|. Orford Park Zoo .|
Park Zoo - Alan Stephenson
For just over 100 years miniature railways have been developed simply for pleasure. During this period many have come and gone. One such railway that flourished and unfortunately met its demise was the miniature railway set within the grounds of Orford Park Zoological Gardens in Northern England.
The zoo was founded in 1928 by Sir John Walshingham-Jones Bart building upon his private collection of rare and exotic animals. In the days before so many theme parks and cheap foreign travel, such zoos and parks flourished with the visit of many thousands keen for an outing.
The zoo at Orford Park gradually expanded and improved its facilities during the 1930's, despite the world depression. Sir John, on visiting Belle vue Zoo in Manchester, was really keen on the idea of a miniature railway as an added attraction. The railway was born.
The line was built in 1932 to the unusual gauge of 21 inches (the same contractors as Blackpool Pleasure Beach were used). The railway proved to be very popular and was extended throughout its history. The zoo and line were temporary closed for the duration of the World War, opening again in the Spring of 1946. From then on and during the 1950's the railway was extended and acquired lots of new stock, including miniature 'Dining Cars' for serving popular teas and light luncheons.
Some locomotives were cheaply acquired from the company of Krupp in Germany that had been destined for pleasure parks. Others were built by local engineering works with suitable specialist facilities. The railway did not confine itself to carrying passengers; goods, especially animal feed and manure was transported using specially built wagons and vans.
The death of Sir John in 1969, rising costs and the crippling oil crisis of the early 1970's, forced the zoo to close its gates for good at the end of the 1973 season. The animals found new homes in zoos across the country. Efforts were made to save and relocate the railway to another site. Unfortunately plans failed and the track bed was ripped up in March 1974. Stock was mostly scrapped along track, although some fortunate items did manage to find their way to Blackpool, Scarborough and Woburn Safari Park. The whole site was redeveloped in 1975 as an exclusive housing estate. transport passengers around the Zoo, it grew and developed until its closure in 1973. Look out for working signals, colour lights, running water, working crossing gates and even a nodding giraffe.
Look out for working signals, colour lights, running water, working crossing gates and even a nodding giraffe.
Published by Chris MacKenzie for the
Virtual Narrow Gauge Model Railway Exhibition
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