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Locomotive Yorkshire on the Chattenden and Upnor Railway

These are narrow gauge railways at military establishments and former UK Government-owned explosives sites. These locations were often subject to the Official Secrets Act and other government restrictions, so many of them are less well documented.

The industrial use of narrow-gauge railways was quite extensive amongst the various military and civilian explosive factories, for example ICI Nobel's works at Ardeer and the Agency Explosive Factories run by ICI Nobel in the Second World War. To give an example, the Ministry of Supply (MOS) Factory Dalbeattie used 30 gauge with a variety of bogie trucks mostly pushed by teams of three to six women. Stores, explosives, chemicals, rubbish and sewage, were all transported on this narrow-gauge system, which used at least 8 miles (13 km) of track.

Weapons range railways

Name Opened Closed Gauge Location Notes
DOE Okehampton Gun Ranges[1] ? after 1979 30 Okehampton, England Target railway
DOE Redesdale Ranges target railway[2] ? ? 30 Redesdale, England Target railway
Fort George Range ? ? 24 Inverness, Scotland Target railway
Lydd Ranges[1] 1936 Present 24 Lydd, England Principally a target railway, though also carries personnel and equipment around the ranges. At least 39 locomotives and powered trollies have worked here.
Lulworth Ranges[1] ? Present ? Lulworth area, Dorset, England Electrically powered Rail Targetory System [1] (paras 14-18) visible on the OS Map, Google Earth and from surrounding hills.
National Rifle Association Bisley Tramways[3] 1898 after 1971 24 Bisley, England The NRA originally had a temporary shooting range and railway on Wimbledon Common but in 1888 moved to Bisley. Initially using a Merryweather steam tram locomotive, later using diesel locomotives.
RAF Hell's Mouth target railway[4] late 1930s 1945 ? Abersoch, Wales A target range railway operated by hand or rope-hauled in the dunes southeast of the airfield.
Romney Marsh weapons range railway [5] before 1975 present ? 24 New Romney, England Locomotive-worked network of lines across Romney Marsh

Armaments depots and ordnance factories

Name Opened Closed Gauge Location Notes
CAD Eastriggs Depot railway[6][7] ? Present 24 Eastriggs, Scotland Extensive WW II armaments depot line using parts of the site of the former HM Factory, Gretna. A sub-depot of CAD Longtown.
Priddy's Hard[8][9] about 1850 about 1960 18 and also later 30 Gosport, England Ammunition transport railway, within the Royal Naval Armaments Depot, between store houses and piers. Eight battery-electric locomotives were used after 1929.
Chatham Dockyard [10] 1860s 1930s 18 Chatham, England Internal rail system serving the dockyard.
Chattenden and Upnor Railway [10] 1885 1961 30 Chattenden, England Light railway serving Chattenden barracks and armament stores
Davington Light Railway [11] 1916 1918 1 Faversham, England Short-lived metre-gauge line serving an Admiralty munitions factory. The three locomotives were sold to Brazil where at least one survived until 1988.
HM Factory, Gretna ? 1917 24 Gretna, Scotland Extensive WW I Cordite factory line
Lodge Hill and Upnor Railway 1873 1885 18 Chattenden, England Served the construction of the Chattenden and Upnor Railway.
Royal Air Force Chilmark Depot railway[12] late 1930s 1995 24? Chilmark, Wiltshire, England Extensive WW II armaments depot lines using underground Chilmark Quarries and above-ground storage at satellite site at Dinton, Wiltshire.
RAF Fauld Depot railway ? by 1979[1] 24? Fauld, England Underground ammunition store during WWII with supply railway.
Royal Arsenal Railway [3][13][14] 1873 1966 18 and 24 Woolwich, England Extensive internal rail system serving the Royal Arsenal.
RCAF Seaford Head target railway[6] after 1939 by 1945 24 Seaford Head, Wales Horse drawn target range railway about 1 mile long.
RNAD Broughton Moor railway[1][2] before 1943 1992 30 Broughton Moor, England Locomotive-worked line hauling ammunition around the depot.
RNAD Dean Hill Depot railway[9][15][16] before 1942 2003 30 West Dean, England Locomotive-worked line hauling ammunition around the depot.
ROF Bishopton 1940 1950s - 2000 30 Bishopton, Scotland Approx 80 miles of internal rail system serving the World War II Cordite factories.
Royal Navy Holton Heath Cordite Factory[17] 1914 1946 30 Holton Heath, England Extensive explosives factory complex using battery electric and fireless steam locomotives
Royal Navy Stokes Bay railway[9] 1880s 1919 Stokes Bay, England Steam locomotive worked line.
Royal Navy Underwater Weapons Establishment[1] after 1979 24 Weymouth, England Battery-electric locomotive worked line.
Vickers Engineering Wyke Regis Pier railway [17] before 1921 1968 24 Wyke Regis, England Pier railway used to transport torpedoes from the factory to ships.

Supply depots

Name Opened Closed Gauge Location Notes
Deptford Special Reserve Depot[3] 1916 1919 18 Deptford, England Extensive WW I food supply depot line. At least four steam locomotives worked here, two or three of which went to the Sand Hutton Light Railway after the war.


Name Opened Closed Gauge Location Notes
Flat Holm ? ? 24 Bristol Channel, Wales Fortification supply railway
Hoo Ness Tramway [1] before 1914 after 1979 24 Hoo Ness, England Locomotive-worked tramway. May have been 30 gauge previously
Hurst Castle [9] 1895 1956 18 Hurst Castle, England Line for moving ammunition and supplies around the castle. Used hand and donkey hauled wagons. Much track still in situ.
South Heighton railway[6] 1941 1941 30 Newhaven, England Hand-worked line to aid construction of HMS Forward underground command centre.
Steep Holm railway[18] 1880s 1946 24? Steep Holm, North Somerset, England Fortification supply railway. Palmerston forts, shown on 1886 Ordnance Survey maps. Relaid in World War II. Finally Demolished 1946.

Training camps

Name Opened Closed Gauge Location Notes
Kinmel Camp Railway[19] 1914 1917 24 St. Asaph, Wales Locomotive-worked construction railway for the Kinmel Camp
Longmoor Camp Railway[20] 1903 1907 18 Weaversdown, England Early construction line used to assist in the demolition of army huts. Relaid as standard gauge starting in 1905.
Longmoor Military Railway[2] 30 Weaversdown, England Narrow gauge line at the extensive railway training centre at Longmoor
Strensall Ranges, HQ Strensall Training Centre, 1870 Present ? Strensall, York, England Principally Stores railway, to carry equipment around the ranges. 1165Yds long.
RAF Calshot Camp railway [9] 1919 1946 24 Calshot, England Short line serving Calshot camp and pier. Steam locomotives were used, one of which is preserved on the Talyllyn Railway as "Douglas".


Name Opened Closed Gauge Location Notes
Royal Navy Haslar Hospital[9] by 1910 1918 18 Haslar, England Hand worked line to move ammunitions and stores around the hospital site.

See also

  • British industrial narrow gauge railways
  • British narrow gauge railways


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 Industrial Railway Society. (1979). Industrial Locomotives 1979: including preserved and minor railway locomotives. Industrial Railway Society. ISBN 0901096385. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 "List of 2 ft 6 in gauge railways". 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Mitchell, Vic and Smith, Keith (2003). Surrey Narrow Gauge including South London. Middleton Press. ISBN 1901706877. 
  4. Corser, W.J.L. (April 2003). Wings on Rails: Industrial Railways in the Logistics Support of Britain's Air Defence Forces. Arcturus Press. ISBN 0-907322-85-9. 
  5. Nicholson, Peter (1975). Industrial Narrow Gauge Railways in Britain. Bradford, Barton. ISBN 0-85153-236-5. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 "List of 2 ft gauge railways worldwide". 
  7. "The Longtown Military Railway". Carforth: Tele Rail. 1994. 
  8. Semark, H.W. (1997). The Royal Naval Armament Depots of Priddy's Hard, Elson, Frater and Bedenham (Gosport, Hampshire): 1768 to 1977. Hampshire County Council. ISBN 1-85975-132-6. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 9.5 Mitchell, Vic and Smith, Keith (2004). Hampshire Narrow Gauge including the Isle of Wight. Middleton Press. ISBN 1904474365. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 Yeatman, D. (December 1966). "Lodge Hill & Upnor Railway". pp. 277–292. 
  11. Mitchell, Vic and Smith, Kevin (2000). Kent Narrow Gauge. Middleton Press. ISBN 1901706451. 
  12. "Marchwood & Chilmark Military Railways". Carforth: Tele Rail. 1994. 
  13. "Woolwich Arsenal Railway". 
  14. Clarke, B.R. and Veitch, C.C (1986). The Eighteen Inch Gauge Royal Arsenal Railway at Woolwich. privately published by B.R. Clarke. ISBN 0-948951-00-1. 
  15. "Visit Reports". November 2003. pp. 6–7. 
  16. "Dean Hill RNAD depot". 
  17. 17.0 17.1 Mitchell, Vic and Smith, Keith (2006). Dorset and Somerset Narrow Gauge. Middleton Press. ISBN 1904474764. 
  18. Rendell, Stan and Joan (1993). Steep Holm: The Story of a Small Island. Stroud: Alan Sutton Publishing. ISBN 0-7509-0323-6
  19. Hindley, Philip G. (September 1985). "The Kinmel Camp Railway". The Industrial Railway Society. pp. 309–322. 
  20. Farmer, Keith (March 1966). "Longmoor Military Railway". The Industrial Railway Society. pp. 195–205. 

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