Welcome to the official page for the East Dorset & West Hants Railway (ED&WHR)
By 2005 rapid expansion led the railway to appear as below, running analogue steam and diesel trains from all eras between out main station of Beeching’s Axe; and the secondary ‘halt’, Gresley St Kylie; plus also some mechanical ‘clockwork’ types.
In those days many trains and rolling stock were run – in reality too many to comfortably accommmodate; and the railway found it’s costs spiral accordingly – beyond the capacity of the sisters’ ‘Ye Olde Railway Tea Rooms’ to fund.
Sadly, by 2010, financial and other contraints had led to decline, disuse and dereliction. The local porridge mines had been exhausted by 2009, meaning decling revenue. In the end the official receiver deemed massive cutbacks – the future of the line in doubt – and the selling off of most stock, buildings and assets as ‘enforced fiscal retrenchment’.
However, the ED&WR’s future was saved by the advent of DCC in 2009, enabling (to quote the official report) ‘more to be done with less’. Rationalisation led to ‘restructuring’ as a preserved branch, modelled upon the famous ‘Swanage Railway’ in the below general configuration, though sadly tourist numbers remained disappointing, and the railway went into mothballs in 2011.
In 2017, however, the ED&WHR received a new injection of interest. The Mitchell sisters’ famous tea rooms remained; by now also producing a range of exotic cocktails and functioning as ‘drive-thu discotheque’ ‘Buffers’. The real renaissance began when philanthrapist and rail enthusiast Ray McHellgit took a controlling interest. With his injection of cash from his world-wide internet empire the railway system was dusted off and reinstated from mothballing. Her Grace, HRH The Duchess of Southbourne, graciously agreed to become patron, and celebrity endorsements followed from top footballer Ian ‘Chopper’ Jones, ‘reality TV’ stars Ollie Doors and Chantelle Hedge-Fund; and from local rock legend Dave Greenblatt of ‘The New Forest Pit Ponies’.
Mr McHellgit’s first big coup was to acquire the famous ‘Flying Scotsman’ loco from the ‘Barry Island’ yards at Eee Bay. On extended loan from ‘The National Railway Museum’, it is expected to run on ED&WHR rails from autumn 2017, after refurbishement and ‘chipping’. Mr McHellgit has ambitious plans to introduce new locos and rolling stock, in order that endangered trains may thrive in their natural habitat. He is also aiming to reconnect the ED&WHR to the national UK rail network, and to this end has commenced negotiations with ‘Network Rail’.
Exciting news – we are once again linked-up to ‘Network Rail’.The connection was formally opened today by the ED&WHR’s patron, HRH the Duchess of Southbourne. She is seen here with Mr McHellgit; the ED&WHR’s operations officer Richard O’Shea; Ms Fran Chize of ‘Network Rail’ and Jacob Compleet-Charleton MP, the under secretary for Transport, who was heard to quip, ‘is the the railway we’re building to keep the northerners happy?’ Her Grace also opened the rennovation of Gresley St Kylie station, and the new combined, visitor’s centre, museum and gift shop adjacent to Beeching’s Axe. Also shown are the volunteer work-gang who laid the final track – and in background can be seen the recently renovated ‘Queen Elizabeth II Tunnel’, and the start of famous ‘Narnia Tunnel’, which connects onto ‘Network Rail’ tracks near Bournemouth station. To complete this red-letter day new stock has also arrived in the form of Virgin 125 locos ‘Lady in Red’ and ‘Maiden Voyager’, together with two carriages in the same livery. No one has thus far successfully bred Inter-City 125’s in captivity, but the ED&WHR is hopeful for a positive outcome…
Just too late for the opening ceremony has been the arrival of our second 125 set, the BR ‘City Of York’ . When the time is right this will be introduced to our Virgin 125s, hopefully with a favourable outcome. Further carriages have also arrived.
‘Thar’s bin a murda’! Later in the month ‘Flying Scotsman’ returned to pull ‘The Orient Express’ on the ED&WHR – just one of our ‘murder mystery’ excursions to shamelessly tie-in with the new movie. Passengers (in period costume) must detect the murderer from a range of suspects. All proceeds to charity – prompting the sensational (and misleading) tabloid headline ‘Duchess and orphans in proseco-fulled railway murder incident’. The ‘proseco’ reference ties-in with the announcement that – using the new ‘fragging’ technique – a way has been found to turn the abandoned porridge mines into a source of industrial-strength fizzy white wine (a personal favourite of Her Royal Highness). Revenue from this extraction will be used to fund the ED&WHR – exclusive bottles available from both the gift shop, at the tea room, at ‘Buffers’ disco… In the picture (above) the new Visitor’s Centre can be seen as ‘Flying Scotsman’ passes with our ‘South West Trains’ ‘memorial rake’ of two coaches; given sanctuary from ‘South West Railways’. After refurbishing these carriages will run regularly. Both sets of 125’s have returned to the railway, and are begining regular operations, the Virgin 125 after further necessary refurbishment.
Two new arrivals – our diesel ‘Daisy’ pulling our re-liveried ‘South West Trains’ ‘memorial rake’ and ‘Thomas’, on loan from ‘the island of Sodor’ – here shown pulling his carriages ‘Annie’ and ‘Clarabell’ – as well as proving he’s a ‘really useful engine’ by also puling HRH The Duces of Southbourne’s personal proseco tanker, from the wells on ED&WHR land to her mansion overlooking Bournemouth Bay.
Sadly the recession and pandemic is biting the railway; and land has had to be sold for redevelopment as the prosecco has run out. A major refurbishment has been completed, the hope being we can continue our preservation work, and avoid any stock being ‘sent to Barry Island’ (sic). We’ve also reconfigured so visting engines like ‘Flying Scotsman’ can operate, whilst on their seaside holidays.
Please bear with us at this time. Covid restrictions and social distancing apply, so ‘Buffers’ and ‘Ye Olde Railway Tea Rooms’ are currently closed for refurbishment. Nevertheless, August Bank Holiday 2020 was our big re-opening. In many shots we see the OB van of local radio station ‘Forest FM’ providing coverage as our engine ‘Stuart’ pulls their popular ‘Lunchtime Express’ service, and Ms Fran Chize of ‘Network Rail’ awarding the ED&WHR’s operations officer Richard O’Shea, our new safety certificate. Many vistors asked how we are connected to ‘Network Rail’. Well, they run the Narnia Tunnel, which brings their tracks to Kanye West station, near to their junction adjacent to the site of the old Bournemouth West station, that used to serve the ‘Somerset And Dorset Railway’. This can be seen from the main A35 road as the place where trains rest at night.
Here we see preparations for our new ‘Rock ‘N’ Rail’ festival. Socially distanced – or should that be ‘spacedout’? – passengers can travel to see in concert Miss Britney Spears, Mr Led Zeppelin – and topping the bill Circus 66! Come along all you hep cats and kits! the kindly old gentlemen from ‘The Thursday Rock Show’ from local radio station ‘Forest FM’ will be providing wireless coverage. ‘Buffers’ disco sweetshop will be open – so it’s really gonna be absolutely something other than else!
Watch this space…
For current stock list see:- ED&WHR stock list