Leek and Manifold Valley Light Railway
|Leek and Manifold Valley Light Railway|
|Dates of operation||1904 – 1934|
|Track gauge||2 ft 6 in (762 mm)|
The Leek and Manifold Valley Light Railway (L&MVLR) was a narrow gauge railway in Staffordshire, Great Britain that operated between 1904 and 1934. When in operation, the line mainly carried milk from dairies in the region, acting as a feeder into the standard gauge system. The line was built to a gauge of 2 ft 6 in (762 mm) and to light rail standards to reduce construction costs. The line had several transporter wagons that were capable of carrying standard gauge wagons. The railway's engineer was E.R. Calthrop, who had experience of building narrow gauge railways in India. It was run by the North Staffordshire Railway which later became part of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway in 1923. The route of the line is now a foot- and cyclepath.
The North Staffordshire Railway's branch from Leek ended at Waterhouses. The L&MVLR continued from an end-on junction with this line. It ran down the valley of the River Hamps, before turning up the limestone gorge that the River Manifold had formed, through to Hulme End, via Thor's Cave, Wetton Mill, Grindon, Beeston Tor, Sparrowlee, Butterton and Ecton.
The line was closed in 1934, being outcompeted by buses and lorries.
Locomotives and rolling stock
Two outside-cylindered 2-6-4Ts were built by Kitson & Co. of Leeds in 1904. Number 1 was named E.R. Calthrop, after the line's engineer and number 2 was named J.B. Earle. Due to the influence of Calthrop, the locomotives had a somewhat colonial appearance with large headlights which were never used. The locos were originally painted brown with gold and black lining, after the grouping replaced by crimson lake with gold and black lining and latterly after the Great Depression had set in with plain black.
There were four coaches; two first class and two brake composite thirds. These were originally painted yellow, and later repainted crimson lake.
Freight wagons consisted of one box van and two open wagons. However, there were also four short and one long transporter wagons. These were used to carry standard gauge wagons, particularly milk tankers and coal wagons to sidings along the route.
The line today
The Manifold Valley footpath and cycle way (now called the Manifold Way) was opened in 1937. It continues on to Waterhouses, via Hulme End, as a bridle path, sometimes shared with motor traffic. There is a tunnel along the route, now used as a motor car route. Some spectacular scenery can be found along the eight mile route, including Thor's Cave, Wetton Hill and Beeston Tor. Many consider that this section bears comparison with the better-known Dovedale a few miles to the east. (The National Trust own several of these sites, as part of their South Peak Estate).
The Old Railway Hotel at Hulme End is now called the Manifold Valley Hotel. There are campsites at Hulme End and Wetton Village.
At Ecton Hill a 4,000 year old copper mine lies along the route; there is still evidence of the railway's loading platforms along the route of the old railway. A dairy once stood here and you can still see where milk churns were once loaded onto the morning milk train. The Ecton dairy was famous for its Stilton cheese.
- Jenkins, S.C. Leek and Manifold Light Railway (video)
- Porter, L. (1997) Leek and Manifold Valley Light Railway ISBN 1-873775-20-2
- Gratton, R. (2005) "The Leek and Manifold Light Railway" ISBN 0-9538763-7-3
- The Leek & Manifold Valley Light Railway Pages
- Stafforshire Past Track has several photographs and even a video!.
- Narrow Gauge Pleasure page
- Details of operating models of the steam locomotives at nearby Rudyard Lake