Despite producing railway axles for 70 years, there was never a railway connection to either of the Wortley forges, nor is there any evidence to suggest that there were any short Narrow Gauge lines for moving materials around. Coal, Iron and Finished were transported too and fro by horse drawn cart. The Main Line station called 'Wortley' was about a mile away from the forges (and at least as far away from Wortley Village). The main line railway ran close to Top Forge, but was on the other side of the river and high on an embankment. Thurgoland Station was closer, but that closed in 1847 after less than two years!
The two railway systems that are now at Top Forge have both been laid since the 1953 take over by the Sheffield Trades Historical Society (now South Yorkshire Industrial History Society).
The current Narrow Gauge Railway at Top Forge was obtained as a complete 'Train Set' from a water supply works at York. The line has never had any locomotive, the wagons being hand pushed. In its original location most of the track seems to have been temporary, being lifted in and out of Filter Beds as required. At Wortley the line that can be seen in place is permanent, with other short lengths being laid and lifted as required. Spare track panels are stored near the car park when not in use.
The story goes that rails and at least some of the wagons came from trench railways built by the Germans during the First World War, although the wagon design is not specifically military. This may or may not be the case, but thanks to the efforts of Mr Neil Clayton of Ripon, we have are confident that the wagons date from around 1890 to 1895
We have found out that the 'V Skip' wagons were originally built by Decauville, of Essonne, France. All four have since been given bearings and axle boxes from Hudsons of Leeds, but still retaining the original 400mm gauge.
The two 'U Skip' wagons are thought to be of 15 inch gauge but as they have wide wheels, they run on the plain track without any problems. They do not like the points as the wheels are closer together (back to back distance)
There are currently six wagons available for use, but only one of those retains its original side tipping body:-
No.1 - 400mm gauge - Short V Skip chassis with end brackets (carried an original body for several years recently)
No.2 - 400mm - Short V Skip wagon - currently has an original body (displayed at 'Narrow Gauge North' 2003)
No.3 - 400mm - Short V Skip chassis used as a flat wagon
No.4 - 400mm - Long V Skip chassis with a home made extended flat bed body
No.5 - 15 inch - U Skip chassis with cast wheels
No.6 - 15 inch - U skip chassis with pressed wheels
Wooden bodied wagon - Privately owned, in store
Collectors of wagon numbers should note that the numbers were allocated at random, by the writer, and are not necessarily carried on the wagons. Also that the wagon are not always found on the railway, but may be supporting an item that is in store.
The Railway is still used as a convenient way to move heavy items around the site and it is particularly useful in the Blacksmiths Shop were non of our rubber tyred vehicles can reach.
For a while the F.C.Hibbard 'Planet' locomotive 1776/1931, was at Top Forge. This Petrol Mechanical loco was a copy of the Motor Rail 'simplex' design. The locomotive is now at Abbey Pumping Station, in Leicester, but it had come from Sheffield Corporation Water.
The current permanent 400mm track layout connects the edge of the Back Field with the Foundry building (where the stationary steam engines are displayed) and includes a plate turntable within the Blacksmiths Shop that turns the line through 90°. A set of points about half way along the line gives access to the Smithy, where the line stops at the door without going inside. Unfortunately the section of track nearest to the level crossing with the road to the car park is prone to disappearing under the mud.
Built as an additional attraction, the miniature railway has been repeatedly extended by the Model Engineering group that now operates it.
Trains generally operate on the afternoons that the Forge is open to the public. Steam engines run on most of these days. Almost all trains are capable of carrying passengers both young and old.
The railway is dual gauge with 7.25 inch and 5 inch tracks, but passenger trains generally run on the wider gauge as large engines are needed to pull trains up the steep inclines.
Wortley Top Forge Model Engineers have their own Web Site.
The miniature railway is now in the form of a continuous 'dog bone' loop. A station has been built that is halfway along the line and can be served by trains in either direction. Thanks to the latest extension, the number of trains is no longer limited by single line working. This extension has been run down the centre of the 400mm Narrow Gauge line, with removable sections to allow loaded 400mm wagons a free passage when required.
It is hoped that a halt can be built close by the current forge museum buildings.
Most of the locomotives and rolling stock are privately owned and the stock being used changes from week to week, so no details have been included here.
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