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The Furzebrook Railway (Pikes Tramway)

The original railway was constructed from Furzebrook to a wharf on the river Frome at Ridge around 1840  by the Pike Bros. The Tramway was initially operated by gravity and the empties brought back by horses.

The line was built to a gauge of  2'-8" and from 1866 seven locomotives were employed at various times during the railway's life; the line being finally abandoned by 1957.

 Tramway wagons were at one stage allowed to run unattended across the main road and the heath down the one in 30 gradient. As they approached Ridge a pair of catch points at Nutcrack Lane triggered a sledge-brake in one of the wagons. There was an occasion when the brakeman had not reset the points and the train careered on to run off the end of the pier and straight through the bottom of a waiting barge.
In 1866 a steam locomotive was purchased from the relatively unknown company of Bellis & Seekings Ltd of Birmingham. This was named 'Primus' and appears to have not been too successful, being converted to a stationary winding engine by 1888. It was used at the Grange and Creech Barrow Mines and was then scrapped in 1901 when a replacement was ordered from Davy Paxman. In 1874 a second locomotive was purchased from Bellis & Seekings Ltd. It was known as 'Secundus' although never carried nameplates. Various photographs show the name written on in chalk.  

'Secundus' is an 0-6-0 well tank with a marine-type firebox and outside Stephenson (Howe) valve gear. It weighs 12 tons. The builders seems to have influenced by the term 'tramway' (which was used only in its industrial sense of being a light railway), and the engine was delivered complete with the motion and wheels enclosed by a fixed skirting and cow-catchers front and back, which stayed on the engine throughout its life at Furzebrook.  


Secundus crossing the Furzebrook Road in the early 1950's heading towards the weathering beds at Creech, from the main works at Furzebrook RG Pratt, ItS

'Secundus' was rebuilt by the local engineering company of Stephen Lewin at Poole in 1880, and was given a new boiler from Peckett & Son at Bristol in 1933. At some time a home-made cab was fitted, adding to its eccentric appearance. It seems to have been very successful as it continued in use until 1955, despite the purchase of other locomotives to standard designs from other manufacturers.  

Secundas was sold for scrap to Abelson & Co Ltd in Birmingham. The Birmingham Locomotive Club persuaded them to present 'Secundus' to Birmingham City Museum as the only Birmingham built locomotive left in existence, and it was placed on display there in July 1955. At this point the cab was removed, and some of the sheeting was taken off to display the unusual valve gear.

In 2000 the Museum was reorganised and the narrow gauge railway display was not included in the new design. In May 2002 Purbeck Mineral & Mining Museum Group began negotiations with Birmingham Museum to return 'Secundus' to Dorset and in February 2003 it was agreed by the Science & Industry Advisory Board that this could occur in principle under a long-term trust agreement subject to suitable accommodation being available to display her. The proposed Mining Museum building is considered suitable. The Birmingham Museum board of Trustees made their final decision late in 2003 and Secundus returned to Dorset on the 22nd of January 2004.


Secundus in Swanage Railway's Herston Workshops January 2004  J. Rowley 


Secundus has a temporary home in The Corfe Goods Shed Museum until a purpose built building at Norden is completed.

Secundus in Corfe Goods Shed Museum  J. Rowley 

The Other Locomotives

Tertius: a 0-6-0ST by Manning Wardle built in 1886 (No.999).The engine had cyliners 71/2 ins x 12 ins, coupled wheels 2ft 4ins dia., the middle pair being flange-less, a wheelbase 7ft 8 ins., weight 121/2 tonsand a working pressure 140lbs. It was rebuilt by Manning Wardle in 1911. In 1951 the boiler from the Fayles Tramway engine Tiny was fitted to giving a strange look with boiler perched high on the frames as the firebox was too big to pass within the frames.


Tertius in 1957  George Moon 

Quartus: a Fowler, Lech & Co. 0-4-2WT purchased in 1889. After being laid by at Ridge for some years was scrapped in 1934 but the boiler was retained for use at the mines for stationary work.

  

Quintus: a 0-4-ST by Manning Wardle built in 1914 (no.1854). It was rebuilt in 1934 by Peckett & Co. Quintus had cylinders 8ins. x 12ins., 2ft. coupled wheels. a wheelbase of 4ft., pressure 160lbs., and a weight of 15tons. It worked until 1956 but was kept in case of diesel failure until 1958 when it was scrapped. The name plate of Quintus is preserved in the Narrow Gauge Railway Museum


Quintus in 1956  George Moon 

Sextus: a Peckett 0-4-2ST of 1925 (No.1692). Cylinders were 9ins. x 15ins., with coupled wheels 2ft 4 ins. diameter, and a wheelbase of 9ft 8ins., 170lb. pressure and a weight of 21 tons. Stephenson link motion was fitted and originally enclosed in a sheet steel casing. It worked until 1956 and was then scrapped


Sextus in 1956  George Moon 

Septimus: a Peckett 0-4-2ST of 1930 (No.1808) This engine was purchased by the North Somerset Light Railway in 1955 for a new railway on the trackbed of the Weston, Clivedon and Portishead light railway. The railway was never built. Septimus went to Peckett's works at Bristol in 1956 for an overhaul and the fitting of vacuum brakes. It was scrapped in 1962.

In October 1951, a 20/35hp 4wPM Motorail diesel Wks No.5242 was bought second-hand from G. W. Bungey Ltd. This 1930 diesel had seen previous service with Folkestone Gravel Company.

In 1911 on the 8th May the English Ceramic Society paid a visit to Pikes Brothers Dorset Clay Works. Below is a photo of the guests being treated to a ride in the clay waggons. Tertius with its original boiler and an added cab is pulling the wagons.

THE FURZEBROOK RAILWAY - Wagon No.28

In 1940 there were about 150 four-wheeled clay wagons each about 3 tons capacity, which had been made in the Furzebrook workshops. The bodies were of English elm and the under-frames of Oak. No.28 is the sole surviving wagon in complete condition and was constructed to a unique sledge-braked design. It was built locally in about 1865 for use with the gravity worked trains that ran from the Furzebrook weathering beds to the wharf at Ridge. This was the original part of the railway and was constructed in a dead straight line with a constant falling gradient favouring the loaded trains.  


Workers from Furzebrook riding back to Ridge by gravity in August
1932. The member of the party who has held the catch point the other side of the road, and lifts the stop block this side, will jump aboard.  

No.28 is a 4-wheeled wagon with wooden frames and sides. In common with the other wagons it has sprung buffers at one end only, with dumb buffers at the other end. The springing for the buffers is highly unusual, consisting of a transverse laminated spring placed on its side behind the buffer beam.

 

Wagon No.28 outside Corfe Goods Shed Museum  J. Rowley

The two ends of the spring are fixed to the buffer shanks, while at the centre it passes through a hole in the coupling shank. The wagon has an end-door at the buffer less end which was opened to allow the clay to be removed. The braking mechanism consists of two metal-faced sledges mounted between the wheels which acted downwards on to the rail surface. The sledges are worked by a long lever mounted on the side of the wagon.

No.28 was one of the last wagons to survive at Furzebrook and, at the request of the Narrow Gauge Railway Society, the scrap dealers dismantling the line released it for display at the Narrow Gauge Railway Museum at Tywyn, North Wales in July 1957. Photographs of its arrival there suggest that it was renovated at Furzebrook before dispatch.

In December 2001 Purbeck Mineral & Mining Museum Group approached Tywyn Museum. Discussions on the future of the wagon followed, resulting in the setting up of a long-term trust agreement on behalf of the Purbeck Mineral & Mining Museum. The wagon was returned to Dorset by Tywyn Museum in April 2002 and is currently on display at the Museum Entrance

 

After the Second World Ware end tipping waggons were used in the truncated system when Ridge was no longer accessible from Furzebrook and lorries were used as well as the trains.

Waggon 93 is seen here at Furzebrook in 1955 with clayworkers cottages in the background

A video of the steam locomotives in the early 1950s on the Furzebrook Ball Clay railway system is  John Snell's "Railways Recalled". It shows about 10 minutes of wonderful filming of the Purbeck Narrow gauge railways. It also includes the Isle of Man railways; Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch; Welshpool and Llanfair; the Llangollen line; the Cambrian Coast route; Llandudno trams; the Somerset and Dorset; the Cromford and High Peak; Northern France in steam days; plus a variety of other locations around Britain, including London.

 

 

Click here for a selection of Pikes Tramway photographs

 


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