It seems to be a bit of a secret that a full sized narrow gauge railway used to run not very far from our monthly meeting place. The Metropolitan Water Board Railway - also known as the Hampton and Kempton Park railway - was operational from1916 to 1946. It was constructed to carry coal that had been off-loaded from barges into a bunker on the Thames at Hampton to the pumping houses at Hampton and Kempton.
It used three 0-4-2 Kerr Stuart steam locomotives (none of which survive) designed by the MWB for this purpose. No passengers were carried on a formal basis although there are photographs of inspection trains using wagons with seats mounted on them.
The interesting news is that there are moves afoot to reinstate the line as a passenger- carrying railway. It would have a purpose as the Kempton end is the site of the Great Engine House which accommodates the biggest pumping engine in Europe, which has been restored to working order (the engine that is, not Europe). There is no public access to the engine house and so a restored railway would not only be highly appropriate but would also be of practical use.
Most of the trackbed remains and so no major engineering work would be required, making the restoration a viable project. Obviously it is very early days yet and relies very heavily on the good will of the Water Board who own the site (which is still a working water works). However it seems there may be a real prospect of this project proceeding.
There is a very nice web site about the Metropolitan Water Board Railway Society which is well worth a look but currently is being reconstructed. If you would like to support the project you will find details here. A booklet with some superb photographs and a fuller history of the line is also available.
Obviously SNGMs supports the project and several of our members are members of the Metropolitan Water Board Railway. It is very exciting to think this line may one day run again. There would be no shortage of volunteer labour from SNGMs I am sure, if it gets that far.
(c) 2004, 2008 SNGMs