Presenter: George Falkner
George Falkner presented “The Rise, Wobble and Fall of the Commercial Light Railway, Part One” to a 60 strong Zoom audience based in Newcastle on Thursday 11th February. Having established their key characteristics, George’s encyclopaedic knowledge of the genre, supported by a multiplicity of illustrations, maps and graphs introduced firstly the Edenham and Little Bytham Light Railway, 1855-1884, that brought agricultural produce and passengers to the G.N. main line. Engineered by no less than one Daniel Gooch, the E&LBLR converted a traction engine to run on standard gauge to provide motive power and had a certain William Stroudley as a driver. Many 19th and 20th century lines were commercial successes, such as the Vale of Rheidol and the Easingwold Railway, whereas the Bishop’s Castle lurched from one financial crisis to the next, having been built in an area largely devoid of traffic potential and passengers. We learned of an engineer fleeing to the antipodes during the building of the Southwold Railway, permission to run passenger trains without continuous brakes as the Corringham Railway was so flat it was deemed nothing could run away(!) and looked at the Irish scene and, from 1905, Scotland, when the Cairn Valley Light Railway opened. Commercial light railways reached an Edwardian zenith, but post WWI competition from army surplus began to sound their death knell, or did it? Watch out for Parts Two (and Three) to learn more about these most fascinating of lines. Very highly recommended.