Beech Hurst Park Miniature Railway
Operated by S.M.L.S. - Sussex Miniature Locomotive Society
History of SMLS
In 1951 a group of model engineers from various societies in Sussex were scouting around for a suitable location for a miniature railway. At that time most societies in the south only had the use of short portable tracks. The Malden and District Society of Model Engineers had built a continuous track at Thames Ditton in 1946 and society members from the south coast that had visited there had had their appetites whetted for continuous running.
In 1950 the house and grounds at Beech Hurst and a sum of money for the development of a public recreation ground, were left to the then Cuckfield Urban District Council for the use of the local community. Members from the three south coast societies (Brighton and Hove MES, Worthing and District and Mid Sussex MES) met with the council with a view to constructing a railway in the grounds. The council were impressed with the possibilities and were at that time very helpful and negotiations were completed in 1951, construction commenced and the "Ceremony of Driving the Last Spike" was performed on Easter Saturday 1954. Considerable earth works had to be under taken before any track laying could take place. The council had decided to level the steeply sloping site to enable bowling greens to be laid and the work included the track formation, thus saving the society members many hours of back breaking work.
The original track was laid on old railway sleepers supported on brick piers, in the mid 60's the sleepers were showing their age and the decision was made to change to steel channel supported on A section concrete piers.
The track layout you see today is roughly twice the length of the original track; the extension around the backfield was opened in 1974. In 1954 passengers were given two laps around the track for a fare of 6d, the fare roughly equating to the cost of an ice cream. The fare today is £1.00 for one lap of the extended circuit.
The earth works carried out in the back field were done by the society members and included digging a cut and cover tunnel 14 foot deep and some 170 foot long. Over the years, the method of track laying has been perfected to give in some peoples opinion "one of the best tracks in the country". Aluminium rail has always been used, fixed to wooden sleepers, as it is kinder to loco wheels than the steel section used on some tracks. It has always been thought that it is far easier to replace the rail than re-tyre locomotives, as owners of full size locomotives know to their cost! Over the many years of intensive running, the railway runs every weekend from Good Friday to the end of September, few locomotives have required new wheels or tyres confirming the founder member's original thoughts. The rail, however, is turned or changed on a rolling track maintenance cycle. The track, nearly half a mile in length, is therefore completely renewed over a seven to ten year period.
28 December 2016