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My Favourite Railway Journey

Martin Lovell

MARTIN LOVELL tells us about his favourite journey by train.

As somebody who travels a lot by train initially this was a tricky one.

Would it be the line from Ipswich to Lowestoft, or through Didcot to Evesham? Perhaps a trip on the Ffestiniog, or alongside the Llanberis lake from the Dinorwic Slate Museum. Any of these I look forward to again - or the lines I have yet to travel on such as the Lynton and Barnstaple, or the extended Welsh Highland through the Aberglasyn pass.. AHHHGH!

But I guess my favourite line, which I have driven various locomotives on, is the line that winds it way up from Amberley to Brockham then on to Cragside. I speak of course of the Narrow gauge line contained within the Amberley Museum and Heritage Centre in West Sussex.

I spent many happy years as a volunteer with the rail group, learning to drive and maintain Locomotives and rolling stock, even organising the annual Gala Weekend for a few years.

I made some great friends as well, even though sadly a few of them have passed on.

So a couple of weeks ago, whilst attending the Gala with my son and a couple of layouts, I thought I would describe the route, with a few photos as well. Setting off from the Bottom station of Amberley, which is situated behind the Radio Exhibition, we were seated in an ex-Penryn quarrymen's coach, the 100 year old Bagnall locomotive "Peter" having taken on water, we cross the level crossing and commence the climb.

Amberley Museum

Amberley Museum

Amberley Museum

Amberley Museum

Passing various exhibits such as the rural telephone exchange and the Arundel gin building, we snake our way up the tree covered hill, overlooking the wood yard with its steam driven crane, and shortly pass under the footbridge carrying the Nature trail which is known as the Ranger Bridge, as it was originally built by a team of Ranger guides.

Amberley Museum

Amberley Museum

Amberley Museum

Amberley Museum

A bit further and we reach the top of the climb, passing the restored De Witt kilns, the principle part of Pepper and Sons, the works of who the museum now occupies. Until fairly recently, the kilns were in a dreadful state of disrepair, as the chalk filling around the kiln flues had expanded over the years, and was threatening to push the walls over. However with a lot of hard work the building was saved and restored, and now boasts its own standard gauge railway, as it did when it was a working lime kiln.

Passing now the restored Billingshurst signal box, we make our midway stop at Brockham station, named after the site of a narrow gauge collection in Surrey, which amalgamated with the Amberley collection on the closure of the Brockham site in 1982. the station building was formally the ticket office at Hove.

We pause here for a while to allow the down-train to pass, hauled by "Polar Bear", a 2-4-0 Bagnall built in 1905 for the Groudle Glen railway on the Isle of Man. This loco arrived at Amberley from the Brockham collection and has been extensively restored. It is a regular feature at Amberley, and has even had a couple of visits back to its original line, to meet its sister engine "Sea Lion".

Amberley Museum

We now, having collected the token for the section, leave Brockham station passing Betchworth Hall which is (photo 12) the storage facility for the Diesel locos. The track passes the tunnel entrance which featured as Main Strike Mine in the James Bond film A View To A Kill, (photo 13) and then past the main railway workshops before a tight turn behind the main Railway exhibition hall, and the Milne electrical collection building.

Amberley Museum

Amberley Museum

Amberley Museum

Then finally we pull up at Cragside station, the brakes are on, and the loco can run round to start the journey back.

Amberley Museum

I hope the photos speak for themselves, but the museum itself is open from March to October and there is an awful lot more besides the railway, which is one of the largest collections of narrow gauge industrial equipment in the country.

If you are down in sunny Sussex, it is well worth a visit, and is only 7miles or so from a certain model emporium...

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