The revival of Whorlton Lido Railway, to the now-known Thorpe Light Railway
In 2011 there was a proposal to send the railway to Sierra Leone for its railway museum. This was set up and mentored by Steve Davies, then Director of the National Railway Museum in York and Shildon.
During a visit with the site owner, Steve and Anthony Coulls (NRM Senior Curator, Rail Vehicle Collections) the latter realised it was the former Whorlton Lido Railway. It was intact but overgrown.
Anthony determined to save it on site. The owner accepted Anthony’s business plan. Likely interested people were contacted for an inaugural meeting and tour of the line in February 2012. Steve and Anthony addressed the group.
The railway would now be known as the Thorpe Light Railway, run by a Friends of Thorpe Light Railway group under an agreement with the site owner.
Work began in earnest that April. Amongst the tasks to be done were clearing 5 trees which had fallen across the line, draining water from a flooded section, clearing mud across the track at the start of the eastern loop.
Further work involved dismantling the unsafe tunnel roof, cutting back overhanging trees, removing nettles three to five feet high from the station platform and digging out grass from half of the line.
“Wendy” and the WLR carriages were sent away for repair and refurbishment. On loan diesel “Bessie” helped with this work. With the long term loan of three carriages, visiting steam locomotive “Smokey Joe” plus “Bessie” reopened the railway in June 2013.
Continuing in operation- maintaining and improving
The Friends group has continued to maintain the railway: track, water channels and vegetation while tackling a backlog of maintenance. This has included replacement of many sleepers with more to come, building a new bridge over the water channel, and the construction of a new tunnel roof.
Open days have now settled to 6 a year, running monthly April to September, with additional private visits by prior arrangement.
Since 2016 “Bessie” has been used largely on works trains. Passenger trains are usually worked by a Severn Lamb ‘Rio Grande’ steam-outline diesel, which used to work in Ireland with the three carriages on the railway.
Each summer visiting steam locomotives share train services with the diesels. Visiting locomotives have included Heywood “Effie”, a new-build Baldwin type “Soony” and “Cagney No. 44”.