Thorpe Light Railway – History of the line

“King George” at Whorlton Lido station.

Opening on Good Friday 1971 the 15″ gauge Whorlton Lido Railway was another attraction to Whorlton Lido, a popular destination for family days out in the North East. Built by professional platelayers for site owner Raymond Dunn the well-engineered 770 yard line has its station on a straight section, with a balloon loop on each end. There is a 33 yard tunnel in the eastern loop.

Coming back along the eastern loop’s 75 yard straight section

From the opening Bassett-Lowke 4-4-2 “King George” was used. It first ran on the Fairbourne Railway in Wales in 1915.

Three open carriages were assembled on site from components ordered by Raymond. In 1972 diesel locomotive “Wendy” joined. Raymond had assembled various parts, though construction was completed by a Leicestershire firm. Another carriage was built and assembled on site.

“King George” at Whorlton Lido station.

The railway operated between Easter and October, whenever the Lido was open. Not only was this weekends and school holidays but any fine day during the season. Steam was always used on Sundays.

Just leaving the tunnel

For the last train on a Sunday, plus quieter days “Wendy” was used. During the late 1970s the privately-owned new-build 15″ gauge “Flying Scotsman” replica was used on the line.

“Wendy” in its usual position on steam days: parked up in the station headshunt ready to work the last trains of the day
Visiting “Flying Scotsman” at Whorlton station.

In the 1980s two more locomotives were added: a Severn Lamb ‘Rio Grande’ steam-outline diesel and Barnes 4-4-2 “John”.

Barnes 4-4-2 “John” just after delivery to Whorlton.

Details of the locomotives and carriages which have worked on the railway since 1971 are in the Thorpe Light Railway Visitor Guide booklet available on open days.

The WLR’s later years with sole locomotive “Wendy” and train, the first two carriages of which were heavily rebuilt.

The Lido was sold in 1990. The new owners dug out a lake in the eastern loop, which is now a major feature of the railway. The other locomotives had been sold, so that “Wendy” was the sole motive power. The four carriages were rebuilt, two quite extensively.

Having left the tunnel now at the most eastern point on the line