History

The Alderney Railway was constructed in the 1840s by the British Government to convey stone from the eastern end of the Island to build the breakwater and the Victorian forts. It was the first nationalised railway run by the Admiralty. It opened in 1847 and is one of the oldest lines in the British Isles. The breakwater was originally 1,430 metres long but a third of the length was lost in a severe storm shortly after construction was completed. The current length is 870 metres.

The first official passengers, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, were carried on the 8th August 1854. The Royal guests were conveyed in a horse drawn tender. The railway continued in its mineral carrying capacity for the remainder of the 19th century.

In the winter of 1911/1912 a train drawn by a Pecket locomotive “No 2” ran off the end of the Breakwater into the sea. Both driver and fireman survived and the locomotive was eventually salvaged and repaired. All locomotives working on the breakwater then had to carry life belts!

The Admiralty continued using the railway for foreshoring the breakwater but in 1921 it is thought the line and quarrying rights were leased to a company by the name of Brookes Limited. By this time Alderney was exporting crushed stone to be used as road aggregate. Brookes Limited (the largest employer on the Island) continued quarrying operations up until the German occupation in 1940. At this time virtually all of the Islanders were evacuated to England and Scotland. During this period the Germans did not carry out any maintenance on the breakwater and lifted quite a large section of the railway replacing it with a 60 cm gauge system.

After the war the Ministry of Defence relaid the railway back to standard gauge and used panels featuring concrete sleepers. The locomotive at that time was “Molly” a Sentinel vertical boiler 4 wheeled engine. Rolling stock came in the form of 24 “lend lease” side tipping wagons known as “Yankees.” The wagons were used to tip granite into the sea from the top of the breakwater to maintain the rubble mound that carries the breakwater superstructure.

In 1958 “Molly 2” arrived as a kit in the shape of a 4 wheeled diesel built by Ruston-Hornsby. She was assembled with additional slab weights to improve her adhesion qualities. Further details to be found in the “Motive Power” link.

By the mid 1970s the British Home Office who had taken over the responsibility of maintaining the railway and breakwater were approached to see if the line could be used as a passenger carrying venture. After several years of negotiations a lease was eventually granted and the first revenue earning passenger train consisting of a two car Wickham trolley set ran on the 5 March 1980. The Alderney Railway Society was under way. The Wickhams still run on a regular basis and details can be found in the “Motive Power” section.

In 1982 an 0-4- 0 Bagnall steam locomotive by the name of “J.T. Daly was acquired and ran with two ex Chatham Dockyard open wagons which had some light weight roofs to provide some protection for the passengers. JT Daly remained with the Alderney Railway until the early 1990s but due to its limited use and high cost of maintenance was subsequently sold to the Pallot Steam Museum in Jersey.

1985 saw the arrival of the Vulcan Drewry 0-4-0 diesel locomotive “Elizabeth” which after twenty years is still providing sterling service. Further details to be found in the “Motive Power” link.>

By 1987 it was decided to try and provide improved accommodation for our passengers and two ex London Underground 1938 tube cars were acquired from the North Downs Railway. These were drawn and propelled by Elizabeth and gave good service but by 2000 we became aware that both vehicles had unfortunately succumbed to corrosion caused by the salt sea air. They were returned to England and scrapped.

In 2001 the Alderney Railway acquired two replacement 1959 tube cars from London Underground numbered 1044 and 1045. These vehicles have aluminium bodies and hopefully will survive the salt air.