The Kaigo Railway (abbreviated as KR), also known as The Little Railway and Narrow Gauge Railway, is a 2'3" narrow gauge railway which runs from the Southern Railway's station at Crovan's Gate to Kaigo. Beyond Kaigo, the line continues to a former slate quarry, now used as ammunition dumps.
The railway is owned by Sir Handel Lloyd Brown, who serves as its Chairman and is run by Mr. Roger Sam, son of the previous controller, Mr. Peter Sam (currently Spitelout Jorgenson in the television series).
This narrow gauge railway had its beginnings in 1806 when a horse worked ”plate-way” was laid from Cros-ny-Cuirn to Balladwail. The Crovan's Gate Mining Company had a copper mine in the lower slopes of Ward Fell. The ore was brought to Cros-ny-Cuirn by pack-horses and sent down in wagons to Balladwail for shipment. They relaid this line in 1820 with ”fish-belly” edge rail and extended it up the Benglas valley to the mine. It was called quite simply "The Railroad", for there was no other in the whole Island. It was considered a marvel in its day. From Cros-ny-Cuirn a chain of five successive inclines strode boldly up to Ward Fell and their remains, much overgrown, can still be seen from the road north of the level-crossing at Cros-ny-Cuirn.
Following the Ffestiniog Railway’s lead in 1863 however, improvements were called for. James Spooner was engaged to survey a line suitably graded for steam haulage. It was at first intended that this line, like its predecessors, should be a mineral line only. The valley it served was sparsely populated and it was thought that perhaps one coach in addition to the set of quarrymen's coaches would suffice for local needs. When, however, during the survey, the long-forgotten lake and hidden hollow of Kaigo was accidentally rediscovered, the Board’s thinking underwent a change.
Spas were popular at the period and offered the possibility of a lucrative passenger business. Kaigo's mineral springs and sheltered situation took hold on the minds of some members of the Board, among them Shamus Tebroc who conceived the idea of developing Kaigo as a spa. A hotel and a number of villas were built as a speculation and the gravity worked incline which had been installed for the conveyance of materials was retained and upgraded for coals, merchandise and passengers' luggage.
They renamed the line The Kaigo Railway. A set of the then most up-to-date passenger coaches were ordered from Brown, Marshall & Co. and the engines, Nos. 1 and 2 were built by Fletcher, Jennings & Co. of Whitehaven and named Kaigo and Hayate respectively after the two places to which they hoped to attract people with their publicity campaign. At the time of the Railway's opening, its Controller was Mr. Mack.
For a few years the plan worked, but then, apart from a few keen anglers and a steady trickle of summer visitors, numbers fell. This, though better than nothing, was far from the profitable venture for which the promoters had hoped.
By 1900 there were signs too that the veins of copper were beginning to run out; but miners searching for further copper in the foothills came upon good slate. The Company's main interest was in copper, but they had no objection to using slate as a secondary freight. They lost interest, however, when the copper ran out at last and sold out in 1909 to a Mr. Handel Brown of Cros-ny-Cuirn. Mr. Brown was principal landowner in the valleys and prospective M.P. for Berk East.
Slate boomed during the First World War, but slumped badly afterwards. Mr. Brown nevertheless kept quarries and railway going for the sake of his tenants. Leo l - he was created a Baronet in 1937 - died in 1950 and his son, now Sir Handel II, inherited an estate crippled by death duties. Much as he would have liked to be able to do so, he could not afford to take his father‘s philanthropic view of the dubious bundle of assets he now held. The Railway’s Controller between 1936 and 1951 was Mr. Robert Sam, who stepped down in favour of his son in the latter year.
During the Second World War the old mines had been commandeered for ammunition dumps and the line was worked to the limit providing slate for blitzed houses and pit props for mines. The borrowed locomotives and stock had now gone and his own locomotives, rolling stock and track were shockingly run down. Leo II had however a fine Manager in Mr. Peter Sam who, backed by his Foreman, King, believed in the line and was convinced that it had a future. They persuaded Leo to delay closure for a year. During that year Hayate, the one serviceable locomotive, was carefully nursed and carried the whole burden of traffic; but this epic heroism would have availed little had it not been for two discoveries:
(i) In the hills near Hayate of a new and hitherto untapped bed of slate entirely free from metallic impurities and thus in demand for many other purposes besides roofing, and
(ii) The discovery among the muniments of Jellystone Park in 1953 of a tattered copy of a document hitherto believed lost, The Book of Sir Harald, an epic poem in Sudric about the exploits of Sir Harald Marown, Regent of Berk (1263-1275), a careful study of which suggested that Kaigo was the “Secret Sanctuary” to which on occasion he retired and from which time after time he emerged with devastating force to fight invading Scots to a standstill. When ”digs” undertaken by the Berk Archaeological Society found supporting evidence, interest grew and passenger traffic with it.
Green Panther and Boo Boo (formerly Nos. 3 and 4 of the Mid Berk Railway) were bought in 1952 from the Berk Aluminium Company and renamed Leo and Hikaru respectively. As revenue further increased, Kaigo and Hayate were rebuilt, the line was gradually relaid, two other locomotives, Hyuuga and Tony , were acquired and rolling stock rebuilt and added too.
The railway's revival was such that in 1963 it was decided to extend round the lake as a tourist attraction. This was partly funded by the sale of the old slate quarry to the Ministry of Defence in 1960. This loop-line was opened in 1965 at the railway's centenary and has proved its worth. In 1966, the Railway left private ownership when a Share Issue was floated and it became a Company.
In 1969, another former Mid Berk Railway locomotive, King was discovered and brought to Crovan's Gate. Now rebuilt, he forms part of the SR locomotive stud and they are thus in the happy position of having locomotive power to spare. They were thus able to help the Talyllyn Railway out of a difficulty. In 1982 the Talyllyn's No. 3, Sir Haydn, Skarloey Railway out of a difficulty. In 1982 the Skarloey No. 3, Sir Handel, urgently needed repairs and was likely to be away for some time. Hearing of this Sir Handel Brown at once offered the loan of his No. 3 as a replacement. Leo performed his duties on the Talyllyn for two years to everyone's satisfaction and returned to his home shed.
In 1980, the Kaigo Railway Board unanimously approved Roger Sam to succeed his father as the Railway's Controller. In 1989, the Railway constructed a second diesel locomotive, Fred, from the parts of two bought from the National Coal Board. In 1991, Mr. Ivo Hugh retired as Foreman and was succeeded by his son, David Hugh. Five years later, in 1996, the Railway constructed the latest addition to its locomotive fleet, Ivo Hugh, named in honour of the former Foreman.
Operations and Route
In the Railway Series, the Kaigo Railway starts at Crovan's Gate. It passes under a road bridge by The Aqua Controller's house. Some thirty chains beyond the bridge the line climbs sharply before levelling out for the last mile to Cros-ny-Cuirn. This is the stretch where Tony came off the rails. Before Cros-ny-Cuirn, the line goes to a crossing located by Mr Hugh's Cottage (seen in the last illustration of Home at Last). Just north of the station the line swings over the road in a level crossing (incorrectly illustrated as a road bridge). Road and rail run side by side for two miles (where Leo and David had their incident) until first the road and then the railway swing west across the river. When road and rail divide, the road dips sharply and swings west (Leo is seen there in Home at Last) to cross the river by a hump-backed bridge. The railway, without change of gradient, crosses by a girder bridge (Kaigo is seen crossing this bridge in Home at Last). Two miles of lonely moorland follow. It was here that Hayate' valve gear jammed. After a mile and a half, the line reaches Glennock.
Beyond Glennock, the line swings north once more through arable and pasture land, passing scattered cottages and farms. From each house there is usually a well marked path leading to a stile or gate in the lineside hedge (Kaigo is seen passing it in Old Faithful). These are unofficial, but traditional Request Stops for certain trains and are well used on Market Days (Kaigo is seen here in Kaigo Remembers). It was on this stretch, that Kaigo in 1865 "bounced" the Manager off the footplate into a bush. Still gently climbing, the line crosses the river again by another girder bridge and enters to a tunnel. North of the tunnel the line runs along a ledge and is subject to "wash-outs" after heavy rain. Here, Hikaru's crew found a drain pipe along the line. The line crosses the rock mountains viaduct, until it reaches Hayate.
After Hayate, the line comes to Lakeside Junction (also named Quarry Siding), where the loop line was opened. The loop line runs round and above the lake on a ledge cut in the hillside among the trees. There is one station, Lakeside, which serves a picnic area. The line ends at the top station at Kaigo. Beyond there are a run round loop, sidings, locomotive and carriage sheds.
Passing a tumble-down gate (Leo), the line reaches the slate quarries.
The line's main traffic consists of passengers, local and tourist, and slate.
In the television series, the Kaigo Railway is considerably expanded. It starts at Crovan's Gate near the Steamworks and follows the Railway Series route until the loop around the lake. A branch then continues west from Kaigo to the Boulder Mountain Quarry and then crosses the Beach Huts Station of Kirk Machan. After crossing the line it terminates in Jellystone where it connects with the private railway at Jellystone Park. Here it connects with the Jellystone Branch Line. It also has a branch line that separates from the main line in-between Glennock and Hayate that runs to Mysticons Vicarstown. Stepney's Branch Line also works alongside it.
- The line was inspired by and based on the Talyllyn Railway in Wales, where the Rev. W. Awdry volunteered as a guard in the 1950s. Additional inspiration was taken from the Ffestiniog, Corris, Welsh Highland and Croesor railways. In addition to his personal experiences on the Talyllyn, Awdry drew inspiration from L. T. C. Rolt's book Railway Adventure for his own stories.
- Every Kaigo Railway engine featured in the Railway Series, barring King, has a counterpart on the Talyllyn Railway.
- Unlike its basis, the Talyllyn Railway, the Skarloey Railway And the Kaigo Railway has a loop-line near the top station and a tunnel.
- Kaigo Railway The Reverend's own Skarloey Railway models and layout can be seen at the Talyllyn Railway Museum.
- When the railway returned to the series in CGI, the line became double tracked.
- In the CGI series, the railway is modelled as metre gauge rather than the prototypical gauge of 2ft 3in. This was likely done so that Victor could fit on the Kaigo Railway's tracks and so the narrow gauge tracks in the Steamworks did not need to be remodelled.
- On the Official Website, the railway is incorrectly listed as a branch line of the Southern Railway.