Eaton Park
28 August 2005
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Regular visitors to the "Rail Diaries" will have met the (replica) products of Sir Arthur Heywood before - we've seen the delightful "Effie" at Rhyl, and more recently "Ursula" (and  Shelagh...) at Perrygrove. Ursula carries the initials "ER" on her buffer beams - denoting her origin on the Eaton Railway, the 15" gauge line built by Heywood for the Duke of Westminster in the grounds of Eaton Hall, near Chester, linking the hall with the Great Western main line at Balderton. The original line served its master for more than 50 years from its construction in 1895, although Katie left during the first world war, bought by the nascent Ravenglass and Eskdale railway. She had been replaced by two larger locomotives - the  aforementioned Ursula and Shelagh. Sadly, she wasn't a lot of use to the "Ratty", and was sold on in 1922 to the Llewellyn Miniature Railway in Southport. W J K Davies, in "The Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway" (David and Charles, 1968) suggests that she "was badly worn when she came to Eskdale - the R&E must have been fairly deperate to buy her".
Geoff’s Rail Diaries
The replica "Katie" was built in Hampshire in 1994, to operate on a new 15" line at Eaton Hall - the Eaton Park Railway. This line is arranged in the form of a large (and somewhat misshapen) balloon loop, with a triangular junction at the neck of the balloon. The short "string" runs through a gap in the garden wall to the engine shed, with a small station facility immediately outside the shed. The latter short section is, I understand, more- or-less on the route of the original line. The line is not normally open to the general public - except on the three occasions each year when the gardens are open. The last such date this year was the Sunday of the August bank holiday weekend - so with reasonable weather forecast, off we went! I had imagined that the triangular junction would be used to turn Katie between the half-hourly trips, so that she would always run smokebox first. Not so! Perhaps then she would always run clockwise, alternately cab first / smokebox first, in order to equalise flange wear. Again, not so! Smokebox first trips ran clockwise, bunker first trips anticlockwise. I suppose it saved someone having to go out and change the points... We arrived shortly after the gardens opened at 1.30pm, to see Katie heading away from the hall with the open bogie coach and the little four-wheeled brake - obviously limited capacity for passengers - and when we enquired at the booking desk, we found that all trips were fully booked until around 5pm. However, after exploring the gardens, we returned to the line to find that an extra coach had been added - the closed saloon which was referred to as "the Duchess's Coach". So we had our ride - in the latter, a splendid vehicle for such a slim gauge, although being inside meant I was unable to record our trip on the video camera. Perhaps another day! Garden open days are listed on the "Events" page of the Eaton Estate website - if you're interested in an unusual railway with an historic background in the field of "minimum gauge railways", check it out! Link: Eaton Estate Video: Katie heads the open coach, "the Duchess's coach" and brake, clockwise and anticlockwise. (Sorry about the wind noise - it was a bit breezy at times)
Clockwise - Katie and the short train On shed Ready for another trip Anticlockwise - on the triangle Bunker-first - nearing the hall The gap in the wall... Estate railway Nearing home Anticlockwise - outbound trip Bunker-first - Katie and the long train Passing the cricket ground Back on shed Interior - the Duchess's coach