A Miniature Railway Locomotive History

4-6-0 10¼" Gauge Steam Locomotive

Built: G & S Light Engineering Company Limited/Twining Models Limited 1939.
Identities: No.3 / No.1944 "Wingland Grange" / No.2943 "Hampton Court"


The history of miniature railways can be traced through individual railways or through the locomotives, which operated on them. Due to their size, miniature railway locomotives are easily transportable and some have been very nomadic during their life! They also have a habit of apparently disappearing, only to be rediscovered some years later in a completely different location. Re-numberings and re-namings, at the whim of the various owners, also present the researcher with problems. Here, we follow the life story of one particular 10¼" gauge steam locomotive. Even for miniature railway locomotives, this engine has been very well travelled and has passed through a good number of owners, seeing two major rebuilds.

Dudley Zoo Railway (1939 - 1944) [No.3]

Our locomotive was originally constructed for the Dudley Zoo Railway in the West Midlands. Dudley Zoological Society was formed in 1935 by the Earl of Dudley; Ernest Marsh, a director of Marsh & Baxter, local meat producers; and Captain Frank Cooper, a director of the Oxfordshire jams and preserves manufacturers. Dudley Zoo opened on Thursday 6th May 1937, with almost the entire animal stock coming from Captain Cooper's Oxford Zoo. The Dudley Zoo Railway opened on Whit Monday, 6th June 1938 as a 10¼" gauge line. Motive power was provided by a pair of 4-4-2 freelance locomotives designed by J N Maskelyne and built by G & S Light Engineering Company Limited. This company had been formed by Herbert Trevor Guest and Raymond Saunders specifically to build these locomotives.

However, it was found the 1 in 50 gradient did not suit the 4-4-2s, especially in wet weather and construction of a pair of 4-6-0s was started by G & S Light Engineering Company Limited, probably in autumn 1938. These were built to resemble a GWR "Saint", but with outside valve gear. Progress was slow, due to the pressure of other work, so the first of the locomotives was completed by Twining Models Limited of Pike Lane, Northampton. It was numbered 3, but remained un-named. The new locomotive went into service in the summer of 1939 - the Northampton Independent of 25th August 1939 referring to its "recent" arrival on the railway. Due to the Second World War the other locomotive remained unfinished. After 1941, steam power was only used at holiday times, but No.3 was still in service on the railway in 1943. Following the 1944 season, due to the railway's popularity, it was decided to change to 15" gauge. This meant the 10¼" gauge equipment would become redundant and the three steam locomotives were made available for sale - the service being maintained by petrol locomotives until the line was regauged over the winter of 1946/1947.

Ernest Dove (1944 - 1948) [No.1944]

Therefore, No.3 was sold to Ernest Dove, along with the chassis of its uncompleted sister and a number of coaches. Ernest Dove renumbered the locomotive No.1944, indicating he acquired it sometime in 1944 - probably towards the end of the year. Born in Nottingham, by trade, Ernest Dove was a partner in a long established firm of road haulage contractors. Model railway engineering seems to have been his passion, which he first put to use during the Second World War, displaying his 7¼" gauge locomotives in aid of war charities. He later undertook extensive tours around the North of England and Scotland with one (1945) or two (1946-1951) 10¼" gauge steam locomotives. These ran on around 200 yards of temporary track and were accompanied with a marquee in which he exhibited his own models and locomotives. The railway and exhibition typically stayed in each town for 1 to 3 weeks. Nothing had been attempted before, or since, on this scale. As well as the tours, he went on to become involved in establishing miniature railways in the North East, North West of England and North Wales.

In his publicity, Ernest Dove referred to No.1944 as a GWR "Grange" class locomotive, or simply "The Great Western". He also claimed to have built the locomotive! The number was carried on the cab sides, but no nameplate was fitted. The tender sides were lettered "Great Western". Some of the newspaper reports of the tours also referred to it as the "Cheltenham Flyer" or a "Hall" class engine. Despite Ernest Dove only owning the locomotive for a short time, it had a hard working life with him. His first use of No.1944 seems to have been at Easter 1945 on a temporary line alongside the River Trent in Nottingham at Lover's Walk. He then used the locomotive throughout his tours from 1945 to 1947, with the final run being at Carlisle in September 1947. For the 1945 tour No.1944 ran on its own, but for the 1946 and 1947 tours it ran alongside, and was somewhat over shadowed by, Ernest Dove's new LMSR 4-6-2 "Coronation" locomotive.

GWR 'Grange' Class - 1944
Ernest Dove produced a rather nice booklet featuring his locomotives (although he didn't build 1944 of course!). He also rather made expansive claims - note the "Speed attained: 37 miles per hour" and the July 1945 "record for the engine". However, 1944 served him very well and was worked hard to raise money for his charities. (Author's Collection)

In the course of the tours, No.1944 ran at the following locations. 1945 tour: Nottingham Lover's Walk (31st March - 3rd April), Skegness Cricket Ground (19th - 26th May), Nottingham Victoria Embankment (2nd - 9th June), Sheffield Hillsbrough Park (14th - 23rd June), Blaby Social Centre Field (7th - 14th July), Nottingham Highfields Park (21st July), Nottingham Wollaton Park (4th - 7th August), Eastwood Mansfield Road Recreation Ground (9th - 18th August), Sheffield Hillsbrough Park (1st - 15th September). 1946 tour: Nottingham Victoria Embankment (20th - 27th April), Mansfield Chesterfield Road Recreation Ground (24th - 29th June), Ayr Low Green (13th - 31st July), Skegness Beach (10th - 26th August), Kendal Abbot Hall Park (14th - 21st September), Harrogate The Stray (25th - 28th September), Nottingham Forest Recreation Ground (3rd - 5th October). 1947 tour: Prestwick Central Esplanade (7th June - 16th August), Carlisle Bitts Park (30th August - 13th September). For his 1948 tour, Ernest Dove had completed a brand new locomotive to accompany "Coronation". This was the American 4-6-4 "Belle of New York" and No.1944 became surplus to his requirements. Therefore, Ernest Dove sold the locomotive to William Botterill. This seems likely to have been in spring 1948, before the start of that year's tour in May.

Ernest Dove Model
Despite the title, this locomotive was not built by Ernest Dove! This view shows it on one of the tour lines - thought to be at Mansfield in 1946. Note the tender of "Coronation" just visible on the extreme left and the unusual track. The driver is Tommy Pallister. The photograph has had the attentions of a touch-up artist, who appears to have added a cap on Tommy's head! The wording on top of the tender states "Ernest Dove's Models". (Author's Collection)

William Botterill (1948 - 1958) [1944 "Wingland Grange"]

Prior to the Second World War, William Botterill was a showman. During the war he became a model dealer and later operated a number of miniature railways in the period following the war. In spring 1948, he formed a company called "Botterill's Miniature Railways Limited". At different times he operated from addresses in Canvey Island, London SE17, Peterborough and Tunbridge Wells. The Company was later dissolved and, unfortunately, the records destroyed. During the 1948 & 1949 seasons Botterill's Miniature Railways Limited operated a temporary railway in Wellington Pier Gardens in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk for the News Chronicle. No.1944 was employed on this line, which seems to have run between Whitsun and September.

Following its use at Wellington Pier Gardens in the summer of 1949, William Botterill moved the locomotive to work on his line at Cleethorpes in Lincolnshire. The Cleethorpes Miniature Railway opened on Saturday 17th July 1948, being operated by Botterill's Miniature Railways Limited. It ran for 300 yards from behind the Bathing Pool (TA315079) to the northern end of the Boating Lake, near the Paddling Pool (TA316077). The line had some sharp curves so, for the next season, Botterill requested a new site from the Cleethorpes Borough Council slightly further south. This new line opened on Saturday 28th May 1949, running on the seaward side of the Boating Lake, close to the sand dunes. It was some 700 yards in length and unusually sported double track. The station at the northern end ("Cleethorpes Town") was close to the Paddling Pool at TA316077, with a station at the southern end ("Thrunscoe") at the south end of the Boating Lake at TA320073. Botterill used a number of different locomotives between 1949 and 1953 during the time he held the concession for the railway, with up to four locomotives in steam on Sundays. No.1944 was one of these (probably arriving in spring 1950). From the 1954 season the line was taken over by Arthur Clethro of Kingston upon Hull and he replaced steam motive power with battery electric locomotives - reopening the line on Good Friday, 16th April 1954. Therefore at the end of the 1953 season Botterill moved No.1944 away from Cleethorpes.

Wellington Pier Gardens, Great Yarmouth
Here we see 1944 at work in Wellington Pier Gardens in Great Yarmouth, while in the ownership of William Botterill. This line was sponsored by the News Chronicle - note the wording on the coaches and loco headboard, which reads "News Chronicle Special". The driver appears to be rolling a cigarette! (Author's Collection)
Wellington Pier Gardens, postcard
Another view of the News Chronicle railway in Wellington Pier Gardens in Great Yarmouth. Note the surrounding wonderful seaside architecture. (Postcard, Author's Collection)

In June 1954 Botterill's Miniature Railways Limited opened a new railway behind the then new South Promenade in the West Norfolk seaside resort of Hunstanton. Judging by the Minutes of Hunstanton Urban District Council this line opened on Whit Saturday 5th June 1954 - although the local press ignored the event. It was located at TF668401, immediately south of the Amusement Park. Botterill moved No.1944 to Hunstanton to operate the new railway. In October 1954 the Council granted Botterill's a further three years concession for the railway and also suggested the appearance of the "tunnel and engine sheds needs improving". In October 1955 Botterill's requested permission to transfer the agreement to Mr W H Brooke - the Managing Director of the Hunstanton Pier Company, which had its own miniature railway at this time. However, this did not take place. No.1944 appears to have run on the railway until the end of the 1956 season. A typed note in the Kerr's Miniature Railway archive (dated stamped 9th November 1956) from Botterill's Miniature Railways Limited, giving "Brief Details of the Margate Miniature Railway" records "A Pacific Engine in use 1956 season" and adds "Reserve Engine at Peterborough, Gt Western Engine tested and ready for use if required". This obviously refers to No.1944. Botterill's sold the railway at Hunstanton, with the remaining year's concession, to William H Nunn (lessee of the Amusement Park) in November 1956. Eric Hannan observed No.1944 on 4th February 1957 in store at North Street in Peterborough. He recorded it as "Ex No.3 Wingland Grange. Reboilered by Savage Kings Lynn circa 1953 - ex Hunstanton Promenade 1956" (Wingland Grange was Botterill's home at Nassington near Peterborough). Back at Hunstanton, the railway ran for just one more season and was put up for sale by William Nunn in September 1957. He advertised the railway in the 7th September 1957 edition of The World's Fair. The advert stated the locomotive was a "Royal Scot Steam engine [with] new copper tubes this season" and gave the length of track as 800ft with a "station and other equipment". It could be seen "running this weekend". The reason for the sale was that the Council wanted the land for some "Day Chalets" and today caravans cover the site.

South Promenade, Hunstanton
A very rare view of Botterill's short-lived line behind the South Promenade at Hunstanton in Norfolk. By this time our locomotive is looking a little car worn. Note the handrails along the boiler are missing. (Author's Collection, courtesy the Kerr Archive)

To return to No.1944, which as already mentioned was in store at North Street, Peterborough by February 1957. The locomotive was first advertised for sale in The World's Fair of 17th November 1956 under the heading "Closing Down". It was again advertised in The World's Fair of 20th April 1957 and in the Model Engineer of 30th May 1957, from auctioneers Enderby Handson of 26 North Street, Peterborough ("At a Bargain price to clear"). This was also the Registered Office of Botterill's Miniature Railways Limited - an "E Handson" being one of its Directors. It was not sold and similar adverts appeared in The World's Fair of 7th September 1957 & 16th November 1957 ("At bargain price of £200) and in the Model Engineer of 30th January 1958, headed "Closing Down". Again, it seems there were no takers and yet another advert appeared in the Model Engineer of 6th March 1958 - this time stating "Company closing down", marking the end of Botterill's Miniature Railways Limited.

Hastings Miniature Railway (1958 - 1972) [2943 "Hampton Court"]

Towards the end of 1958 the locomotive was finally sold by Enderby Handson, being acquired by Jim Hughes for the Hastings Miniature Railway - its purchase ("this winter") being reported in the Model Engineer of 25th December 1958. This railway, located at Rock-a-Nore on the seafront in Hastings, Sussex, had opened on Whit Saturday, 15th May 1948. Here No.1944 was completely rebuilt by Jim Hughes. Drawings dated 1911 were obtained from Swindon Works to assist in the work - 70% of the old parts were scrapped and a complete set of new valve gear fitted. The locomotive emerged numbered 2943 and correctly named "Hampton Court" after the GWR "Saint" class locomotive of that number. Interestingly, the Model Engineer of 25th December 1958 reported the locomotive had that number and name on arrival, so one presumes the choice had been made as soon as the purchase had been made - the fact that Ian Allan Limited, who had an interest in the railway, had their head office in Hampton Court is probably not coincidental! Anyway, the rebuilt locomotive went into service on the railway in August 1959 and was highly successful. The railway was extended for the 1960 season to its present length of 600 yards and it became very popular. However, by the 1971 season "Hampton Court" was little used and was put up for sale towards the end of 1972. It was advertised for sale by collector and Christie's consultant Jonathan Minns in the 5th January & 2nd February 1973 issues of the Model Engineer.

Walter Harper & Mark Bamford (1974 - 1981) [2943 "Hampton Court"]

In about 1974 the locomotive was sold to Walter Harper who owned Oakhill Manor near Shepton Mallet in Somerset and who was also a collector of miniature railway locomotives and models. He opened a railway there on Saturday 27th May 1978, but by this time "Hampton Court" was not serviceable and had been sold to Mark Bamford at Ashbourne, Derbyshire. In 1981 he in turn sold the locomotive to John Gretton at Stapleford Park in Leicestershire.

Stapleford Park Miniature Railway (1981 onwards) [2943 "Hampton Court"]

The Stapleford Park Miniature Railway had first opened on Sunday 18th May 1958, but sadly closed at the end of the 1982 season following the death in March 1982 of Lord Gretton, the railway's founder and John's father. Part of the railway was removed, but the locomotives remained in store and John Gretton decided to have "Hampton Court" overhauled. It was therefore sent to Neil Simkins at Ashby-de-la-Zouch in Leicestershire in late 1986. Here, the locomotive was given another full overhaul and part rebuild. A new boiler and driving wheels were obtained and a new tender built. Unfortunately, John Gretton did not see the completion of this work, as he passed away on 4th April 1989. A fully restored "Hampton Court" was then outshopped from Neil Simkins' workshop on 8th September 1990 ready to return to Stapleford. By the early 1990s moves were being made to restore the railway to life. Following some private steamings in 1992, the first public open day was held on Saturday 26th August 1995. Open days have continued since then and during these "Hampton Court" has been once again hauling passenger trains, although in very different surroundings to Hastings seafront. The 1¼ mile long line, featuring a tunnel has some real gradients to test the locomotive! It is hoped that after all its wanderings the locomotive has found a permanent home at Stapleford.

Stapleford Miniature Railway
Amazingly, this is same locomotive - two major rebuilds later! Now numbered 2943, here we see "Hampton Court" at its current home on the Stapleford Miniature Railway in Leicestershire. The most noticeable changes are the authentic valve gear, along with a new cab and tender. It is turned out in smart GWR livery. (The late N.R Knight. 16/9/95)

So, in summary for the record, our locomotive ran at the following locations: Dudley Zoo, Nottingham (Lover's Walk), Skegness (Cricket Ground), Nottingham (Victoria Embankment), Sheffield (Hillsbrough Park), Blaby (Social Centre Field), Nottingham (Highfields Park), Nottingham (Wollaton Park), Eastwood (Mansfield Road Recreation Ground), Mansfield (Chesterfield Road Recreation Ground), Ayr (Low Green), Skegness (Beach), Kendal (Abbot Hall Park), Harrogate (The Stray), Nottingham (Forest Recreation Ground) Prestwick (Central Esplanade), Carlisle (Bitts Park), Great Yarmouth (Wellington Pier Gardens), Cleethorpes (Boating Lake), Hunstanton (South Promenade), Hastings (Rock-a-Nore) & Stapleford (Park). In addition it visited: Peterborough, Shepton Mallet, Ashbourne & Ashby-de-la-Zouch. One is left to wonder if this is a record?

© Peter Scott
June 2020
(Dudley Zoo dates updated August 2022)
(Hunstanton opening date amended April 2023)