built in 1912. Kerr Stuart christened the class, “Matary”. The design was suitable for gauges between 2ft and 4ft 8 ½ inches and rails of between 25-30 lbs per yard. The metre gauge locomotives had inside frames and locomotives with narrower gauges had outside frames. [23]

Further details of the class can also be found on the Fourdees website. [24]

These are noted as being available in the 1940 military report. [19: p92]

Other Motive Power

W.G. Bagnall Locomotives

Internet searches show that Fourdees also make a model which is based on the Bagnall version of the “Matary.”. They say that two of these Bagnall 0-6-2T locos were supplied to the Dar-i-Khazineh line in 1941. [25] There is a series of historical railway photographs from Iran on on ‘flickriver’ [26] among which are the front [27] and reverse [28] of an order card from Bagnall’s works showing one of these locomotives.

A letter to ‘The Narrow Gauge Magazine suggests that these two 0-6-2T oil-fired Bagnall Locomotives were actually ordered in 1944 and delivered in 1945/6. [29] Iain Logie agrees with these dates. [32]

Before the line was settled enough to order new locomotives 8 steam and petrol locomotives were in use on the line, all ex-ROD locomotives. Iain Logie has full details of these in a table of the motive power used on the line.[32]

ALCO Locomotives

The 8 steam locomotives were all ALCO locomotives which were manufactured during the Great War and supplied to the Egyptian Expeditionary Force. British  manufacturers were unable to meet the delivery requirements of the Army and so an American supplier was used. Iain Logie says that the locos were first required  for a 2ft 6in gauge light railway which served an elaborate system of defences along the Suez Canal. [32] He continues: “The ALCOs  proved to be rather limited in power and they were soon confined to shunting and local freight trips, rather than being used on the mainline where they were replaced by newer more powerful locomotives.” [32] Iain Logie has one picture of a loco of this class at work in one of the station yards. [32]

It appears that 24 of these locomotives were bought by the ROD in 1916 for use in Egypt. [33]

Hawthorn Leslie Petrol Locomotives

Iain Logie syas that two Hawthorn Leslie petrol locos (Army No 67 and 75) were purchased by APOC in 1922 and were used as shunting locos at Chashmeh-i-Ali and were operated by the stores staff rather than railway staff. [32]

Drewry Railcar

In 1940, one Drewry Railcar was available in the line. It was a 25 hp vehicle. [19: p92] It is likely that this vehicle was the one shown earlier in this article. The photo is repeated here.

In an article in The Narrow Gauge Magazine, [29] Rodney Weaver writes of a series of 19 No. Drewry Railcars were supplied during the 1st World War to 2ft 6in gauge as ambulances for Mesopotamia. The order was designated ‘Mesrail 14’. it was placed on “20th November 1916 and confirmed on 22nd December.
The first nine cars were handed over on 29th March 1917 and delivery was completed on 1st June, Like all Drewry cars between 1911 and 1930 they were actually built by Baguley Cars Ltd. (later Baguley (Engineers) Ltd.) of Burton-upon-Trent.” [29: p19]

Weaver goes on to say: “The cars were built on standard B-type chassis as used for hundreds of more orthodox (and a few more unorthodox) railcars over the years, The frame length was 16ft and the wheelbase 7ft, the light cast wheels being 24″ diameter. Power was provided by a Baguley petrol engine, a four-cylinder unit of 90mm bore x 130mm stroke rated at 20 hp. There was a three-speed gearbox, and a reverse box, one axle only being driven by a roller chain from the latter.” [29: p19]

Weaver describes the railcar like this: “The body comprised two driving platforms with a stretcher compartment between them. Two stretchers could be carried on either side of the car, one resting on top of a folded canvas seat that formed the floor and the other
carried on an upper platform that could be swung out and down on a form of parallel motion. Alternatively both stretchers and the upper platform could be removed and the canvas seat erected, when six walking cases could be accommodated. Between the stretchers was a corridor and seat for the attendant, access to which was gained by a door at one end of the car. The car could thus carry four stretcher cases, two stretcher and six walking cases or twelve walking cases as required.” [29: p19]

He continues: “In service the sides of the cars were normally covered by canvas screens bearing the Red Cross insignia, the rest of the vehicle being painted khaki.” [29: p20]

It seems that APOC must have seen these Railcars in action and decided to purchase two direct from Bauley in 1924. Iain Logie comments that these were intended to provide a passenger service on the line. At the same time as their purchase one trailer was also bought. [32]

The passenger service on the line was short-lived and abandoned in 1930. It seems as though the construction of the metalled road meant that a much quicker journey from Dar-i-Khazineh to Masjid-i-Suleiman was available. Iain Logie also comments that one of the ex-Army bogie vans was converted to provide better passenger facilities. The wartime use of the Drewry vehicle is illustrated below. [29: p22]

Drewry Railcar ambulance for Mesopotamia. [29: p22]

Baguley/Drewry Inspection Trolleys

APOC purchased a number of inspection trolleys, one of which is shown earlier in this article. These are listed by Iain Logie as well. [32]


Iain Logie’s article goes on to survey the goods wagons available on the line before highlighting the rapide decline of the railway after the Second World War. By the end of the War the military construction of roads had dramatically improved road links. The “road distance from Abadan to Masjid-i-Suleiman was 262 kilometres (163 miles) and that journey could be completed in 8 hours, whereas using the existing river and rail route, the distance was 382, kilometres and the journey would take 4 days, or longer.” [32] The railway closed in 1948 and its track was lifted in 1949.

Abandon Oil-Depot, Port and Refinery

There were railways at the port of Abadan as the image earlier in this article shows. The Abadan Depot and Refinery lines were set at 3ft gauge. More of them can be seen on the photographs below.

An Aerial view of Abadan from sometime in the 1920s or 1930s [10] This image appears to show rail tracks just above the T-junction on the bottom right of the photograph and again at the extreme bottom right with one line apparently running across the image on the near side of the road.Ships unloading at the Abadan waterfront in 1942. The rail lines and some wagons are in evidence. [30]Ships unloading at the Abadan waterfront in 1942. The rail lines and some wagons are in evidence. [30]Another postcard image of the wharf at Abadan. The rails providing access to the wharf are visible near the centre of the card image. [31]

The layout of the refinery railway is shown on the next two images which are taken from the 1940 Military Report. [19] The majority of the network is illustrated on the two extracts.

A two-part plan of Abadan Refinery in the late 1930s contained in the 1940 Military Report. The Railway network is visible although the resolution is not that good. [19: Map 2]

Oil production rose from a capacity of 2,500 barrels per day in the early 1910s to 650,000 barrels per day in the late 1970s. [36: APOC Abadan Refinery Railway]

Notes kept in the Narrow Gauge Railway Society library  say that the railway network at the refinery was 65 miles in length. They say that there were 405 points, that as the refinery expanded around 3 miles of track were laid each month.  Maintenance work saw around 2 miles of track lifted and reconditioned each month with around 5 miles of track ballasted each month! [34]

Iain Logie kindly sent me a distillation from the 1940 Military Report Map above which is held in the Narrow Gauge Railway Society Library. It is much easier to read than the original map. [35]

A map of Abadan as it was in the 1930s. [35] The railways can more eaily be [picked out on this plan.

The Narrow Gauge Railway Society Library holds a set of notes which incorporate the best of the sources about locomotives into one document. [36: APOC Abadan Refinery Railway]

The first railway at the refinery and port was a 2ft gauge railway purchased from a War disposal auction after the Great War. The Company were less than content with the 2ft gauge and despite there being a great deal of 2ft-gauge stock available in the post war years, decided that a 3ft-gauge railway would be meet the needs of the refinery. [36: APOC Abadan Refinery Railway]

The locomotive list for the site in quite long! It included Petrol (4No.), ‘Light’ Diesel (8 No.), ‘Heavy’ Diesel (16 No.) and Fireless (15 No.) Locomotives. [36: APOC Abadan Refinery Railway][37]

Iain Logie very kindly sent me the next two images which show a Hunslet 0-6-0 Diesel Mechanical locomotive as supplied to APOC/AIOC in the late 1930s and during WW2, and Hudswell Clarke Fireless Locomotive Works No. 1646 which was supplied to Abadan in June 1931.




  1., accessed on 26th March 2020 and 18th November 2020.
  2., accessed on 23rd July 2020.
  3., accessed on 23rd July 2020.
  4. M.S. Vassiliou; Historical Dictionary of the Petroleum Industry; Lanham; Scarecrow, Maryland, 2009.
  5. Peter Frankopan; The Silk Roads: A New History of the World; Alfred A. Knopf;New York, 2016, p. 319
  6. Daniel Yergin;  The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power; New York: Simon & Schuster, 1991; p138–147, 158.
  7., accessed on 16th November 2020.
  8. The Industrial Railway Record, Volume 53, April 1974, p202-203;, accessed on 18th November 2020.
  9., accessed on 18th November 2020.
  10., accessed on 18th November 2020.
  11. Julian Bharier, Economic Development in Iran 1900-1970; Oxford University Press, London, 1971, p19.
  12., accessed on 19th November 2020.  This image was created and released by the Imperial War Museum on the IWM Non Commercial Licence. Photographs taken, or artworks created, by a member of the forces during their active service duties are covered by Crown Copyright provisions. Faithful reproductions may be reused under that licence, which is considered expired 50 years after their creation.
  13. Carola Hein; Oil Spaces: The Global Petroleumscape in the Rotterdam/The Hague Area; Journal of Urban History. Volume No. 44, 2018, p1-43; accessed on 19th November 2020.
  14., accessed on 19th November 2020.
  15., accessed on 19th November 2020.
  16., accessed on 19th November 2020.
  17., accessed on 19th November 2020.
  18., accessed on 19th November 2020.
  19., accessed on 20th November 2020, full details are in Appendix 1, the document can be accessed using this link which is repeated in the Appendix.
  20., accessed on 22nd November 2020.
  21.احداث-خط-آهنی, accessed on 22nd November 2020.
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  24., accessed on 22nd November 2020.
  25., accessed on 22nd November 2020.
  26., accessed on 23rd November 2020.
  27., accessed on 23rd November 2020.
  28., accessed on 23rd November 2020.
  29., accessed on 23rd November 2020.
  30., accessed on 24th November 2020.
  31., accessed on 24th November 2020.
  32. Iain Logie; The Dar-i-Khazineh Fields Railway: A British Narrow Gauge Railway in Persia; in The Narrow Gauge Magazine No. 252, January 2019.
  33., accessed on 26th November 2020.
  34. Iain Logie provided access to the notes about the refinery railway at Abadan. They come from the BP Archive – File: ARC 44257. Iain Logie advises caution in reading these notes as they provide some detailed information which is different from other sources. This is particularly true in the details provided about motive power and rolling stock. [36]
  35. The Narrow Gauge Railway Society Library.
  36. A series of notes provided by the NGRS covering the railways of Iran, of which the NGRS says the following: ‘These research notes are intended to provide users of the Narrow Gauge Railway Society’s library with an introduction to the narrow gauge railways of Iran as a starting point for personal research projects. Additional, more specific sources for further research are noted in the text for each railway.’ 
  37. A.C. Baker & T.D. Civil; Fireless Locomotives; Oakwood Press, 1976.

Appendix 1

Military Report on The Anglo-Iranian Oil Company’s (South Iranian) Oilfield Area

Reference IOR/L/MIL/17/15/24
Date(s) 1940 (CE, Gregorian)
Written in English
Extent and Format 1 volume (69 folios)
Holding Institution British Library: India Office Records and Private Papers

A copy of this document is available via the Qatar National Library and can be accessed freely under an Open Government Licence. Full details of the licence can be found on the link below.

Rather than printing this document in full as part of this post, it can be viewed on the following link:                 

Clergy and Railways!?!

I was asked to give a talk in 2020 to a clergy discussion group on the subject ‘Clergy and Trains’. This group had decided to have its annual outing on The East Lancs Railway and I was to be the after dinner ‘entertainment’! It did not work out, for obvious reasons in 2020, as the Covid-19 pandemic altered everyone’s plans!

However, as a result of the request,  I began to study what was available online and in the press on this subject and the place it takes in the wide range of interests available to the clergy. … Whether my research counts as original research, I very much doubt. However, you might find what follows of interest!

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that the clergy love trains.”  So started an article by Ed Beavan in the Church Times on 15th June 2011, entitled ‘All Steamed Up About Trains’. [1] On the centenary of the birth of the Revd W. V. Awdry, creator of Thomas the Tank Engine, Ed Beavan asked, in his article in the Church Times, why so many clergy are railway buffs.

The statement, ‘so many clergy are railway buffs’, seems to me to be the kind of statement which becomes more and more true as time goes by. Once we begin to believe that it is true, we then begin to validate our own understanding and our own take on reality.

I know of no independently accredited study of clergy interests which proves that there is a greater preponderance of railway interest among the clergy when compared with other professions. Although there will probably be someone out there to correct me. Nor, I think is there a similar study which compares the range of different  interests held by the clergy and determines the most prevalent.

Model railways (and even railways themselves) are a relative latecomer in the various fields open to clergy to pursue. There are a number of good examples of clergy in previous generations who had interests beyond their own parish, church or flock.

Clergy with interests in Science

In Palaeontology, most early fossil workers were gentleman scientists and members of the clergy, who self‐funded their studies in this new and exciting field. [2]

Wikipedia lists Catholic Clergy who have made significant contributions to Science, [3] and there are many from other denominations too. Examples from across the spectrum of Clergy allegiance to denominations, include:

Roger Bacon – a medieval English philosopher and Franciscan friar who placed considerable emphasis on the study of nature through empiricism. [7]

Nicolaus Copernicus – a Renaissance-era mathematician, astronomer, and Catholic clergyman who formulated a model of the universe that placed the Sun rather than Earth at its centre. [4]

Gregor Mendel – a scientist, Augustinian friar and abbot of St. Thomas’ Abbey in Brno, Margraviate of Moravia. He gained posthumous recognition as the founder of the modern science of genetics. [5]

Georges Lemaître – a Belgian Catholic priest, mathematician, astronomer, and professor of physics at the Catholic University of Louvain. He was the first to identify that the recession of nearby galaxies can be explained by a theory of an expanding universe. [6]

John Michell – an English natural philosopher and clergyman provided pioneering insights iin astronomy, geology, optics, and gravitation. He was the first person known to: propose the existence of black holes; suggest that earthquakes traveled in (seismic) waves; explain how to manufacture an artificial magnet; and, recognise that double stars were a product of mutual gravitation …. [9]

The extensive Wikipedia list is merely a snapshot of a longer list which extends down to the present day. There have been many people who have combined their scientific eminence with a role as a member of the clergy. A prime example is Revd. John Polkinghorne, [10] Other in the contemporary age include Revd. Arthur Peacocke, the first director of the Ian Ramsey Centre for Science and Religion and the first director of the Ian Ramsey Centre for Science and Religion. [16] Others include: Canon Eric Jenkins, [17]; Revd. John Chalmers, moderator of the Church of Scotland and who has been involved with Church of Scotland projects such as Society Religion and Technology, [18] and Grasping the Nettle. [19]

There is also today, a society for priest-scientists. The Society of Ordained Scientists is a society within the Anglican Communion.  The organisation was founded at the University of Oxford by  Arthur Peacocke following the establishment of several other similar societies in the 1970s, in order to advance the field of religion and science. [11][15]

Other interests are also shared by clergy and the religious.

One particularly engaging study of clergy interests and proclivities was produced recently by Revd Fergus Butler-Gallie, “A Field Guide to the English Clergy: A Compendium of Diverse Eccentrics, Pirates, Prelates and Adventurers; All Anglican, Some Even Practising.” [12]

Waterstones comment: “Judge not, lest ye be judged. This timeless wisdom has guided the Anglican Church for hundreds of years, fostering a certain tolerance of eccentricity among its members. Good thing, too!” [13] Given my interests in blogging, railways and model railways, I have no alternative but to echo the sentiment. … “Yes, it is a good thing too!”

Butler-Gallie regales us with “eye-popping tales of lunacy, debauchery and depravity … he has done a splendid job presenting a smorgasbord of most peculiar parsons.” [14]

Among many other things, he tells us of a variety of different eccentrics who somehow found themselves within the ranks of the clergy. Examples include Revd Robert Hawker, Vicar of Morwenstow who was the first to institute a church Harvest Festival, but who at one time also used to dress as a mermaid. There was also an erstwhile Rector of Carrington whose fear of photography meant that he led services from behind a screen and who during a very long ministry built the largest folly ever constructed within these shores. Butler-Gallie goes on the describe a pantheon of eccentrics, nutty professors, bon viveurs, prodigal sons and rogues, all of whom appear to have somehow ended up either with their own parish or in the position of senior clergy. [12]

My current curate, while definitely not being an eccentric, has been an avid player of computer games, he plays regularly in a variety of different local bands, and he has taken up roller-blading. One Franciscan friar, Brother Gabriel, spends his spare time at a Bloomington, Indiana, Skate Park several times a week after participating in evening Mass and prayers. [8] 

This article is, in no way, a formal survey of clergy interests, and all these examples are, of course, very obviously anecdotal.

So, are there any grounds for believing that an interest in railways is more typical of the clergy than these other things?

I suspect not.

Nevertheless, there do seem to be a good number of clergy who are interested in both full-scale and model railways.

Clergy with an interest in Railways.

Font to Footplate – Teddy Boston’s autobiography completed while he was in hospital just before he died at the age of 61. [48]

Butler-Gallie directs our attention to one Revd. Teddy Boston. [12: p19-22] who was for 26 years Rector of Cadeby and Vicar of Sutton Cheney, in Leicestershire, (1960 – 1986). He built a light railway in the grounds of the Rectory at Cadeby. It was U-shaped, with a total length of 110 yards. He opened the line to passengers in 1963 [20] and named the line, “Cadeby Light Railway.”

Wikipedia tells us that Boston, “was a close friend of the Rev. W. V. Awdry OBE, creator of Thomas the Tank Engine, a kindred spirit with whom he shared many railway holidays. In Small Railway Engines (1967), Awdry relies on a trip the two made together to the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway, and they appear in the book as ‘the Fat Clergyman’ (Boston) and ‘the Thin Clergyman’ (Awdry). [21]

The Rev Wilbert Awdry “controlling” Thomas on the Ffarquhar Branch in Railway Modeller, December 1959. [21]

Wilbert Awdry is perhaps the best know clergy railway fanatic across the world. The ‘Thomas’ franchise is still very popular on the 2020s and Covid-permitting brings in significant revenue for Heritage Railway organisations each year. Awdry himself wrote 26 books in “the Railway Series”. His son Christopher went on to publish a further 16 books between 1983 and 2011. The series has also spawned a number of related books and a significant number of TV/Video/DVD programmes in English. [22] and in many other languages. [23]

Another star in this firmament was Revd. Peter Denny who for many years was a regular feature in the Model Railway Press. [24] He was known alongside others for being at the forefront of the development of the hobby after the Second World War. He was known for modelling which exceeded the expectation of the times for realism. He innovated in the management of his model railway and the timetabling of train movements. His layout Buckingham went through a number of incarnations as it developed in size. There are a variety of books written about his modelling achievements [25] and he is still feted online as well. [26] His layout is described by Tony Wright as, “one of the most important layouts in the hobby’s history since WW2.” [27]

Rt. Revd Eric Treacy MBE was an English railway photographer and Anglican bishop. He was Suffragan Bishop of Pontefract and then Bishop of Wakefield (1968-1976). his passion outside of office was railway photography. The Treacy Collection of 12,000 photographs forms part of the National Railway Museum’s archive of over 1.4 million images. His published works were almost entirely railway photograph albums. [28] 

After a major, 11-year, £600,000 overhaul by volunteers on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, which was completed in 2010, you would have found 70 clergy in the carriages behind the newly named locomotive, ‘Eric Treacy’ on it inaugural run. The then Bishop of Wakefield, the Rt. Revd. Stephen Platten, held a re-dedication service for the train at Pickering Station on 27th August 2010. He was joined by Rt. Revd. Dr David Hope, former Archbishop of York, and Stephen Sorby, of the National Railway Chaplaincy. [32]

Revd Richard Patten, in the late 1960s, bought his own full-size steam locomotive, 73050, and so began the restoration of the Nene Valley Railway near Peterborough. [35]

An interest in railways is something that a number of clergy own up to when talking about themselves. For example:

The Revd. Timothy L’Estrange, MA, DipMin, FRSA, Vicar of North Acton and Surrogate: Spent his spare time as a first aider with the St John Ambulance Brigade, and pursuing a life-long interest in railways, especially the narrow gauge. His parish Reader also expresses an interest in dabbling ‘in the ancient art of railway modelling’. [33]

The Restless Rector, who is not keen to divulge his identity, wrote in his blog of his love of trains. In 2009, he said: “My own theory is that railways are all about order and communication. For some clergy the stress of parish life, and the number of awkward people that one sometimes has to deal with, can be forgotten about in the ordered environment of a model railway. Here you are in complete control, with no-one to answer back or contradict. Yes, trains sometimes get derailed, but no-one gets hurt. Some model railway enthusiasts run their trains to a strict timetable – another layer of order and control. But running a railway can be a very social activity. In real life trains are passed from the control of one signalbox to another with great care. Nowadays this is all computerised, but it used to be by a series of bell codes and telephones.” [34]

He goes on to ask: “Is there anything theological or biblical in all of this? I’m not sure, but maybe building and running a model railway reflects something of the creativeness of God, and his fatherly care.” [34] … In addition, he suggests that because railways are about communication – travel to a destination, the news and the post – then interest in railways may be found more often in the evangelical wing of the church where, “a high priority is put on taking the good news to new places.” [34]

His final comment is perhaps quite Anglican. Talking of his interest in railways, he says: “it’s just something I’ve grown up with and embraced for myself – rather like my faith I suppose.” [34]

In my own experience, interest in railways is relatively evenly spread between clergy colleagues and a particular churchpersonship does not seem to increase the likelihood of that interest. The ecumenical nature of railway interests is illustrated by two clerics invovled with the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland. …

Fr. Eddie Creamer (RPSI). [39]

Revd. Canon John McKegney (RPSI) [39]

Fr. Eddie Creamer, a part-time prison chaplain, aged 77, talked in 2017, when he had already been a member of the RPSI for nearly 40 years, of his fascination with trains from his childhood. He goes on to explain that, “When [he] was working in the Philippines [he] joined the RPSI just to get their magazine sent to [him], but when [he] returned to Ireland [he] came to Whitehead to take a few photographs of the trains. I asked if they needed anyone to help them and they haven’t let me go. And now I’m here once a week. I find it very relaxing.” [39]

In 2017, the Chair of the RPSI was Revd. Canon John McKegney, a retired Church of Ireland rector. In 2017, he had been involved with the RPSI for over half-a-century. [39]

Railways and Religion

The interaction between the church and the railways goes right back to the very early days of what was then a new mode of transport. Revd. Michael Ainsworth points out that “the coming of the railways in the 19th century excited deep passions among churchmen, as many novels of the time illustrate. … For some the speed, the smoke, the ‘blot on the landscape’, were unnatural and diabolical – particularly when Sunday trains broke the sabbath commandment. The vast church of St Bartholomew, Brighton was built on a commanding site, and allegedly on the dimensions of Noah’s Ark, as a witness to those travelling down for ‘dirty weekends’.” [29]

He goes on to say: “Clergy joined with landowners in resisting encroachment. (They had limited success – note, for example, how the line curves round Sacred Trinity Church in Salford.)But others hailed railways as a godsend and a sign of divinely-blessed progress (despite blighting the urban landscape). … By the latter part of the century, they had certainly revolutionised episcopal ministry. The late 19th-century renewal of enthusiasm for confirmation would not have been possible without the railways. For example, of James Fraser, Bishop of Manchester 1870-85, it was written he spent the week travelling through his diocese, so that there were few days in which he was not somewhere on the railways.” [29]

So, why are a number of clergy interested in railways?

Revd. Michael Ainsworth again: “It has often been said that the reason why some clergy – probably male rather than female – and others, including church musicians, are keen on railways is because they are reassuringly ‘closed systems’, and Awdry’s setting of his railways on the Isle of Sodor confirms this. Lines and boundaries are set, detailed timetables can be pored over, structures are clear: a joy for those who run model railways in their attics for their own pleasure, or larger versions in their gardens to raise funds. … This joy is less pronounced now that the real railways have been franchised and fragmented. Responsibility for trains, track, signalling, stations and all else is dispersed among many bodies – providing more benefit to lawyers than to passengers …‘customers’.” [29]

The Rt Revd Michael Bourke comments about 19th Century Clergy in the Church Times Letters page in July 2011, that, “Many feared the pace of change, and some religious conservatives denounced the new world, including trains, as the work of the devil. In that context, clerical railway fever (across churchmanship divides) signified an affirmation of modernity. Both railwaymen and churchmen (mostly men in both cases) were re-engineering the nation with their networks of new lines and junctions, new parishes, church schools, and forms of spirituality.” [30]

He goes on to say: “For broad churchmen, the railways spelled enlightened progress; for Evangelicals, the new emphasis on punctuality embodied the Protestant work ethic; and for Catholics, the shared wisdom and co-operation of engineers, locomotive crews, and signalmen represented the mystery of a dedicated priesthood. No wonder the great stations were compared with cathedrals! … Clergy’s instinctive sympathy with this world led to support for the people who ran it, in what amounted to early forms of industrial mission.” [30]

He continues, in his letter, to draw parallels with “a similar clerical enthusiasm for the brave new world of computers.” [30]

It seems that, in the early days of the railways, at least, a clergyperson’s attitude to the newfangled railways said something significant, and provided one uniting factor in the midst of clerical division. However, this is not enough to justify a modern clergy interest in the railways.

Rev Clifford Owen was longing eagerly for his retirement at the age of 70. He was delighted to be surprised by his retirement gift from his last parish in Brugge and Oostende in Belgium: a 5 year membership of the Nene Valley Railway. He describes his joy at the gift and goes on to describe some of the pleasures of being involved with the life of that heritage line near Peterborough and particularly the connection he discovered with his grandfather through undertaking a job that his grandfather would have undertaken 70 years previously. [31]

Revd Preb Mike Kneen.

Revd. Alan Newman. [41]

Revd. Preb. Mike Kneen who retired as Rector of Leominster in September 2020 has had a lifelong interest in steam locomotives. His farewell statement on the Leominster Priory Website says nothing of this interest but it is accompanied by a picture of him as an Engine Driver on the Severn Valley Railway – a pastime which he enjoyed throughout his ministry.

The former vicar of Christchurch, Bradford on Avon, Revd. Alan Newman was another significant railway photographer who became part of the photographic triumvirate of himself, Ivo Peters and Norman Lockett, and he was friendly with two other notable railway clerics that we have already encountered above: the Rev. W Awdry and the Rev Teddy Boston. His story is told by Colin Maggs in a book published by Amberley Press. [40]

Newman was born and brought up in Bath near to the Great Western Railway, which sparked a lifelong interest in steam trains in particular. He took extensive trips throughout the country, hoping to see a train of every class in Britain, recording his finds as detailed notes supported by photographs. [41]

David Self in the Church Times in January 2008 asked the same question as this article: ‘What draws clerics to railways?’ [35] It is worth quoting parts of that piece here.

Self says: “In the 1950s, most enthusiasts were merely trainspotters. Folklore suggests that a few clerics could always then be found on the ends of platforms at Crewe, York, and (for some mysterious reason) Worcester Shrub Hill.” [35]

He continues: “There was nothing comic in the ’50s about being interested in trains. Boys wanted to become engine-drivers. In the 1952 Ealing comedy The Titfield Thunderbolt, it was perfectly natural that the leading light in the village’s attempts to preserve its branch line should be the parson, the Revd Samuel Weech. Over the next ten years, however, the railway enthusiast became a figure of fun: a gormless, spotty loner, obsessed by numbers and timetables, and always clutching Biro and notebook.” [35]

In research reported in ‘Trends in Cognitive Sciences’ in June 2002, [42] there was an attempt to define trainspotters as people with a form of Asperger syndrome, as they had a strong desire to order the world. In 2001, the National Autistic Society conducted research among children with autism to explore their frequent attraction to Thomas the Tank Engine. “Among the survey’s findings was the way that many children with autism regard Thomas much as others cherish a comfort blanket. They seem to appreciate the clear plot lines of the stories, the predictability of the characterisation, and the fact that, if something goes wrong, it will be put right by the conclusion. They also seem[ed] fascinated by the engines’ faces.” [35]

David Self says that, “this is not to draw cheap parallels or to make bad jokes about clerics and those with autism or Asperger syndrome. Even so, it is possible to see both ecclesiastical and psychological reasons why watching trains should appeal especially to those in ministry.” [35]

To the cognoscenti … railways are predictable. For every delay, there is a cause. It is a world of facts and realities, a world where (with luck) it is possible to see all — even if it is only every locomotive of a given type. It is the perfect antidote to the often more nebulous realm of theology.” [35]

Similarly, for the clerical railway modeller, the layout in the loft presents an opportunity to create a parallel world, where everything runs to order, and at times and in ways you dictate — unlike normal parish life.” [35]

It was David Self’s article that pointed me to an American website ( that revels something of the breadth of interest among Roman Catholic priests, Protestant ministers, and Rabbis in ‘playing trains’. [36] On that website, as well as seeing something of the scope of his hobby, we are introduced by Fr. Fanelli to his interest in live steam modelling. His interest in railway modelling developed throughout his ministry from first, N scale, through to large scale, live steam models. [37] 

David Self reminds us that the former Chancellor Dennis Healey once stressed the importance of a politician’s hinterland — an interest in areas other than politics. Winston Churchhill had his painting, Ted Heath had his sailing and music, and John Major his cricket, and Gordon Brown, an interest in soccer. Lord Healey enjoyed photography and literature. Self says that, “Such interests are not just a means of escape or relaxation, important as these may be. They are evidence of a rounded personality.” [35]

That idea of a ‘hinterland’ to describe interests outside of ‘work’ is useful when thinking of clergy interests. David Self suggests that a ‘hinterland’ of interests outside of the theological and ecclesiastical is essential for clergy, “not just for their own sanity, but to help them relate more easily to the world outside the Church. It can also contribute to developing an inner calm. For some, their hinterland will be their family. For others, it will be cricket — a world where, for a few hours, you are isolated on the pitch and unable to be got at. Many have found a similar escape at the end of a station platform.” [35]

There is more to an interest in railways than trainspotting but I think that Self’s conclusion to his article is apposite to all interest in railways: “Why mock such happiness? Trainspotting must be one of the most harmless and inexpensive hobbies. It can be pursued alone or with friends, and is surprisingly democratic. Your profession (or lack of one) is irrelevant: it is the trains that matter.” [35]

Although Nicholas Whittaker‘s book, “Platform Souls” is purportedly about trainspotting, it acknowledges a wider interest in the realm of railways and, unsurprisingly, within its pages we also encounter the clergy.

He describes an open day at a railway depot. “Hauling myself up into the cab of E3003 . . . I bump into my first clergyman. He is semi-disguised in trainers and jeans, but his tweedy jacket and dog collar are a dead giveaway. Perched in the driver’s seat, he . . . whistles high-speed fantasies through his teeth.” [38: p221-222]

Whittaker manages to capture some of the factors that seem inexorably to draw some individuals to the railway. “Trainspotting: here was a real boy’s hobby with its own gaberdine camaraderie. It was dirty and mechanical, proudly masculine and solid, yet at the same time … romantic and educational.” [38: p19]

He talks of a time when as a young boy he first managed to slip unnoticed through a small door in the side of one of Burton-on-Trent MPD’s two roundhouses: “In that moment, you slipped from a fresh-smalling open-air into a strange sepulchral atmosphere, silent but for the his of escaping steam. This was the first time I’d been so close to a railway engine and, without a station platform to bring me level, I stood feeling small and awed by the scale of it.” [38: p23]

One ‘interesting’ footnote is the range of society stars that could be seen while standing at the end of a station platform but of even greater significance to a young Nicholas Whittaker, was the possibility that you might encounter one of the dignitaries of the railway interest establishment such as Cecil J. Allen or C. Hamilton-Ellis. In the light of the purpose of this article, it is worth recording that Whittaker goes on to say: “The one we all wanted to meet was… Eric Treacy, Bishop of Wakefield. We knew that, for some reason, railways attracted the clergy, but a bishop was something special!” [38: p43]

My own interest in railways and railway modelling stems, I believe, from a childhood fascination with trains and from a pre-ordination career in civil engineering. My interest in railways is pretty eclectic, but I accept that for many people it will be perceived as a niche interest.

If you were to read my blog you would find that I have a particular interest in Secondary French railways and tramways, many of which fell into disuse soon after the Second World War but whose routes can still be followed through the French countryside by car and bicycle. Jo and I have done just that in a variety of contexts in Southern France on regular Autumn visits. [45][46]

You will find that I have developed a childhood interest in the 3ft Gauge railways of Ireland into a series of narratives following the routes of those old lines which disappeared in the early second-half of the 20th Century. [44]

You will see that one seminal moment for me was travelling on the ‘Lunatic Express’ in East Africa, and you can, if you wish, follow a full journey along the line from Mombasa to Kampala and beyond. [43]

You will, I hope, be delighted to follow the story of the building of an N-Gauge model railway in the vicarage loft. [47] At times these interests have been all-consuming, they certainly have allowed me to escape from times when ministry has been particularly stressful.

A few pictures of my own layout in the vicarage loft bring the main narrative of this article to a close. The layout focuses on the railways in and around the city of Hereford. Sadly, the ‘day job’ has meant little progress on the layout in the past few years. as retirement beckons there will be a significant effort involved in deconstructing what has been built  …Building the Baseboards!Laying the track!Hand-made, card Coaling Stage – Hereford MPDHereford, Barrscourt Station Footbridge under construction.Hereford, Barrscourt Railway Station in its location on the layout.The station approach, showing the footbridge in position.One of Hereford Station’s two signal boxes also of a card construction. Beyond are the two large goods sheds which framed the station approach from the North – these are also of card constriction. The view from the station yard across the allotments to Aylestone Hill.The view across the station yard to Aylestone Hill and bridge.Aylestone Hill Signal Box and carriage sidings.


It seems that whether a cleric’s interest in railways comes from a past outside the church, or is borne in the midst of theological formation, it has some significant things going for it. In particular, like many other interests, it forms an alternative world to the world of work.

I’m not sure that, ultimately, any further justification is required.


  1. Ed Bevan; All Steamed Up About Trains; Church Times, 15th June 2011;, accessed on 9th February 2020.
  2. Russell J. Garwood, Imran A. Rahman, Mark D. Sutton; From Clergy to Computers; Geology Today, Volume 26, Issue 3, 2010; p96-100;, accessed on 5th November 2020.
  3., accessed on 5th November 2020.
  4., accessed on 5th November 2020.
  5., accessed on 5th November 2020.
  6.ître, accessed on 5th November 2020.
  7., accessed on 5th November 2020.
  8., accessed on 5th November 2020.
  9., accessed on 5th November 2020.
  10., accessed on 5th November 2020.
  11., accessed on 6th November 2020.
  12. Revd Fergus Butler-Gallie; A Field Guide to the English Clergy: A Compendium of Diverse Eccentrics, Pirates, Prelates and Adventurers; All Anglican, Some Even Practising; Oneworld Publications, London, 2018.
  13., accessed on 6th November 2020.
  14. Sebastian Shakespeare; The Daily Mail, 2018.
  15., accessed on 7th November 2020.
  16., accessed on 7th November 2020.
  17., accessed on 7th November 2020.
  18., accessed on 7th November 2020.
  19., accessed on 7th November 2020.
  20., accessed on 7th November 2020.
  21., accessed on 7th November 2020.
  22., accessed on 7th November 2020.
  23., accessed on 7th November 2020.
  24. For example: Peter Denny; The Railway Modeller Magazine July and August 1958.
  25. For example: Peter Denny; Peter Denny’s Buckingham Branch Lines: 1945-1967 Pt. 1; Peter Denny’s Buckingham Branch Lines: 1967-1993 Pt. 2; Wild Swan, Oxfordshire; 1993, 1994
  26. For example:, accessed on 7th November 2020.
  27. Tony Wright ––part-1, accessed on 7th November 2020.
  28., accessed on 7th November 2020.
  29. Revd. Michael Ainsworth; Thoughts on railways, clergy, religion and the law; in Law & Religion UK, 17 April 2015;, accessed on 7th November 2020.
  30. Rt. Revd. Michael Bourke;, accessed on 7th November 2020.
  31. Rev Clifford Owen; Retired Clergy Don’t Run Out Of Steam; Diocese of Europe;, accessed on 7th November 2020.
  32. Clergy carrying train tribute to former railway fan vicar; The Northern Echo, 2010;, accessed on 7th November 2020.
  33., accessed on 7th November 2020.
  34., accessed on 7th November 2020.
  35. David Self; What draws clerics to railways?; Church Times , 30th January 2008;, accessed on 8th November 2020.
  36., accessed on 8th November 2020.
  37., accessed on 8th November 2020.
  38. Nicholas Whittaker; Platform Souls; Orion, London, 1995 (Revised Edition, 2015).
  39., accessed on 8th November 2020.
  40., accessed on 8th November 2020.
  41., accessed on 8th November 2020.
  42. Simon Baron-Cohen; The extreme male brain theory of autism; in Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Volume 6, Issue 6, 1st June 2002, p248-254.
  48. Revd. E. R. Boston & P.D. Nicholson; Font to Footplate; Line One Publications, 1986.

Colonel Stephens and Tonbridge, Kent

A very short article in “The Colonel”, the quarterly journal of the Colonel Stephens Society reminded me of something that I have known for a time but about which I had not really made the connection with my family history. The short article by Tom Burnham was really little more than a note to go with scanned images from the Sevenoaks Chronicle and Kentish Advertiser of Friday 6th April 1928. [1]The Sevenoaks Chronicle and Kentish Advertiser – Friday 6th April 1928 – source British Newspaper Archive. [2]

My grandparent’s house in 2020, very little different from what I remember it back in 1970, (Google Streetview).

My maternal grandparents, Arthur and Ivy Norton, had their first and last homes in Tonbridge, and only a short distance from Salford Terrace. I remember visiting my maternal grandmother as a child and on one occasions staying with her when my father changed his employment from Hull, East Yorkshire to Chelmsford, Essex and we had to give up our house in Hull 6 weeks or so before our new house in Braintree, Essex was completed and ready for us to live in. For one summer, Mum and the 4 of us who were children lived on 22, Meadow Road in Tonbridge.

The area immediately South of Tonbridge Railway Station was developed in the late 19th Century. With housing to the East of the A21/A26 and Waterloo Road following in the first quarter of the 20th Century. The first OS Map below shows the area at the end of the 19th Century (the mapping dates from 1895). The second OS Map was published in 1960 with mapping dating from 1958.

Tonbridge Railway Station and Tonbridge’s Southern quarter in 1895. [3]

Salford Terrace and Meadow Road – mapping dating from 1958. [4]

The location of Ashby House, 1, Priory Road in 2019, (Google Streetview).

Salford Terrace in 2019, (Google Streetview)

Stephens’ Offices in 2008 (c) Tony Mortlock. [5]

Colonel Stephens rented rooms for both his home and his office at Ashby House, 1, Priory Road in Tonbridge, close to Quarry Hill Road. As his business developed, he took out a lease on an office on the opposite side of Quarry Hill Road at 23, Salford Terrace, in 1900. The rooms in Ashby House and the offices in Salford Terrace were his permanent base throughout his life. [5] The premises in Salford Terrace are still in use, they were towards the South end of the Terrace. Ashby House is long-gone.

The property where his offices were based in Salford Terrace is one of the few premises that have not been extended towards the street. Little has changed in the outward appearance of Salford Terrace since Colonel Stephens’ day. Little more than the change of shop names and their name panels.

Stephen’s offices in 2019! (Google Streetview).


  1. Tom Burnham; The Colonel; published by the Colonel Stephens Society, Volume 140, p18.
  2. The Sevenoaks Chronicle and Kentish Advertiser – Friday 6th April 1928 – source British Newspaper Archive, accessed on 28th August 2020.
  3., accessed on 28th August 2020.
  4., accessed on 28th August 2020.
  5., accessed on 12th September 2020.

Co. Donegal Railways, Ireland – Part 6 – Strabane to Letterkenny (Part C – Convoy to Letterkenny)

As we noted at the start of the two previous articles about this line, Wikipedia gives us a very short history of the line from Strabane to Letterkenny and provides a single image – the Railway Clearing House map with stations in Strabane and Letterkenny:

The Railway Clearing House map with stations in Strabane and Letterkenny. [3]

This series of articles seeks to expand our understanding of the route of the various Co. Donegal Railways through combining old images and modern views. Satellite images also give us a good understanding of what remains of the infrastructure of these lines.

The previous articles about this line which cover the length from Strabane to Convoy can be found by following these links:

A Journey Along the Line – Strabane to Letterkenny – Part C – Convoy to Letterkenny

We return to Convoy Railway Station which sits to the East of the Village. While we are waiting for our train, a railcar from Letterkenny stops at the station.

Convoy Railway Station in 1959 (c) Roger Joanes, (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) Railcar No. 20 from Letterkenny stops at Convoy. [14]

I have found two further pictures of Convoy Railway Station and its site in Anthony Burges’ book, ‘The Swilly and The Wee Donegal’. Both of these photos were taken in 1957 and were either taken by the author or are from his collection. [8: p34 and 35]

The second photograph [8: p35] shows the goods shed, water tower and a number of sidings, but only the goods shed was standing in 2010 when Google Streetview cameras visited the site.

Convoy Railway Station Goods Shed is shown to the right of center in this image taken in 2010 (Google Streetview).

The line out of Convoy Railway station travelling to the West crossed the R236 at a shallow angle protected by Crossing Gates. The Crossing keeper’s cottage (or Gatehouse) is still standing. It has been extended to better be used as a modern family home.

The Gatehouse and the road crossing to the West of Convoy Railway Station. The photograph looks from the Northeast, (Google Streetview).

The Gatehouse guards the route of the old railway which ran just to the right of it in this picture. The image looks from the West back along the old line. (Google Streetview).

The next image shows the centre of Convoy on a Google Maps satellite image. The approximate route of the old railway is shown as a red line running across the image.

The approximate route of the old line through Convoy (Google Maps) The location of the Gatehouse is marked close to the centre of the image. To the West, the line passed under the two bridges which I have numbered 1 and 2 in black type. Clicking on the image will enlarge it sufficiently to allow these locations to be identified easily.

Shortly after crossing the R236, trains passed under the first of two road-over-rail bridges in Convoy. This bridge carried the Letterkenny Road. The railway cutting has been filled-in and there is no evidence of the bridge in the early 21st century.

The old railway cutting has been infilled and to the West of the location of the bridge it is now used as a car park for one of the local churches. It is shown here in 2010, (Google Streetview).

This image is one taken by Kerry Doherty and kindly sent by him to me by email. It shows the same location in the years following the Google Streetview image. [6]

A short distance further along the line a bridge carried a lane heading Northwest from Convoy towards Falmore.

This first view shows the bridge parapet on the East side of the bridge in January 2010 (Google Streetview). The parapet is in a very poor condition.

This later view, a picture taken by Kerry Doherty, shows that some local pride has resulted, more recently in a cosmetic refurbishment of the old parapet. [6]

To the West of the old bridge the cutting is still infilled and no sign of a bridge parapet can be found.

Looking West along the line of the old railway from the road to Falmore in 2010, (Google Streetview).

Heading away from Convoy the line quickly turned to the North as shown on the next satellite image. It soon crossed the road to Falmore once again, this time at level. The Gatehouse for this road-crossing is indicated on the satellite image and can be seen in the Google Streetview image which follows.

The old line to the West of Convoy, (Google Maps).

Kelly’s Gatehouse on the road to Falmore. The line ran to the right of the cottage in this image, (Google Streetview).

The line now heads in a northerly direction as the satellite images show.

The first length to the North of the Gatehouse on the road between Convoy and Falmore, (Google Maps).

The second length north of the road, (Google Maps).
















The line continued in a northerly direction passing over the Cloghcore to Cornagilagh road, (Google Maps).


Further North, the line crossed the road from Cloghcore to Cornagilagh. Either side of this road, the line was on an embankment which has now been removed but the bridge which carried it over the road is still in place – an elegant small stone arch bridge bears excellent testimony to the route of the old railway. The location of the old bridge is at the point where the line (red) crossed the road (light blue) in the bottom left of the adjacent satellite image.

Photographs of this bridge follow below. Two of which are taken from Google Streetview and one sent to me in an email by Kerry Doherty. The light in his photograph shows the bridge at its best.

Very soon after crossing this bridge, trains entered Cornagillagh Halt which was only a short distance from the hamlet/village which bears the same name.

The rail-over-road bridge on the …. road. This image shows the bridge from the Southwest in March 2011, (Google Streetview).

The same bridge also viewed in March 2011 from the Northeast (Google Streetview).

A much more recent picture taken of the same bridge by Kerry Doherty. [6] Kerry comments: ‘The over bridge just before Cornagillagh halt. The embankment at either side has been taken away but the bridge has been kept..’

The next length of the old line is featured in this satellite image which shows it passing in cutting under two road bridges marked ‘3’ and ‘4’ either side of and close to Cornagillagh Halt, (Google Maps).

The road-over-rail bridge close to Cornagillagh Halt is marked on the Google Maps image as No. ‘3’. The vertical alignment of the road gives away the bridge location. The image is a telephoto lens view because of a slight glitch in the Google Streetview image sequence close to the bridge location. This picture was taken from the Southeast in December 2009 in what looks like late afternoon sunshine, (Google Streetview). This image shows the same bridge (No. ‘3’) from the Northwest just a few weeks after the image which precedes it. The road alignment changes at the bridge and on this image it is easier to see the bridge parapets,(Google Streetview).

The next few photographs come from the location of the road-over-rail bridge that I have marked ‘4’ on the satellite image. All of them were taken as part of Google’s survey in March 2011.

Bridge numbered ‘4’ viewed looking North along the road, (Google Streetview)

Then same bridge but viewed from the North on the same day, (Google Streetview).

This picture shows the formation of the old railway between the bridge numbered ‘3’ by me and bridge ‘4’, (Google Streetview).

Looking to the Northeast, the formation of the Strabane and Letterkenny Railway has been overtaken by small trees and shrubs. (Google Streetview).

Kerry Doherty comments that this is a view of the bridge close to the site of Cornagillagh Halt (now impossible to photograph as its so overgrown). Pictured is former railcar driver Michael Gallen (recently dec’d, and one of the very last railcar drivers). The picture comes was taken by Dave Bell and comes from the CDR visitors guide book. [6][4]

The old railway route begins to turn North again soon after passing under the road-bridge and heads for Glenmaquin (Glerundorum) station.

Beyond the road-bridge the old formation turns to the North once again, (Google Maps).

The line South of Gerundoram Railway Station. The location of the station can still be picked out at the top of this satellite image, (Google Maps).

The adjacent satellite image shows the route of the old line to the South of Glenmaquin (Glerundorum) Station. The first location to note is the at-level crossing of a local road towards the bottom of the image. The gatehouse can be picked out just to the West of the route of the old line.

The Gatehouse (N0. 57) has been extended to make it suitable as a small modern dwelling. and pictures from Google Streetview show it in really good condition with well-tended gardens.

The line shows up as a tree-lined track crossing the road at this point. The third image below is the closest that Google Streetview gets to providing a view along the length of the line North of the Level-Crossing towards Glenmaquin Railway Station.


The old line passes to the East of the old crossing cottage (No. 57) which has been refurbished and extended, (Google Streetview). This view is taken looking from the Northwest across the line of the old railway which ran on the far side of the crossing cottage.This view shows the same location but from the road to the Southeast of the Railway Crossing. The line ran in front of the cottage in this view, (Google Streetview).Looking North along the old railway from the Crossing-keepers cottage, (Google Streetview).

A short distance further North trains entered Glenmaquin (Glerundorum) Station, shown here on the old GSGS mapping from the 1940s. …Glenmaquin (Glerundorum) Station was location close to a road junction and was framed by a road-over-rail bridge to its Northwest. [2]

Kerry Doherty has kindly provided a view across the old station site which was taken in the early 21st century.

The old station site taken from the fields to the Northwest, (c) Kerry Doherty. [6] The old platform is still clearly visible in this photograph.

Google Streetview shows that the space between the railway station and the road-over bridge is, in the 21st century, filled by a modern home. That property sits just out of view to the left of Kerry Doherty’s picture above.Glenmaquin Station, (Google Streetview).The road bridge just North of the Station, (Google Streetview).A much earlier view of Glenmaquin Railway Station which comes from the Dave Bell collection, taken from the CDR visitors guide book. Kerry Doherty’. [6]

The continues in cutting North of the road bridge at Glenmaquin Station.Cutting to the North of Glenmaquin Station. This photograph was taken from the road bridge, (c) Kerry Doherty. [6] Just out of sight the railway bridged a small river.

Beyond Glemaquin Station, the old line continued heading Northwest, (Google Maps).

After crossing another minor road the old track-bed curved round towards the Northeast, (Google Maps).

The road crossing visible at the bottom right of the satellite image immediately above was un-gated. A closer image o the crossing location is provided immediately below this text. The Google Streetview images here show an extended property based on a typical Gate-keeper’s Cottage. This location is not recorded in the Visitor’s Guide {4} as a Crossing with Gatehouse. Interestingly the cottage is sited out of alignment with the railway as the satellite image below shows.Un-gated Crossing Northwest of Glenmaquin Railway Station, (Google Maps)

These next few images are taken at the location above – all are from Google Streetview. This may well be the location of Gatehouse No. 58.

The distinctive form of a Gatehouse is visible in this photograph which is taken looking from the North, (Google Streetview).Still looking from the North, this view shows the line of the old railway. The garage to the left of the road is built over the old formation, (Google Streetview).This view shows the old formation beyond the road-crossing and is taken from close to the property in the earlier images above, (Google Streetview).

We noted in the satellite images above that, to the Northwest of the road crossing, the old line turn round to the Northeast.The next length of the line as shown on the GSGS mapping from the 1940s. [7]

We pick it up again in the next satellite image on the left. The track follows a sinuous course over the next kilometre or so, as can be seen on the next satellite image below.










These two image show the line passing under the road from Listillion to Lyons Court and then crossing the road between Listillion and Drumerdagh at Gatehouse No. 59. Kerry Doherty comments that the first of these two locations is a “bridge now filled in and the road re-aligned.”

Doherty provides two photographs from that location:

At this location the old road has been realigned when the bridge over the railway cutting was filled in. Both photographs were taken by Kerry Doherty, (c) Kerry Doherty [6]

A close-up Satellite image shows the old road alignment across the bridge. ….

The next feature along the line is Gatehouse No. 59 which is shown on the second of the two adjacent satellite images above.

Another extract from the GSGS Maps of the 1940s shows the length of the old line to the South of Gatehouse 59. [9]

Gatehouse 59 is at the bottom of this enlarged extract from Google’s satellite imagery, (Google Maps).

Beyond the infilled road bridge, the formation of the old line snaked northwards before reaching Gatehouse 59. Both the GSGS map and the satellite image above show that route. Gatehouse 59. The adjacent enlarged satellite image shows the location of Gatehouse 59 just to the North of the road at the bottom of the image.

The first Streetview image below shows the Gatehouse from the South. It is followed by a short series of views mainly from Google Streetview of the same Gatehouse. One image was generously provided by Kerry Doherty.

As the adjacent satellite image shows the old railway continued North from the location of Gatehouse No. 59. A modern bungalow and farm building straddles the old line and before it runs at the back of the gardens of a further two properties.

The first satellite image below show the route of the old railway as it begins to approach Letterkenny. After continuing North for a short distance the line turned sharply to the West running to the South side of what is today the N13/N14 dual carriageway and the L1114 local road.

Gatehouse 59 seen from the road immediately to the South, (Google Streetview).Gatehouse 59 seen from the road junction to the East of the location in 2011, (Google Streetview).A telephoto view of the Gatehouse taken more recently from the same position, (c) Kerry Doherty. [6]Gatehouse No. 59 seen from the Northeast, (Google Streetview).

The Strabane and Letterkenny Railway turned sharply to the left a short distance beyond Gatehouse No. 59, (Google Maps). The route is highlighted by a linear woodland which appears once the buildings close to the Gatehouse have been passed.

The old line was initially on a small embankment to the North of Gatehouse No. 59, but by the time it stared to curve to the West is was in cutting. Its route is now a linear woodland, as the satellite image above shows. I am really grateful to Kerry Doherty who visited this location on my behalf in October 2020. The next few images are taken by him.This picture is taken from the old track-bed looking towards the bridge, (c) Kerry Doherty. [6] The old formation can be seen curving to the left in this image. This is one of the more substantial structures along the length of the Strabane to Letterkenny Railway.Looking back to the South from the 3-arch Bridge, (c) Kerry Doherty. [6]The substantial stone parapets belie the use of the over bridge which carries no more thana local track, (c) Kerry Doherty. [6]Looking ahead towards Letterkenny from the track carried by the old bridge, (c) Kerry Doherty. [6]Looking back towards the bridge from the old railway formation, (c) Kerry Doherty. [6]The structure still retains its old number – 279! (c) Kerry Doherty. [6]

Beyond structure No. 279 the old railway continued to curve round to a westerly direction and still in cutting encountered another road over rail bridge. The location of that bridge is to the right of the satellite image below.The Eastern outskirts of Letterkenny with the route of the Strabane & Letterkenny Railway highlighted in red, (Google Maps). 

The cutting at the Eastern side of the satellite image above has been partially infilled but the old bridge still has a void underneath it. Although the bridge is clearly of an age commensurate with having been built at the same time as the line, it does not appear on the 1940s GSGS map below.GSGS 1940s Map of the Strabane and Letterkenny Railway on its early approaches to Letterkenny. At the western extremity of the map extract the point where the line begins to run immediately parallel to the Londonderry & Lough Swilly Railway can just be seen. [10]

Kerry Doherty commented that the filling of the cutting seems to have cut off drainage runs and as a result there is a small body of water in the cutting. This does not show up on the pictures below.


The old railway cutting with the bridge just visible in the distance (Google Streetview)The bridge. This Google image shows the void underneath the structure. It is taken from the road which runs alongside the cutting (on its North side) for a short distance, (Google Streetview)This is Kerry Doherty’s photo of the bridge taken from the South side of the railway cutting in October 2020, (c) Kerry Doherty. [6]This view shows the overgrown cutting looking back towards Strabane from the bridge above, (c) Kerry Doherty. [6]Finally at this location, another of Kerry Doherty’s photographs. This shows the route of the old railway taken from over the bridge parapet and looks towards Gatehouse 60 and Letterkenny, (c) Kerry Doherty. [6]Looking back along the route of the old line towards the two bridges shown above, (Google Streetview).A View from the old main road South showing the route of the old line as it crossed the road and a much extended Gatehouse 60 which appears to make an excellent private home, (Google Streetview). There is little sign here of the main N13 road which runs behind the trees which are just beyond property.Google Maps shows how close the Gatehouse No. 60 is to the new N13 road,(Google Maps).This view is taken from the N13 looking back along the old railway alignment towards Strabane. Gatehouse No. 60 can just be made out among the trees, (Google Streetview).Looking across the N13 and on along the route of the old line towards Gatehouse 61 and Letterkenny, (Google Streetview).

Beyond Gatehouse No. 60, the railway curved round from a Southwesterly trajectory towards the North before crossing the modern day L1114. On the way it crossed a single track lane by means of a bridge.The locations of a bridge and Crossing No. 61, (Google Maps)

Reaching the L1114 (at Bonagee Lane) the old railway was now running roughly North/South. The picture below shows the approximate alignment of the old railway where it crossed the L1114. A bungalow has now been built over the line of the old railway. The line was still on embankment at this point and a bridge took it over the L1114.The approximate route of the old railway where it crossed the L1114. A bungalow has now been built on the route of the old line, (Google Streetview).The 6″ OS Map of the location of the bridges and Gatehouse No. 61. [16]

Gatehouse No. 61 sits some distance North of the Bridge which carried the old railway over the L1114, (Google Maps).

North of the L1114 the railway alignment is not obvious. It ran 50 metres or perhaps less to the East of Bonagee Lane. Travelling North along Bonagee Lane leads to the discovery of what was Gatehouse No. 61. An accommodation lane crossed the railway at this point.

Kerry Doherty very kindly pointed out the location of the Gatehouse, without that help, I doubt that I would have located it. The building has been much extended as the Google Streetview image below shows.

Kerry missed the location himself, despite driving along Bonagee Lane from the North a few days ago. The clue is in the property name on the gatepost which can only be seen from the South and which appears in the image below.

An extended and refurbished Gatehouse No. 61 seen from the South, (Google Streetview).Gatehouse No. 61 is much extended. This photo is a 2011 view from the West on Bonagee Lane, (Google Streetview).

Kerry Doherty provided this link to the location in the archives of the National Library of Ireland – – on which at the top centre of the image Gatehouse No. 60 is visible. The two arched bridges mentioned above can also be picked out and, in the centre foreground, Gatehouse No. 61 can be seen in its original form. [17]

After Gatehouse No. 61 the old line continued North a short distance to the East of Bonagee Lane, until that lane turned from the North to the Northeast in Bonagee where Gatehouse No. 62 was sited. The crossing was known as Baird’s Crossing and the Keeper’s house can still be seen beyond the railway. It is heavily screened by trees and shrubs but can be seen from the Northeast, as the second image immediately below this text shows.The location of Gatehouse No. 62. the red line is a very approximate representation of the route of the old railway at this point, (Google Streetview).Baird’s Crossing Cottage (Gatehouse No. 62) seen from the Northeast in 2011. The original cottage has been extended at ground level. The railway ran behind the cottage in this view. Its route is over grown by trees and shrubs, (Google Streetview).

The Strabane and Letterkenny Railway crossed the Londonderry and Lough Swilly Railway by means of an over-bridge, (Google Maps).

Close to the final approach to Letterkenny, the Strabane and Letterkenny line ran parallel to the Londonderry & Lough Swilly Railway. The point where they meet is illustrated on this GSGS 1940s map extract in the bottom right corner. [11]The two lines are shown entering the sketch plan from the right. The lighter dashes represent the Strabane and Letterkenny Railway and the heavier dashes, the L&LSR. (the North Point is at the top of the sketch map) (c) John Baird, Dave Bell, Steve Flanders & Blanche Pay. [12]A later OS Ireland Map showing the routes of the two railways. [13]

The Strabane and Letterkenny Railway approached the Londonderry and Lough Swilly Railway from the South at a point which appears in the bottom right of the adjacent map extract from the 1940s. The scale of the map is such that it is impossible to distinguish any indication of the track arrangement at this location and beyond towards Letterkenny.

The Visitor’s Guide to the Londonderry and Lough Swilly Railway [12] shows the Strabane and Letterkenny Railway running for a short distance on the South side of the Londonderry and Lough Swilly Railway (L&LSR), the Strabane and Letterkenny Railway is then shown crossing the route of the Lough Swilly line by means of an over-bridge and then running parallel to it into Letterkenny on the North side of the L&LSR.

That route is illustrated on the adjacent sketch Map. [12]

Other mapping suggests that the point at which the Strabane and Letterkenny Railway crossed the Lough Swilly line was further to the East, close to the point where the former met the L&LSR . This is illustrated on the adjacent later OS Ireland Map. [13]

The location of the rail over rail bridge is shown on Google Maps Satellite imagery of 2020 in the next image below.

From this point on the two lines converged gradually in both vertical and horizontal directions.

The Strabane and Letterkenny Railway crossed the Londonderry and Lough Swilly Railway by means of an over-bridge, (Google Maps).

I have only been able to find a couple of pictorial records of the rail-over-rail bridge myself. both of these are of a relatively poor print quality. They both appear in the same publication: The Londonderry and Lough Swilly Railway: A Visitor’s Guide. [12: p46]. The first shows the bridge as it was in the 1980s, the second in the years when it was still in use.

Kerry Doherty very kindly sent me a colour copy of a photograph of a S&LR train crossing the bridge in May 1959 with No. 5 Drumboe in charge of a goods train.This picture kindly supplied for use in this article by Kerry Doherty. It shows No. 5 Drumboe crossing the rail-over-rail bridge in 1959. By this time the Swilly line was already closed, (c) J.G. Dewing, Color-rail. [6]

To the West of this point the two railways passed under an accommodation road. The next photo shows the remains of the bridges at that location. The Swilly railway bridge parapets are close to the camera. The S&LR parapets can be seen in the distance with the metal fencing on the top.

The old road-over bridges on the eastern approaches to the River Swilly, looking North, (Google Streetview).  Dave Bell and Steve Flanders describe the location in the 1980s: “There is a small side road behind the filling station which runs over two bridges, carrying the road over both railway lines. The Swilly used a single arch overbridge here while, conversely, the CDR used a three-arched bridge: two smaller arches either side of the main arch.” [12:p46] The filling station is long-gone, replaced by more modern buildings alongside the N56.The S&LR railway bridge parapets can still be seen. Concrete with metal fencing is on the East face of the old bridge, Google (Streetview)Dave Bell and Steve Flanders describe the use of the bridge arches in the 1980s like this: “The present owner of the filling station has made good use of the CDR bridge by bricking up one side and building a garage against the other. In effect he now has a garage with three bays, the roof of which is actually the side road.” [12: p47] There are two pictures of the arched bays in Bell and Flanders book.Kerry Doherty also very kindly supplied this photograph which shows the arches of the old S&LR bridge inside the garage facility, (c) Dave Bell. [6]

The two railways then encountered the River Swilly and the main road into Letterkenny from the East. Twin structures carried the two railways over the river and the main road. The modern N56 main road and a large roundabout have obliterated almost all of the railway infrastructure at this location. There are some clues as to what it was like in Bell and Flanders book which was written before much of the infrastructure here had been removed. [12:p47]The modern N56 bridge over the River Swilly sits on the line of the two old railways, (Google Streetview). The roundabout ahead has almost entirely obliterated the rail-over-road bridges which carried the two railway lines over the Port Road. The only remnant appears in the next image.The North abutment of the S&LR bridge over the old road is all that remains of the two railway bridges at this location, (c) Kerry Doherty. [6]Looking back along the old railway with the remaining bridge abutment to our right, (c) Kerry Doherty. [6] 

The plaque which is visible in both these two photographs carries a drawing of what the old bridge(s) looked like.

The plaque in the images above, (c) Kerry Doherty. [6]The historic OS Ireland Map extract show both of the two lines on the approach to the two Letterkenny Railway Stations which sat right next to each other at the Eastern edge of Letterkenny.. [13]The routes of the L&LSR and the S&LR shown on a 21st century satellite image, (Google Maps). The S&LR terminated in Letterkenny. The L&LSR continued further to the West and North.The Letterkenny Railway Stations. [13]

The two railway stations sat next to each other just to the East of the centre of Letterkenny. The two lines approached the stations on the South side of the R940. Their approximate route is highlighted on the Google Streetview image below.

Close to the junction between the R940 and Ashlawn the two railways ran very close to the road. Their route is now covered by the tarmac surface of the car parks of the Letterkenny Institute of Technology, (Google Streetview). The blue/mauve and red lines show the approximate alignment of the railways.

The location of the two railway stations includes the car parks of Letterkenny Shopping Centre and the bus station. Two building from the railway ear remain on the site. The old S&LR goods shed is one of these, it has been refurbished and is now called Railway House.The old S&LR goods shed has been refurbished and is now known as Railway House. This image was taken in 2017 from the R940, (Google Streetview).The same building as seen from the car park of the Letterkenny Shopping Centre, (c) Kerry Doherty. [6]

The old passenger facilities at the station have been converted in recent years into the town’s Bus Station. This required an extension to the building on what was the track-facing side. Kerry Doherty has generously provided three photographs of the modern building. [6]The front facade of the old Station Building, looking from the Southwest in 2020, (c) Kerry Doherty. [6]Inside the extension. The picture shows the old building’s Northeast facing aspect form roughly the position of the buffers stops on the old line. The platform canopy columns have been retained in the new building. The filigree detail has been retained, (c) Kerry Doherty. [6]Looking along the line of the old platform towards the Passenger Station Building. This facade is modern, (c) Kerry Doherty. [6]This final present-day image was again provided by Kerry Doherty and shows the station yard crane almost swamped by vegetation, (c) Kerry Doherty. [6]

We finish this article with a series of pictures of the old S&LR facilities at Letterkenny.

This first image was provided by Kerry Doherty and shows the length of the station platform at Letterkenny in 1959, (c) B. Hilton, Colorrail. [6]This monochrome photograph was taken by Roger Joanes in 1959. The photo was taken from close to the Station building. The railcar is No. 14 and in the distance, under a plume of steam, No. 4 can be seen shunting the yard, (c) Roger Joanes (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0). [14]Also by Roger Joanes, the inscription states: “The former CDR loco ‘Erne’ at Letterkenny, freshly painted for preservation but subsequently scrapped. 2.4.63.” (c) Roger Joanes (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0). [14]The disused S&LR station at Letterkenny in 1963 seen from the location of ‘Erne’ (c) Roger Joanes (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0). [14]An overall shot of the Station and Goods Yard in 1959. Loco No. 4, ‘Meenglas’ is preparing to set off for Strabane in charge of a goods train, (c) Roger Joanes (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0). [14]

Donegal Railway Heritage Centre posted this next photograph on their Facebook page. In this series of articles about the Co. Donegal Railways, photographs from the Donegal Railway Heritage Centre’s Facebook page are ‘linked-to’ after discussion with and kind permission from Jim McBride.


  1. Edward M Patterson (original author), Joe Begley & Steve Flanders (authors of additional material in the Revised Edition); The County Donegal Railways; Colourpoint Books, Newtownards, Co. Down 2014. As noted in my first article about the Co. Donegal Railways this was to have been my holiday reading while walking different parts of the network, but 2020 has been a strange year!
  2., accessed on 11th October 2020.
  3.,_Cavan_%26_Clara._LetterKenny_Strabane_RJD_113.jpg#/media/File:Athlone,_Cavan_&_Clara._LetterKenny_Strabane_RJD_113.jpg, accessed on 14th July 2020.
  4. The County Donegal Railways Visitor Guide to the Strabane and Letterkenny Railway is now out of print and i have not been able to find a copy.
  5. Edward M Patterson (original author), Joe Begley & Steve Flanders (authors of additional material in the Revised Edition); The Lough Swilly Railway; Colourpoint Books, Newtownards, Co. Down 2017. This was also to have been part of my holiday reading, but 2020 has been a strange year!
  6. Kerry Doherty of Ballindrait very kindly sent me a series of pictures of the Strabane and Letterkenny Railway route. Each of these, in this article, bears the reference number [6]
  7., accessed on 12th October 2020.
  8. Anthony Burges; The Swilly and the Wee Donegal; Colourpoint Books, Newtownards, Co. Down, Second Impression, 2010.
  9., accessed on 12th October 2020.
  10., accessed on 14th October 2020.
  11., accessed on 27th October 2020.
  12. Dave Bell and Steve Flanders; The Londonderry and Lough Swilly Railway: A Visitor’s Guide; County Donegal Railway Restoration Society; an small extract from the sketch plan on p42, rotated through 90 degrees.
  13., accessed on 27th and 28th October 2020.
  14., accessed on 27th October 2020.
  15., accessed on 28th October 2020.
  16., accessed on 10th November 2020.
  17., accessed on 10th November 2020 – a thumbnail is provided here , the full size image can be viewed by clicking on the link

Coalport Incline – Ironbridge

The Hay Inclined Plane at Coalport, Shropshire

On a visit  to Ludlow in late October 2020, my wife and I drove down through Ironbridge Gorge on the River Severn. Just North of Ironbridge we drive through the village of Coalport and over a bridge which spanned a steep inclined plane – two steeply graded parallel railway lines. I suppose it is arguable whether the Inclined Plane really constitutes a railway as it was used for transporting boats between a Canal and a river.

This was the Hay Inclined Plane which provided access from the Shropshire Canal to the River Severn. As far back as 1788 the owners of the canal held a competition to find the most effective way of lowering and lifting loads between the canal and the river.

The winning proposal was submitted by Henry Williams and James Loudon, which was also used at a number of other places in Shropshire. Construction was completed in 1793. By 1820 it was in poor condition and major repairs were needed. (This was also the case in the 1940s.) [1]

In 1857 the Incline was taken over by the LNWR (London and North Western Railway). In 1858, the LNWR closed the Shropshire Canal between the Wrockwardine Wood and Windmill inclined planes, leaving only a short section of canal to serve the industrial area of Blists Hill.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, Blists Hill was an industrial region consisting of a brick and tile works, blast furnaces and coal, iron and fire clay mines operated by the Madeley Wood Company. A short section of the Shropshire Canal ran across the site to the Hay Inclined Plane, which transported boats up and down the 207 ft (63m) high incline from Blists Hill to Coalport. [2]

By 1861, the LNWR had opened their Coalport Branch from Wellington to Coalport which passed across the bottom of the Hay Incline. It seems as though the last use of the Hay Incline was in the year 1894 and it was formally closed in 1907. [1]

The Incline was restored in 1968 and once more in 1975. Rails were reinstated as part of the creation of the Ironbridge Gorge Museums. [3][4]

The video below was taken by DJI Spark. It gives an excellent overview of the location. [5]


  1. Ironbridge Gorge Museum information boards.
  2., accessed on 21st October 2020.
  3., accessed on 21st October 2020.
  4., accessed on 21st October 2020.
  5., accessed on 21st October 2020.

The Railways of Jamaica

I have just enjoyed reading, ‘The Railways of Jamaica’, written by Jim Horsford. It is a Locomotives International publication, published by Paul Catchpole Ltd, St. Austel, Cornwall. [1]

This is an excellent study on the history of the main lines of the railways in Jamaica and also reflects briefly on some of the still open lines serving the Bauxite industry. The book results from a visit by Jim Horsford in 2006 to Jamaica and includes photographs from his own collection and those of other enthusiasts and past residents of Jamaica. In addition some aerial views taken from a helicopter show the condition of various sites on the old network in 2006.

In addition to a review of the network, Jim Horsford provides details of the majority of different locomotives and railcars used on the system together with passenger and good stock.

I managed to pick up the book on offer from Mainline and Maritime [2] for £5. It is at present on offer on their website for £10 and they offer to include a volume about the Sugar Cane lines of Cuba along with it. The RRP is £25.

Each of the main lines and branch lines on the public network are described in detail. The system used to link the capital Kingstown with Montego Bay, Port Antonio, Ewarton, Frankfield, Fort Simonds, Port Esquival and the Pleasant Valley. The featured image shows the network at its peak before Bauxite Mining operations began.

The book was a delightful read.

Wikipedia [3] provides provides a relatively strong study of the railways of the Caribbean island through until final closure of the network in 1992. [4] It does not seem necessary to reproduce significant parts of that article in this post. The full Wikipedia article can be found here. [3]

The first colonial railway for both freight and passengers opened in Jamaica in 1845, only twenty years after George Stephenson’s Stockton and Darlington Railway commenced operations in the United Kingdom.

By the 1890s expansion had reached its peak, with 216 miles of main and branch lines. Railway services contributed greatly to the development of the island “by providing efficient and inexpensive transport and by opening up the interior to the cultivation of old and new plantation crops, encouraging the intensification of peasant agriculture, promoting the establishment of agro-industries and creating new townships.” [5]

Jamaica 1970 Jamaican Railways SG 326 [6]

In the 1930s the failure of the banana industry and competition from motor transport drastically reduced revenue. By the 1970s the railways had become a liability. In 1975 two of the mainlines closed. This was the beginning of the end, although the railways struggles on until 1992.

Four private industrial lines continue to operate in the 21st Century, in part using Jamaica Railway Corporation (JRC) lines. [7] Of the total of 272 kilometres (169 miles) of standard-gauge lines operating in 1992, 207 kilometres (129 mi) of public lines belonging to JRC closed, leaving 65 kilometres (40 mi) in private hands. [8].

Wikipedia tells us that the JRC still exists in the early 21st century. It is responsible for management of the JRC interests and property, and maintaining its locomotives but not the rolling stock. [9] In November 1990, the JRC signed a 30-year Track User Agreement with Alcan Jamaica, which was renegotiated with the successor Windalco in December 2001. [3]

“The company makes J$40 million per year through track user fees for the hauling of alumina and bauxite, and the residual from the rental of real estate and its three operable locomotives. The company has a staff of 76, who fulfill contractual obligations to users of the company’s facilities” [3][10].

It seems that, “during the 1990s, a plan was considered which would see commuter services between Kingston and Spanish Town, later extended to Linstead. It was proposed to cost US$8 million and be running by January 2001, with the government holding 40% of a public-private venture.” [3] This proposal appears not to have come to fruition.

A further revival of rail services was considered in the very early years of the 21st century. Discussions were held with a series of different partners: the Canadian National Railway; the Rail India Technical and Economic Service (RITES); and then with the China Railway after a deal was signed by the Prime Minister P J Patterson with Chinese vice-president Zeng Qinghong in Jamaica in February 2005. [3]

On 16th April 2011 an inaugural train ran from May Pen to Linstead. [11] This service was short-lived, running until August 2012, [12] and it was December 2016 before “the government signed a memorandum of understanding with Herzog International to study the resumption of passenger and freight services. The Ministry of Transport & Mining envisaged a three-stage reopening process, with Phase 1 covering Montego Bay to Appleton, Phase 2 Spanish Town to Ewarton and Phase 3 Spanish Town to Clarendon.” [13]

The bright colours of the proposed refurbished/new stock for Jamaica Railways. [19]

The 2016 initiative foundered “in late 2017 because Herzog Jamaica Limited failed to meet the deliverables of a non-binding ­memorandum of understanding brokered with the Ministry of Transport and Mining.” [12]

At the beginning of 2020, the Jamaica Observer reported that the Government was “to try a new approach to restore passenger rail service to Jamaica, almost 28 years after the trains stopped rolling. Minister with portfolio responsibility for information Karl Samuda … announced a change in the approach to the privatisation of the Jamaica Railway Corporation (JRC). ” [14]

The Jamaica Gleaner reported in June 2020 that the Government was still committed to reviving a rail service. [15]

There is an educational video about the line. The film was made  in the mid-1960s: [16]

The next video was shot during the brief window of activity starting in 2011. it covers a length of the line between Bog Walk and Angels on a journey on 9th August 2011. [17]

One final link takes you to a .pdf produced by the Jamaican government. It tells the story of the railways. We need to forgive the incorrect captions under the first two pictures, (the captions have been transposed). The .pdf can be downloaded by clicking here. [18]


  1. J. Horsford; The Railways of Jamaica; a Locomotives International publication, published by Paul Catchpole Ltd, St. Austel, Cornwall, 2010.
  2. Mainline and Martime:, accessed on 8th October 2020.
  3., accessed on 8th October 2020.
  4. For more details see: Veront M. Satchell & Cezley Sampson (University of the West Indies); The rise and fall of railways in Jamaica, 1845-1975′; in the Journal of Transport History; Volume No. 24, Issue No.1, March 2003;  p1-21.
  5., accessed on 8th October 2020.
  6., accessed on 8th October 2020.
  7.  Jamaica Transportation Encyclopædia Britannica:, accessed on 8th October 2020.
  8. Jamaica Transportation Archived 2007-12-30 at the Wayback Machine Jamaica National Heritage Trust.
  9. The Privatisation of Jamaica Railway Corporation stalls and sputters Radio Jamaica – April 24, 2007;, accessed on 8th October 2020.
  10. Jamaican trains may never roll again The Jamaica Observer – February 25, 2007:, accessed on 8th October 2020.
  11., accessed on 8th October 2020.
  12. Railway Corporation to end passenger services. Jamaica Gleaner:, accessed on 8th October 2020.
  13., accessed on 8th October 2020.
  14.;t_announces_another_plan_to_get_trains_rolling_again?profile=0, accessed on 8th October 2020.
  15., accessed on 8th October 2020.
  16. The film is made available by the National Library of Jamaica on YouTube:, accessed on 8th October 2020.
  17. A short length of railway viewd from the train in 2011:, accessed on 8th October 2020.
  18., accessed on 8th October 2020.
  19., accessed on 8th October 2020.