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Colchester Zoo Miniature Railway

Discussion in 'Miniature Railways' started by Hicks19862, Oct 20, 2016.

  1. Hicks19862

    Hicks19862 Member

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    In the early 80s, we took a family trip to Colchester zoo and I have memories of a miniature railway operating there.

    I could only have been around 4 at the time, but I think it was probably 10.25 gauge, a fairly simple out and back loop layout with sit astride carraiges.

    I remember seeing three locomotives; a green diesel, I think in the style of a BR loco, which was in operation, and outside the shed an American outline diesel, and a GWR style 4-6-0 steam locomotive.

    Does anyone else have details on this railway? When it closed and what happaned to the rolling stock?

    Thanks
     
  2. John Webb

    John Webb Member

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    I've had a look at "Miniature Railways" (Robin Butterell, Ian Allan 1966), "A Source Book of Miniature and Narrow Gauge Railways" (G Kitchenside, Ward Lock Ltd, 1981) and more recent (1998 and 2000 editions) of the updated Ian Allan book. I regret to say that the Colchester zoo railway doesn't get a mention in any of these, so I cannot be of much assistance, sorry!
    But perhaps the publication dates suggest that the railway existed between the 1980s and 1990s? (Is the zoo closed now, by the way?)
     
  3. flaman

    flaman Well-Known Member

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    Colchester Zoo is very much open! I've visited it over many years, certainly since the 70s, but strangely I can't recall a miniature railway. Also, the site is very uneven and I would not have thought it ideal for a railway. I wonder if the OP is thinking of another zoo? There is one further north at Kessingland, Suffolk, which has a railway which might fit the description.
     
  4. 61648

    61648 New Member

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    Colchester Zoo certainly did used to have a miniature railway but believe this disappeared around the time the zoo changed hands (mid 1980's..??) Can't remember much about the stock but do recall that it ran round the lake, pretty much along the site of the present road train route which now runs to the new Lemur exhibit.

    The zoo also used to possess the largest model railway I have ever seen, housed in the buildings on the left side of the entrance road which are now the zoo hospital and staff areas, again I think this went around the same time as the miniature railway and no idea what happened to it.
     
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  5. Hicks19862

    Hicks19862 Member

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    Thanks for attempting to help, and I am glad someone else remembers the railway!
     
  6. 73129

    73129 Part of the furniture

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    On the same topic but a different zoo. I remember seeing a miniature railway at Chessington zoo. I haven't been back there since the late 70s. So I take it's no longer there.
     
  7. goldfish

    goldfish Resident of Nat Pres

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    Ditto on both fronts. Steam outline diesels I think?

    Simon
     
  8. Vilma

    Vilma New Member

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    Went to what was then Chessington Zoo with my parents many years ago. The locos were two GWR Dukedog outline diesels. In green.

    Took my children back in the mid-80s and there was a diesel US outline steam engine running a different route through Main Street.
     
  9. 61624

    61624 Part of the furniture

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    I've a feeling that Chessington Zoo was 12-1/4" gauge, and the two Dukedogs are still in existence on a private railway.
     
  10. John Webb

    John Webb Member

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    According to the Ian Allan book on Miniature Railways, published in 1966, the Chessington Zoo railway was 12inch gauge and dated from 1937, as did the two locos, powered by 10HP Austin engines, and was 925 yards long.
    It is not mentioned in Kitchenside's 1981 book on Miniature and Narrow Gauge Railways, nor in the updated versions of the Ian Allan book published in 1998 and 2000.
     
  11. Andrew Young

    Andrew Young New Member

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    ive just found an out of foucus pic of me on the colchester zoo one. based on how old I look it would havebeen in around 1992-4 sort of time. some sort of br outline diesel is the motive power, but you can only just see the very end of said in the pic. ill see if i can find a way to upload it.
     
  12. Hicks19862

    Hicks19862 Member

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    Found some old pics of this line. The child sat in the locomotives is me at around 4 years old lol
     

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    Last edited: Feb 11, 2018
  13. Hicks19862

    Hicks19862 Member

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    Looks like the steam locomotive is a 2-6-0. And maybe the line was 7.25 gauge.
     
  14. nine elms fan

    nine elms fan Well-Known Member

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    Colchester Zoo is a lovely Zoo, not too big been there about a dozen time over the years, my grandchildren love it there, not as commercial as a lot of Zoos but well worth a visit, I would recommend it.
     
  15. 30854

    30854 Part of the furniture

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    Chessington was indeed 12in (exactly) gauge. Both of the near scale steam outline 4-4-0's (and most, if not all of the stock) survive in private ownership. One of the locos (in working order though not yet fully restored) and three carriages are somewhere in deepest Surrey, or at least were about 5 years ago.

    The locos were loosely based on the GWR 'Dukedog' class (but the radiator air slots where the smokebox door should be was a bit of a giveaway!) and the bogie carriages were open 'toastracks'. Can't recall whether there were six or eight of them.

    A book was published on this little line a couple of years ago and sold out in a matter of months. Copies are now like rocking horse droppings. Hopefully, there'll be a reprint at some point, but just to whet your taste buds, here's what you can't get!
    http://miniature-railway.com/store/products/the-chessington-zoo-railway-1931-1985/

    I've very fond memories of this line, where passengers boarded and alighted from a platformless area where the track crossed the main access path/road into the zoo. The line described a long loop past several cages, pottering round an unkempt meadow, thence past a much shorter 24in gauge loop, installed in the late 60's IIRC, with a miniature 'Stephenson's Rocket' (also I/C), before returning to it's start point.

    Here's a photo (from francisfirth.com):
    th-2.jpg
     
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  16. 61648

    61648 New Member

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    Absolutely agree, living only 30 miles away made it worthwhile getting their Gold Card admission passes when my kids were a bit younger. These cards gave unlimited admission over a 12 month period so we could decide to go for a couple of hours at a time and be there in less than an hour from deciding to go.
    Even though the kids are now teenagers, they still enjoy a visit, thoroughly recommend the Halloween special events when the zoo is open after dark.
     
  17. nine elms fan

    nine elms fan Well-Known Member

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    Like the Halloween bit in a Zoo, sounds good got to put that one in my diary.
     
  18. 61648

    61648 New Member

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    On the subject of zoo railways, surprised that Whipsnade has not been mentioned yet. With ex Bowaters narrow gauge steam locos and a proper station with two platforms and a signal box, surely this has to be one of the best zoo railways though I suspect Longleats miniature line might run it close.
     
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  19. 61648

    61648 New Member

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    Definitely worthwhile, they have numerous special attractions some of which are run by the zoo staff and others with professional actors, It's quite realistic but be warned some attractions, especially the Road Train and Haunted House can get very busy. Also some attractions can be unsuitable for youngsters or those of a nervous disposition though I doubt that it would faze any Nat Pres posters. Check out their website for more details. www.colchester-zoo.com
     
  20. nine elms fan

    nine elms fan Well-Known Member

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    Marwell Zoo near Winchester in Hampshire had a Narrow gauge line with steam locos not sure if its still running, I think it was having problems with getting volunteers to run it not sure though, a nice Zoo about the size of Colchester Zoo plus there is the Mid-Hants line close by.
     

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