Beds, Herts & Bucks

Watford Miniature Railway: 'Cultural institution' turns 60

Watford Miniature Railway Image copyright Watford Borough Council
Image caption An LMS Compound steam locomotive named Maid Marion was one of the first to run on the line

A miniature railway that has become a "cultural institution" in a council-run park is celebrating its 60th year.

The Watford Miniature Railway, in Cassiobury Park, Hertfordshire, opened at Easter 1959 and sees passengers taken on a five-minute woodland ride.

Operators Southern Miniature Railways said it was "a simple pleasure, something all generations can enjoy".

It hopes to replace the near 50-year-old carriages, saying they are a "little small for today's customers".

Image copyright Watford Borough Council
Image caption The railway has been enjoyed by generations of Watford residents
Image copyright Watford Borough Council
Image caption Generations have enjoyed riding on the railway

Charles O'Mahoney, from the company, said: "It's now a bit of a cultural institution.

"We get people saying they went on it as a child and now bring their children and grandchildren."

Watford Miniature Railway

Image copyright Watford Miniature Railway
Image caption Operators Southern Miniature Railways say a train ride is "part and parcel of a trip to the park"
  • Built by local engineer Charles Reed, who had operated portable railways in the Watford area from the late 1940s, and wanted a permanent location
  • It was initially as a short "out and back" line but was gradually extended to a 300-yard long circuit
  • In 1968, it was sold to George Webb, before Jeff Price bought it in 1979 and introduced more locomotives to meet increased visitor demand
  • It was sold to the current operators in July 2017

The town's Liberal Democrat mayor, Peter Taylor, said: "The railway is held in really high regard by residents.

"It's a very impressive length of time to be running such an attraction."

Image copyright M Webb
Image caption Only the 08 Shunter ran the railway from the end of the 1960s to the end of the 1970s
Image copyright E Latter
Image caption Jeff Price introduced more steam locomotives such as the American Switcher Chiltern Shuttle, seen here in 1995

To mark the anniversary, events will be held in the park later and on Sunday, including an exhibition about the railway's history.

Cassiobury Park has recently undergone about £6m of improvements, with grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund and Big Lottery Fund.

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