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DVD: NARROW GAUGE AT WORK Number 35
BOLTON FELL: THE END OF AN ERA.
DVD Running Time: 59 minutes.
SUMMARY:  

This new DVD is now available to order. See stills from the DVD below.

Since the mid 1950s peat has been commercially harvested from Bolton Fell moors situated close to the England-Scotland border, 10 miles north east of Carlisle.

Latterly the moors were under the management of William Sinclair Horticulture who made intensive use of a 2ft gauge railway to transport the peat off the moors for processing. Up to 5 trains could be working simultaneously on a 2 shift system.

Since the end of the 1990s, the company had regular discussions with pressure groups who were concerned about the damage being done to the environment by the draining of the moors and peat harvesting. Finally in 2010, driven by new legislation from Europe, the date of November 2013 was specified for all peat production to be ceased, and all stockpiles of peat to be removed from the moors by June 2014, causing the loss of approx 80 jobs.

So ended approximately 50 years of peat production on the moors, and significantly it was the last traditional narrow gauge railway operating in England. The peat industry in England had continued to support the use of such railways since the last brickworks/claypit railway had ceased in 2001, but one by one they have all now closed.

The DVD follows operations on the moors over a number of years starting in 1993, right through to track lifting duties in June 2014.


Price including postage to UK: 14.00, for Europe outside of UK: 15.00, and for the rest of the world: 16.00.  
 
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In the centre of the moors over the years, a small copse of trees had grown up by one of the junctions on the line and the driver is jumping back into the cab after changing the points.

MR 'Liddel' just leaving the tippler with a short train of 4 wagons.

 

In 1993 the maintenance siding contained 3 Lister locos in various bright liveries.

By June 2014, there was only a loop of track left on the west side of the moors and incoming trains had to wait for right of way from empties on their way out to the moors again.

The 2 wagon tippler was in use by 1993, but at this stage was open to the elements.

in 1999 one the Motor Rails is seen returning from the moors with a standard 6 wagon train.

A drivers eye view of the track ahead in 2013.

Full sunshine seemed rare over Bolton Fell, but when visited in 2013 the weather was fine.

Although the locos in regular use here were rebuilt 20/28hp Motor Rails, there had been a couple of 40s Motor Rails as well, but by 2014 both were reduced to a rusting cab and frames.

In recent years the siding at the works was used to store derelict locos, with an Alan Keef loco and 2 rebuilt Motor Rails present in 2013.

Inside the tippler in 2014 wagons were emptied two at a time and the loco driver would usually assist in cleaning out the last of the peat from the bottom of the wagons.

In 2013, peat at the south of the moors was being harvested and the temporary line had been laid alongside the stockpiles for loading into the wagons.

In June 2014 with just one week to closure 5 locos were in use bringing in peat from the south west of the site and using the baloon loop at the works for the return journey.

The Motor Rail 'Gelt' in charge of an empty train travelling south to the last remaining stockpile.

The railway ceased operating by the middle of June 2014, and immediately demolition gangs were put to work taking up the trackwork and clearing the moors.

Gelt was one of 2 locos continuing in use for the demolition work, carrying the oxyacetaline torches used to cut off the bolts from the fishplates. however tracked vehicles were used to haul the sleepers and rail panels back to the works.

 

Steve Thomason 2014

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