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The Dark Railway
  • Location: County of Kent, England, United Kingdom
  • Type: Private Railway
  • Operator: Dark Railway Ltd.
  • Constructed: 1891 - 1895
  • Opened: 1893
  • Current Stations: 9
  • Length of Main Running Line: 11 3/4 Miles (Galen Junction - Merecombe)
  • Length of Branch Lines: 1 3/4 Miles (Merecombe Goods Branch), 1 1/4 Miles (Soma Branch)

The Dark Railway (commonly abbreviated to "The DR") is a privately owned and operated railway located in Kent, England.

History Edit

The Early YearsEdit

The Dark Railway was first suggested in 1890, by the extremely wealthy Lord Theodore Dark, who happened to own the land on which the Railway would eventually run. 

The reason behind this suggestion was that a new quarry had recently opened north-east of the village of Axley, and a meeting had taken place in the town hall to determine how best to transport the minerals from the quarry to the village and elsewhere, and to bring workers up to the quarry.

Lord Dark suggested that a single track railway be built from the village, up the valley, and into the Quarry. At the same time, another single track line would be built south, over Galen Moor, and on to connect with the South Eastern Railway's Market Leyborough to Barbourne secondary routes.

This plan was agreed, and construction began in early 1891, beginning with laying of the line at Axley, whilst blasting took place in the valley to make way for the line. Whilst this section was being built, the southern extension to the mainline was also begun. At this time, the railway was simply known as the "Axley Mineral Railway".

To get to the quarry, the new line had to be built on a steep, curving gradient, looping aound a flooded mine and into the hilly terrain, which was (and still is) plentiful in rock, ballast and other minerals. A tunnel was suggested at first, but due to the use of steam traction, Lord Dark decided to excavate an open route around the mine, avoiding the use of an even steeper bridge over it.

Once the line had been built, a yard and station was built at the quarry. Over time, a small village grew in the hill above the quarry, which became formally known as "Soma", after the then-owners of the quarry, "Soma Enterprises".

The southern extension to the mainline neared completion at the end of 1892, terminating at a site on the edge of the moorlands called "Galen Junction". Here, a three platform station was built, with two for the mainline, and one bay platform for the Axley Mineral Railway. An extensive yard complex was constructed in anticipation of freight traffic, as well as an engine shed for stabling engines.

During this time, other local villages within Lord Dark's vast estate were interested in being connected via the railway, including the villages of Walschurch and Upway, and the large city of Merecombe, which quckly became the target of the railway, which at this point had changed it's operating name to "Dark Railway". Completely financed by Lord Dark, work began on building the line north towards Walschurch in 1892.

It was during this year that Lord Dark gave serious consideration into buying locomotives to work on the railway. As the quarry at Soma was desperately needing shunting engines, Lord Dark contacted locomotive builders Hawthorn Leslie, with an order for two identical saddle tanks. To fill in for other services, Lord Dark intended to borrow engines from the nearby South Eastern Railway and the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway.

Once the railway reached the outskirts of Walschurch in August 1892, a halt was built on the southern skirt of Lake Walschurch, simply called "Lake", which served a small crop of cottages by the lakeside. This was the temporary terminus whilst Walschurch Viaduct was built over the lake, which would eventually lead the railway to the edge of the village.

Walschurch soon gained it's main station, complete with goods yard for the nearby farm, where animals could be exported to other places around the country with relative ease. Construction now turned to the extension towards Merecombe. Though Lord Dark would have preferred to build directly north east to reach the big city, the gradient would have been very severe, and he was committed to connect with the viillage of Upway, which lay to the north west of Walschurch.

This turned out to be a slightly better arrangement, as the gradients, whilst still severe, were much more manageable than the originally proposed route. Upway village was reached in March 1893, where construction now began to head north west towards Merecombe up the formidable Upway Bank, a mile long incline with an average gradient of 1in57.

An island platform was built in a rocky cutting just outside of the city of Merecombe at the top of the bank, then named "Merecombe Moor". A small village grew around the platform, which, a few years later in 1897, was renamed "Manston Fore" at the request of the villagers.

Trouble began at Merecombe once this new station had been built. A large industrial estate had been established to the west of the city centre in an area of lowland that was difficult to access. These businesses had backed the railway greatly when it was announced to be targeting Merecombe as a potential terminus, as they assumed that the railway would supply an access route for the various businesses to the rest of the country.

When they discovered that the railway was being terminated at a large station near the city centre, these businesses and companies attempted to boycott the railway, despite no formal agreements being made to supply a railway to the industrial estate. Due to public pressure, however, Lord Dark commissioned a branchline to be built from Manston Fore (then "Merecombe Moor Station") in 1894, which runs past the city's gasworks and old town, through a steep tunnel and into the Industrial Estate. This branchline finally reached the estate in 1895, thus, construction of the Dark Railway was completed.

In August 1893, Hawthorn Leslie delivered the railway's first company owned locomotives, these being 12 inch cylinder 0-4-0 saddle tanks. The two engines recieved the running numbers 1 & 2, and were initianlly painted sky blue. It was in this month that the railway finally began operating, with Nos 1 & 2 operating the very first train over the line.

Unfortunately, the tank engines were unable to ascent Upway Bank, and had to be rescued by an LB&SCR Stroudley D1 class side tank, which luckily had been stabled at the Junction that day. After this incident, the two tank engines were confined to Soma Quarry, where they proved masters of their work.

With the railway now complete, Lord Dark began running freight and passenger services over the route using borrowed engines, including, among others, D1, B2 and C2 class engines from the LB&SCR, and even a South East & Chapham Railway C Class goods engine, which was later purchased, then sold again seven years later. Lord Dark later purchased a redundant LB&SCR A1 Class named "Cheapside", which was being sold on the cheap side due to faulty bearings. This engine lasted in service for four months, before being wrecked beyond repair in a collision at Galen Junction in May 1913.

World War IEdit

During the first world war (1914-1918), the Dark Railway remained in private hands, but was still used to assist with the war effort. Various trains of rations, ammunition and even war vehicles were transported over the railway, with most originating from the Industrial Estate, which became essential to the surrounding area.

The line was protected by a constant military presence, and troop training was carried out in the vast forests around Upway and Merecombe, whilst Soma Quarry continued to churn out vast trains of ballast and rock, which was being used to maintain other railways in the area which were in the front line of action.

Once the war had ended, the military presence died away, and Lord Dark was left to pick up the pieces of his railway.

Between the WarsEdit

In 1920, Lord Dark and his team had managed to return the railway to a decent operational state, through hard work and plenty of carefully timed tea breaks. It was in 1921 that Theodore Dark met his future wife, Patricia Streggalarde, whilst cursing at Walschurch station because he had stubbed his toe. Patricia helped him to a seat and joked with him about his toe, thus beginning their relationship.

In 1921, He and Patricia married, with Patricia becoming Lady Patricia Dark. Just one year later, she gave birth to their only son, Otthaniel Dark, who would later take ownership of the railway. Tragically, in 1930, Lady Patricia passed away after a bout of illness, leaving Lord Dark to struggle to raise his son alone and run a railway.

1923 brought about the "grouping" of Britain's railways, forming the London, Midland & Scottish Railway, the London and North Eastern Railway and the Southern Railway (the fourth, the Great Western Railway, retained it's former title). Due to it's geographical location, the Dark Railway was a target for absorbtion into the Southern Railway, but, in the end, the Dark Railway remained in private hands thanks in no small part to Lord Dark's determination, skilled arguments, finance and intimidating lawyers.

During 1929, Lord Dark was giving serious consideration to extending part of the railway. The plan involved extending the Industrial Branch at Merecombe further west, as several towns and villages beyond were without a decent public transport link to London. Work began on surveying the route to the west, and, despite some trackwork being laid, the great depression of the 1930's put paid to this extension, with only half a mile of track actually being built (which was later ripped up during WWII to supply steel for the war effort).

Another extension plan involved building another branch off the goods branch near Manston Fore in the late 1930's, to eventually serve R.A.F. Merecombe on the outskirts of the city for the upcoming war. Due to the length of time this took to plan, only part of this extension was built, with the odd bits of trackwork remaining in place until 1968, when it was finally cleared away along with the rest of the branchline after the collapse of Gasworks Tunnel.

Lord Dark was still hiring locomotives from the Southern Railway during this time, thanks to his close friendship with Richard Maunsell and Herbert Walker. Because of this, the railway began turning and handsome profit, which Lord Dark kept locked away in case of emergencies, as his own finances were then keeping the railway in the green.

1933 saw the purchase of the railway's most unusual steam locomotive. To tackle heavy freight on the railway, Lord Dark requested that Beyer Peacock build him a powerful tender locomotive. Beyer Peacock responded with a four cylinder compound 4-8-2 with a high pressure boiler working at 300psi. The engine, nicknamed "Big Bob" by railway staff, was put to work hauling the heaviest trains over the line, and did well.

Unfortunately, it was not without it's problems. Spare parts took time to find, and the high pressure boiler and compounding was found to be overpowered and overly complicated. Therefore, the engine was rebuilt at Beyer Peacock in 1934 as a simple expansion, three cylindered locomotive with a conventional operating pressure of 225psi. In this form, she lasted until the end of the war in 1946, when the locomotive was scrapped.

In January 1938, Lord Dark named the line's original tank engine twins, after himself (No 1 "Theo") and his son (No 2 "Otto"). Sadly, whilst waiting for a train at Walschurch in March of that year, Lord Dark suffered a major heart attack in the presence of his son, who whisked him to the nearest hospital as quickly as he could. Unfortunately, Lord Dark passed away the next evening, with his son by his side, at Royal Merecombe Hospital.

World War IIEdit

Despite his loss, Otthaniel Dark was determined to run his railway. The board of directors, who were very good friends of Lord Dark's, allowed Otto to take over the running of the railway, despite his age, as they trusted his decisions and maturity. They even dealt with the government for him, so that they would be none the wiser that a 16 year old boy was actually running a fully fledged railway system!

During the war years, the railway fell into virtual disrepair, with heavy use by the goverment and military. Troop trains, ration trains and even the occaisional ammunitions train from Darpor Engineering kept the railway operating, but at the cost of limited passenger services.

After the War/NationalisationEdit

The railway took slightly longer to recover from the second World War, with regular services not resuming until early 1947.

Due to a host of complicated reasons, the Dark Railway was not absorbed into British Railways in 1948, remaining a private railway thanks to Mr Dark's wealth, social status, resourcefullness and extremely efficient lawyers. He maintaned a good relationship with British Raiilways, however, and managed to borrow and purchase locomotives and stock from them easily and efficiently.

During the 1950's and 1960's, Mr Dark purchased several new locomotives from British Railways, many of which still remain in the Railway's ownership into the modern day. There have been several ups and downs during this period, with money going missing, odd accidents and incidents occurring, and even several breakthroughs regarding the overall future of the railway, such as the successfull doubling of the entire mainline in 1968.

In September 1968, the tunnel alongside Merecombe Gasworks leading to the Industrial Estate collapsed following a derailment inside. This led to the destruction of the Gasworks, and because of the rail link to the Industrial Estate now being severed, the goods branch closed and the trackwork was ripped up. In addition to this, passenger services to Galen Junction by British Railways were ceased and the station was closed, though the line was retained for goods traffic. In late 1969, the shed complex at Galen Junction was lost in a fire started in a deliberate attack, along with three of the line's locomotives. It was around this time that the Dark Railway Preservation Society was set up to look after the railway. In early 1970, British Railways decided to abandon the connection between Galen Junction and the city of Colhapper, prompting Mr. Dark to step in and purchase the line, allowing the railway to finally start operating trains to Colhapper later that year.

Diesel Strike of 1972Edit

In 1972 the Diesels of the Dark Railway, DRPS, and even the Caracus Smash Ltd electric shunter moved to Colhapper MPD and staged a strike (very fitting of the 70s). The reasoning behind the strike was repeated verbal abuse and even vandalism (D4052 was graffitied overnight when at the Colhapper Goods shed) from multiple passengers who wanted to travel behind steam locomotives only, a result of a false marketing campaign saying the DR was a pure steam railway. This was rectified after a few weeks and the individuals responsible for vandalism were banned from the railway. The next weekend a Diesel gala was held, surprisingly being a big hit, due to the railway having the only operating western region hydraulics Class 35 D7070 “Andy” and Class 52 D1017 Western Warrior, a formerly turbo charged Class 40 D208 “Turbo” (not native to the Southern Region, non-operation), and the prototype class 47, Raymond.

Stations Edit

Noteable People Edit

Appearances Edit

The Dark Railway Series Edit

As the setting of the series, the Dark Railway appears in almost every episode. The exceptions are:

Episodes:

Specials:

Trivia Edit

  • The Dark Railway was originally built by DarkDJ in 2010, as part of UKTrainSim's "Route Building Challenge 2". This version of the route introduced us to Galen Junction, Axley, Walschurch and Soma, and was set in the modern day. It was very different to how the railway now looks in it's current state.
  • The version of the route used in the series is actually "Dark Railway 1960's", an extended and backdated version of the original route with many alterations to suit the new time period. This is now being reverse-modernised as the series progresses.
  • The route is constantly being updated in line with the series. For example, in Series 5, it is seen that part of the railway is being "doubled", so the route is being modified to include the double track (and associated infrastructure) between episodes being filmed.
  • Certain names of locations on the route are taken from the creator's personal interests and personal life. For example, "Soma" is named after a song/track by "deadmau5", one of the route author's favourite artists. "Galen Junction" is named after an old friend of the creator's, "Upway" is a play on "Upwey" in Dorset and is "on the way up" to Manston Fore, and "Merecombe" is a portmanteau of "Tangmere" and "Boscombe", the former another favourite engine of the creator, and the latter a location near where the creator lives.
  • Despite being set in Kent, the railway often appears to be located elsewhere, due to the pine forests, steep inclines, rocky cuttings and bleakness.
  • The original name for "Manston Fore" was "Merecombe Moor", incidentally, both names rhyme and have the same number of syllables.
  • "Gasworks Tunnel", on the Merecombe Goods Branch, is named after the famous Gasworks Tunnel at Kings Cross. It is aso the location of the steepest incline on the railway, at 1in36.
  • "Upway Bank" is just over a mile long, and runs at a gradient of 1in57, the longest continuous gradient on the railway.
  • "Walschurch" is a play on the word "Walschaerts", a type of valve gear often seen on british steam engines. Also, despite being a tiny village, an impressive Cathedral is located there.
Locations on The Dark Railway
Stations
ColhapperGalen JunctionAxleyLake (closed)WalschurchUpwayManston ForeMerecombeSomaMerecombe Gasworks (closed)Merecombe Industrial Estate (closed)
Motive Power Depots
Colhapper ShedGalen Junction Shed (closed)Merecombe Shed
Points of Interest
Galen Junction Railway MuseumCaracus Smash LtdWalschurch ViaductUpway BankGasworks Tunnel Incline (closed)
Locomotives of The Dark Railway
Current locomotives
Theo and Otto257 SquadronSir Eustace MissendenDaveBrianEddieLenoAbominationHannahEdSidCaracus SmashFiveBarryDe la TripColossus
RyanRaymondAllanTurboMr. BWarriorAndy
Buzz
Former locomotives
CheapsideDark Railway No 1202JamesColinRepulse
OwenCammer