The south’s longest, fully signalled, narrow gauge 7¼” steam railway will celebrate its 30th birthday over the weekend of 17 and 18 September. The first Moors Valley Railway steam engine pulled away from Kingsmere Station at Moors Valley Country Park near Ringwood back in 1986. Thirty years, and three million passengers later, the Railway is celebrating its birthday in style with a special anniversary gala weekend of steam.
The weekend will see lots of action with a minimum of ten resident MVR engines in steam pulling passenger and freight trains and also four visiting locomotives from across the country. Rover Tickets will allow passengers to travel on special service trains. And visitors will also be able to view the engine and carriage sheds, goods yard and Kingsmere Station, which houses the railway’s model and gift shop. A special photographic timeline will provide a visual memory of each of the last thirty years.
The Moors Valley miniature railway opened on 26 July 1986 after its founder, Jim Haylock, relocated the operation from Tucktonia, Christchurch. It has been delighting families and steam enthusiasts alike ever since. Running alongside the Moors Lake and wildlife areas, the mile-long journey offers a wonderful view of the Park, the chance to enjoy the clackety-clack rhythm of the wheels on the tracks, watch clouds of smoke billow from the engine and scream just a little bit as you enter one of four dark tunnels.
As well as being the south’s longest fully signalled narrow gauge 7¼ steam railway, Moors Valley’s engines are also the smallest gauge possible to enable drivers to sit in a cab, rather than astride the engine, which really adds to the real steam locomotive experience.
Moors Valley Railway engines are not toys but miniature narrow gauge locos. Apart from five engines that came from the original site in Christchurch, all have been built and are maintained in the Moors Valley workshop. The current complement includes 13 Moors Valley engines with three more under construction. The railway is also home to six privately owned engines.
The track at Moors Valley Railway uses aluminium rails and wooden sleepers. The main ride is one mile long, but the total track length, including sidings, is about one and a half miles. Features include four footbridges, four tunnels, a railway bridge, two signal boxes, two stations, a waiting room, a turntable, an engine shed, two carriage sheds, and several signal gantries.
Such a significant operation needs a lot of effort to keep it going and over 60 people (25 staff and more than 35 volunteers ranging in age from from 13 to over 90) are involved in making the railway the success that it is.
Railway Director and nephew of Jim Haylock, Tim Woron, said “Over the last 30 years we have carried over 100,000 passengers per year through the beautiful Moors Valley Country Park totalling around 3 million passengers! Our success has been due in no small part to the vision of my uncle Jim whose passion for narrow gauge steam engines has enthused hundreds of people over the years to get involved in railways.
“We were privileged to begin operation two years before the official opening of the Park itself, so as well as celebrating our own anniversary, we are looking forward to contributing to the Park’s own 30th birthday in 2018.”
As well as the Moors Valley Railway, visitors to the Country Park can also enjoy the play trail with its unique wooden sculptures, tree top walk, play areas and Gruffalo sculptures, hire bikes and cycle up to eight miles of safe trails, swing from the trees at Go Ape, wander along tranquil tracks though the trees or take part in any one of dozens of events for children and adults throughout the year.
The Railway is open daily from June to mid September, and at weekends and school holidays 10:45am to 5:00pm (10:45am to 4:30pm Nov-Feb).
For more information about the railway or Anniversary Gala go to moorsvalleyrailway.co.uk or call 01425 471415. For more general information about Moors Valley Country Park go to www.moors-valley.co.uk