Royal Arsenal 18 inch Railway

From TrainSpottingWorld, for Rail fans everywhere

The Royal Arsenal 18 inch railway was a private, 1 ft 6 in (457 mm) narrow gauge, military railway. It ran inside the Royal Arsenal, Woolwich, south east London and comprised of some 50 to 60 miles of track.[1]

It ran from 10 January 1873 until much of it was abandoned in the 1920s and various locomotives were then advertised for sale.[1] However five new locomotives were bought in World War II, between 1934 and 1941; and a final one from Hunslet Engine Company in 1954.[1] The line finally closed in 1966.[2]

The 18 inch railway

Due to the needs of moving ammunition during the Crimean War and the development of steam locomotion, the construction of an 18 inch railway was approved in 1866.[3] It was based on a similar system operating since 1862 inside the London and North Western Railway's Crewe Works.[2][3]

The Royal Arsenal's 18 inch railway opened on 10 January 1873.[1] It was designed to replace an ad hoc arrangement of individual plateways constructed within the Royal Arsenal.[1][3] Laying of plateways had started in 1824 and was completed by 1854-5; they then came under the control of the Corps of Royal Engineers.[3]

The 18 inch railway provided for the movement of both goods and passengers within the Royal Arsenal.[3]

Former locomotives

A number of locomotives from this railway still exist today, in preservation.

They can be seen at:

  • A former explosive wagon, previously on display at North Woolwich Old Station Museum,[3] is now back on the Royal Arsenal site near the Heritage Centre, standing on some ex Chatham cast track plates.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Clarke, B.R. and Veitch, C.C (1986). The Eighteen Inch Gauge Royal Arsenal Railway at Wooolwich. privately published by B.R. Clarke. ISBN 0-948951-00-1. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Middlemasss, David (1991). Encyclopaedia of Narrow Gauge Railways of Great Britain and Ireland. Patrick Stephens Limited. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 Masters, Roy (1995). Britain in old photographs: The Royal Arsenal, Wooolwich. Sutton Publishing. ISBN 0-7509-0894-7. 

See also