Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Book review: Groudle Glen Railway & Sea Lion Rocks Tea Rooms

Groudle Glen Railway BookletRegular readers will know of my obsession with the Groudle Glen Railway and so it will come as no surprise that as soon as this little booklet arrived I read it from cover to cover immediately. And a very good read it is too.

The GGR is unusual in many ways. Firstly it has never been any real use. Instead it was an amusement ride to connect visitors with the end of the walk through the glen and a small zoo. The glen itself was an early version of Alton Towers and this booklet explains some of this history.

Second, the line died after the 1962 season and almost completely disappeared. In the booklet by page 13 you are looking at a scene of complete dereliction. Since then the whole thing has been rebuilt and now goes from strength to strength. Despite being a fan I hadn't appreciated just how much work had needed to be carried out. Of course I'd spotted the old line along the cliffs - somewhat closer to the edge than the current alignment - but what you see now owes an awful lot to the Doddignton Railway which was bought lock, stock and barrel in 1982 to provide materials for the restoration.

Third, it goes up a hill to reach the sea. You can't say that very often.

Nowadays the line is restored and still uses one of the original engines and replica of another. A third lives in the south of England but has paid visits back to its home.

A5 sized, the booklet covers all of this in 45 pages. 50 images in colour and B&W take you through the entire history up to and including this year. Reproduction quality is excellent especially of the very early views which can be a bit fuzzy if not done well.

What strikes me more than anything is how much the trees have grown around the main station. Early postcard views show a clear sky, something you don't get nowadays ! This is in keeping though as apparently many of these were planted by the original owner to make the place leafy and green for visitors. I wonder what he'd think if he could see it now.

Anyway, there is no excuse. If you like unusual railways or narrow gauge of just history, this booklet is £3.50 very well spent. As well as providing a pleasant read, you get to support the line too.

Buy the booklet here.

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