The last Standard Gauge Quarry Train in the UK recalled

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The last Standard Gauge Quarry Train in the UK recalled 

Fifteen years ago, on the 25th February 2005, the last standard gauge quarry railway in the UK was operated at the Barrington Cement Quarry in Cambridgeshire for the last time.

The standard gauge quarry railway was built by Eastwoods Ltd in 1963 during a major Works expansion, which saw the addition of a new kiln. The quarry lines led from the Raw Plant to two separate quarry faces where chalk and clay were loaded into railway wagons by large Ruston Bucyrus 110RB excavators (also supplied new in 1963).

Two trains were in operation daily serving the two faces as a blend of minerals was required in the industrial cement making process. Upon return to the Raw Plant the wagons were unloaded through wagon tipplers before return empty to the quarry face. Two new Ruston and Hornsby 165 DE locomotives were used to haul the trains, although steam working was introduced for a short period in 1965 when Sentinel steam locos were transferred from another works at Tottenhoe.

Ruston diesel locomotives however regained total control of the quarry traffic in 1967 and a third quarry diesel locomotive built by Thomas Hill was obtained. On odd occasions the Barrington Light Railway locomotive covered quarry duties during loco failure /overhaul periods.

In the 1990’s The Ruston locomotives were joined by 3 similar Thos Hill built locos. The two original Rustons were sold and the colourful Thos Hill locos given names by the quarry staff notably Mr D (green – seen above heading a train of empties and below in detail), Stealth Bomber (black) and No.8 Billy Smart (Red, blue and yellow).

The quarry wagon fleet amounted to 48 wagons with four 8 wagon consists in use and the remainder spare or under repair and during the 1990’s a number of replacement wagons came into service being re-bodied standard BR Tippler wagons sourced through scrapyards. However, the availability of spares parts at scrapyards became critical as the older BR wagons steadily disappeared; the lack of spare parts was but one factor that led to the decision to modernise material movement within the quarry and close the quarry railway.

On the last day it fell to loco Mr D to haul the last quarry train in the UK. This effectively brought 200 years of industrial railway history to a close as the very first railways were introduced for the movement of minerals. After the last train the quarry tracks were quickly lifted as dump-trucks took over quarry material haulage. Modern hydraulic excavators also took over from the large Ruston Bucyrus 110RB dragline and face shovel, which were also retired as the quarry railway closed. The Quarry Company generously donated loco Mr D and two quarry wagons to the museum whilst loco No.8 was retained at the Works, being eventually plinthed near the Works Office as a lasting reminder of the quarry railway. The large quarry machines were cut up for scrap on-site but not before the driver’s cab of the dragline and the dragline bucket were saved and donated to the museum.

The Museum will have information and ex Barrington Quarry railway locomotive and wagon exhibits on display during its annual Cement Quarry Railway Day being held on Whitsun Bank Holiday Monday 25th May 2020. Visitors will also be able to inspect the progress being made with the restoration of Fowler diesel Ketton Cement No.1.