Alton Towers Park Railway History part 1
In this section we will see how the Park Railway started out and how it was eventually removed. The Park Railway opened to the paying public around the Easter period of 1953. It was a 2 foot gauge miniature railway and the locomotive was obtained from a similar railway (at Lilleshall Hall, Shropshire) that had closed on the outbreak of the 2nd world war. It was delivered to Alton Towers on 26/3/1953. This was a part of significant improvements that were to come following the war which would hopefully attract many visitors. Some of the other improvements included the start of road racing in 1954, the opening of a model railway in the house chapel a few years later and a chairlift, donkey rides and pottery, all around 1963.
Apparently, this picture was taken in the opening year:
More early pictures:
The main station was positioned near the northern corner of the Ingestre Courtyard where the Teacup ride now stands (the Ingestre name comes from the Ingestre estate from where the 18th Earl of Shrewsbury had come to claim Alton Towers in the late 1800's). A small hut on the platform was used to sell tickets. The tickets for the train ride were purchased separately until 1980 when all inclusive tickets to Alton Towers were started. Tickets were also available from the driver at the Temple end. Single or return tickets were usually available.
There was a footbridge near to the Ingestre Courtyard and also in the woods so that people could cross the railway safely from car parks and other areas.
The original terminus was at the Temple Station, so called due to it being very close to the Gothic (Chinese) Temple. The total length of the line at this point was around 650 yards.
The attraction has been known as a few different names including "Miniature Railway", "Scenic Railway" and "Park Railway".
Between 1966-1969 the locomotive was named "Altonia" by Dennis Bagshaw. Altonia in 1975:
Because of the opening of the Log Flume in 1981 the track was shortened. Access to this ride would have meant crossing the railway which was undesirable to the management. The line was now around 160 yards shorter. The old shed at the Ingestre end was used as storage and toilets until 1985 when it was replaced by the Teacup ride which opened within the next year.
In 1986, the footbridge in the woods, which was over the line was declared unsafe and removed.
Between 1983 and 1987 the line was shortened slightly at the Temple end. At the start of the 1993 season, the line was shortened even more but a second track was added which provided a 2 train operation with a newly acquired train (known as train 3014). The station at the Ingestre end moved closer to the log flume as seen in position recently. At the temple end it was moved closer to the area now known as Gloomy Wood, where it stood until the 2007 season when it was demolished along with other remnants of the line due to the arrival of the new attraction known as the Haunted Hollow. The line was now around 390 yards in length.
Construction of the second line:
The buffers at the Ingestre end after the station moved nearer to the log flume, taken in 2006:
Falling passenger numbers, high staffing requirements and safety considerations were all probably to blame for the line not being opened in 1997. For an example of safety issues, on Tuesday 24th October 1995 a train skidded when braking and hit the safety buffer at the Ingestre end. 11 casualties were treated at the medical centre for minor injuries including bruising and a cut lip. The line was re-opened on 26 October 1995. This type of incident was part of the kind of considerations which ultimately marked the end for an attraction that had been successful for many years previously.
The sad sight of Altonia and two coaches stored off track in 2000.
Please use the menu (above left) to see page 2 of the park railway.