12th April 2021 · On-Line Meeting: The Rise, Wobble and Fall of the Commercial Light Railway

Presenter: George Falkner

Our 2021 season continued on Monday 12th April with a Zoom presentation by George Falkner entitled “The Rise, Wobble and Fall of the Commercial Light Railway” which was enjoyed by 62 participants.  Although now living in north-east England he was brought up in East Anglia and his presentation included many references to railways in that area. George asked “What is a light Railway?”.  He commented that without “normal” railways there would of course be no “light” railways to compare with them.  As there was no legal definition of what constituted a light railway he offered the suggestion that it was a public railway authorised to operate under specific concessions on matters of safety and construction but that required restrictions on certain operations such as level crossings, signalling and permitted speeds, etc.  The Corringham Railway in Essex for example was considered to be so flat that runaways could not occur and passenger trains could therefore be operated without a continuous brake!  Commercial light railway operations reached a peak around the time of WW1 with railways such as the Easingwold Railway, Southwold Railway and certain of Colonel Stephens’s enterprises being relatively successful commercially.  Conversely, lines such as the Bishops Castle Light Railway which operated in an area with no traffic potential staggered from one financial crisis to another.  Having promised that there would be parts two and three of this presentation George pointed to such enterprises as the Vale of Rheidol, Bure Valley and Wells & Walsingham Railways as providing hope for the future!