Wingerworth and its Lido railway

In this blog we take a look at a long-forgotten narrow gauge railway which ran for only a few years at Wingerworth’s Lido. No doubt it gave pleasure to many, but was probably a victim of the Second World War. We are currently researching Wingerworth for our next VCH spin-off book. The Lido and its railway will be included – we’d love to see pictures of it!

Captured in time. The Wingerworth Lido railway is shown on this extract for the 1938 Ordnance Survey 25-inch to one mile map. Described as ‘miniature railway’ its 2ft gauge actually makes it a narrow gauge railway! (National Library of Scotland).

A narrow-gauge railway at the Lido, which skirted the western and northern edges of the site, with a bridge over the north-west corner of the pond, was first mentioned in the Derbyshire Times of 5 July 1935.  

The Lido narrow gauge railway’s steam locomotive may well have looked like this – an illustration taken from manufacturer – Kerr Stuart’s – 1924 catalogue.

The single-track line had a large balloon loop at its north-eastern end and a smaller loop near Nethermoor Road, giving a total run of about a half a mile out and back. There was also a short siding at the western end of the line, adjacent to Nethermoor Road, next to a shed that presumably served as a station, and a longer siding which left the main line near the eastern balloon loop.

The track was laid to a gauge of 2 ft. The motive power was provided partly by an 0-4-0 saddle tank steam locomotive built by Kerr Stuart in 1915 bought second-hand (through T.W. Ward, the Sheffield merchants) from Sheffield Corporation. It was previously used at their Ewden Valley waterworks from 1931, during a phase that saw remedial works carried out.   It was repurchased by Wards in December 1935, who sold it simultaneously to T. H. Austin. Other motive power at Wingerworth Lido was provided by a four-wheel petrol mechanical loco, fitted with an 11 horse-power Morris engine, which may have been home-built.

1 shilling and 3 old pence return to Wingerworth Lido by bus, as advertised in the Derbyshire Times, 19 June 1936.

Originally part of the Hunloke Estate, the Lido itself had been purchased by Thomas Henry Austin (later the sole operator) and Frank Norman, both of Wingerworth, who developed the site commercially. In May 1934 the promoters announced the opening of ‘Ye old Smithy Pond’ for swimming, sunbathing and boating in and around the 5½ acre pond (which in the centre was 26 ft deep). There was an 18 ft diving stand, 12 rowing boats and several punts for hire, and two motor boats offered trips round the pond. The promoters were negotiating with East Midland Motor Services to provide a bus service from Chesterfield to Wingerworth, which apparently had not previously existed.  

The end of the Austin enterprise occurred after he was required, in 1939, by the Chesterfield rural district council, to construct better sanitary accommodation at the Lido. Austin’s plans to address this were presumably overtaken by the outbreak of war, when the venue appears to have closed down.

End of a short-lived era. The sale at Wingerworth Lido on 8 October 1941 included materials from the narrow gauge railway.(Derbyshire Times, 3 October 1941).

In October 1941 an auction was held of much of the equipment from the Lido, including the railway track and wagons, but not the locomotives. It appears that these had previously been returned to Wards. The rails, sleepers and wagons may have been requisitioned as scrap, since a newspaper report of the ‘remarkable’ sale makes no mention of them. It does, however, refer to the second-hand timber, sectional buildings, catering equipment and furniture, for which ‘extraordinarily good prices’ were realised, possibly because none of the items offered were obtainable new.

Austin, who lived at ‘Blackhill’, Wingerworth, died in March 1944, leaving effects valued at £4,570.

So ends this story of Wingerworth’s own narrow gauge railway. A short-lived affair, which never-the-less was doubtless enjoyed by many. And, among with the rest of the Lido attractions, helped bring a bus service to the village!

They’ll be much more about the Lido and lots more about Wingerworth in our forthcoming ‘History of Wingerworth’ VCH spin-off book, which we hope to publish later this year.

In the meantime, if you’ve any photos or recollections of the railway we’d love to hear from you.

Our thanks to R.T. Gratton, S.R. Band and the Industrial Railway Society for information in this blog, also to Rob Marriott and his Chesterfield History and Genealogy Facebook page for a useful discussion thread on the railway. We’ve also used contemporary newspaper accounts and Howard Bowtell’s 1977 book ‘Reservoir Railways of Manchester and the Peak’.