Edge Hill Light Railway

Of the many chapters in the history of Britain’s railways, few are more fascinating than the Edge Hill Light Railway. Its origins are in the last year of the First World War when iron was in great demand. It was built to exploit the vast ironstone beds found on top of the Edge Hill escarpment. It was intended to use German prisoners-of-war to do the quarrying works.

However, it was not started until 1919, and took until 1922 to be finished. It had but a short life, the last wagon of ironstone being conveyed on 27th January 1925. The demand for ironstone had dropped and it was found to be cheaper to extract the iron ore via Wroxton and Banbury. It was then abandoned, in a fully working condition, together with locomotives and wagons. In the late 1940s and early 1950s most of the track was removed and the locomotives and wagons cut up.

The railway was unique in that it had the steepest standard gauge track in the country. The route up the escarpment was at a gradient of 1 in 6, and had to be worked by rope. Full wagons descending from the top pulled empty wagons up the slope. The maximum output was 200 wagons of ore a day.

There was a tragedy on the line in 1924. A runaway wagon knocked down the Engineer and he died of his injuries.

The Edge Hill Light Railway had been a dead duck from inception, but its almost unique light railway status and the apparently inexplicable retention of derelict ex main-line engines through 25 years of disuse proved an irresistible draw for railway enthusiasts and its legend still lives on.

Edge Hill Light Railway in images.

Andrew Baxter’s new EHLR website: ehlr.rocks