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Railways in the

United Kingdom

Great Britain

England, Wales, Scotland

On other pages of this site can be found a history of railways in Great Britain and a detailed description of the complex structure of the railways in Great Britain today, together with extensive listings and links for many of the numerous companies involved. There are separate listings of station names with variants in local languages for Wales, Scotland and Cornwall.

Northern Ireland

The early history of railways in Northern Ireland is closely tied up with that of the Republic of Ireland. Main line railways are built to the Irish standard gauge of 5ft 3in (1600mm).

Unlike the railways of Great Britain, Northern Ireland Railways remain in state control.

Irish station names

The Isle of Man

Manx station names

The Channel Islands

Jersey

The Jersey railway opened in 1870 as a standard gauge line from the capital, St Helier, to St Aubin. Another company commenced construction on a 3 ft 6 in (1067 mm) gauge from St Aubin to La Moye, but went bankrupt before completion. The line was later amalgamated with the original line, which was converted to 3 ft 6 in (1067 mm) gauge to provided a through route from St Helier to La Moye, later extended to Corbière, a total distance of 8½ miles (13.7 km). The line closed in 1926.

A separate standard gauge line, the Jersey Eastern Railway, opened in 1873 between St Helier and Grouville, later extended to Gorey. It closed in 1929.

During World War II, the occupying German forces laid down a number railways of 600mm and metre gauge for military purposes. These utilised in part the trackbeds of both of the closed railways. These military lines were dismantled after the liberation.

Several of the stations of the original lines survive as public buildings; the Jersey Eastern Railway Terminus Hotel also services. Various sections of the former trackbeds are now footpaths. Some of the original equipment of the railways has been preserved in a small museum.

Guernsey

A standard gauge steam tramway opened in 1879 between St Peter Port and St Stephens, a distance of about 2¾ miles (4.4 km). The line was electrified in 1892, to become one the first electric street tramways in the British Isles. The line closed in 1934 and few traces remain today.

Since 1985, there has been a 7¼in (184mm) gauge miniature railway, about 350 yards (320m) in length, in the grounds of Sausmarez Manor, near St Martins.

Alderney

The island has a 2 mile (3.2 km) line built by the British Admiralty for harbour construction, now operating as a tourist railway. There is also a 7¼in (184mm) gauge miniature railway about ¼ mile (0.4km) in length at the line’s Mannez Quarry station.

Sark and the smaller islands

There are no railways on these islands.

Ascension Island

A short 3ft (914mm) gauge railway was operational from the 1860s for the transfer of supplies from the wharf into storage, and related purposes. Small 4-wheeled trolleys were propelled by hand. One of the trolleys and a short section of track are preserved.

A railway was used during the construction of a transmitting station on the island during Word Was I.

In the 1920s, several railways were laid to carry guano for export, on the main island and of the offlying Boatswain Bird Island. It seems likely that they were either hand propelled or horse drawn. All had languished by the 1930s.

Bermuda

There are no railways on the island today, but there was once a standard gauge railway (not narrow gauge as suggested by some sources) running for some 22 miles (35km) along the length of the island chain from Somerset to St George. Much of the trackbed is now in use as a walkway. There was also an 18 inch (457mm) gauge private railway, connecting the Astor family's estate at Ferry Reach to their own station on the Bermuda Railway main line.

Falkland Islands

(Also known by the Spanish name of Islas Malvinas)

In 1915, a new radio transmitter was constructed at a site overlooking Moody Brook on East Falkland. Using the technology of the time, this was a spark transmitter that consumed a prodigious amount of electrical power, and hence required its own generating station. The boilers for the power station were fired by coal, which needed to be conveyed a distance of some 3½ miles from the naval jetty on the north side of Stanley Harbour, facing Port Stanley. To this end, a 2ft (610mm) gauge railway was constructed, with trains hauled by steam locomotives. Developments in radio technology rendered the huge transmitting device redundant and the railway fell into disuse in the late 1920s. A number of remains of the railway and its equipment can be seen today. The site of the transmitting station retains the name of Wireless Ridge and was the location of one of the decisive battles in the Falklands War of 1982.

A whaling station operated on New Island, off West Falkland, from 1909 to 1915. It appears to have had one or two narrow gauge railway tracks.

Gibraltar

There are no railways in the territory, but the Spanish railway line to Algeciras was built in the late 19th Century by a British company to serve the needs of the garrison.

Montserrat

There are no railways on the island. Reports of a funicular railway have sometimes arisen through confusion with the mountain location of a Benedictine abbey in Spain.

St Helena

Though technically a plateway rather than a railway, the Ladder Hill incline is of interest. Constructed in 1828/29, Jacob’s Ladder consisted of a steep stairway flanked by plates giving a gauge of 4 ft (1219 mm). Wagons were rope hauled up the incline, power being provided by donkeys or mules working a windlass at the summit. The incline gave access to Ladder Hill Fort and farmland on the hilltop, carrying supplies for the fort up, and farm produce down. However, its principal traffic was the transport of nightsoil (excrement) from the town of Jamestown to the top of the hill, where is was used as fertilizer on the farms. Operation of the incline had ceased by the 1870s, and it was rebuilt as a simple staircase, which remains in use today.

A desalination plant was constructed at Rupert’s Bay in 1901. It had a short railway which would bring coal from the wharf and take away ash. Although completed and tested, the plant was never put into full operation.

South Georgia

There were a number of whaling stations on the north east side of the island, several of which were served by rail systems. They were operational from the first decades of the 20th century until the 1960s. Some railway remains, including a derelict locomotive, are visible.

Not to be confused with the South Georgia Railway, which formerly operated in the southern part of the USA state of Georgia.

Turks & Caicos

The island of East Caicos once had a network of railways some 14 miles (22.5 km) in extent, with wagons drawn by mules conveying sisal from the plantations to the quay at Jacksonville. It was reported active in 1912. After sisal production ceased, town and railway were abandoned and the island became uninhabited. The island may be visited today and ruins of Jacksonville and the railways are much in evidence.

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