The Heywood Collection
Conserving the work of Sir A. P. Heywood Bt.
late of Duffield Bank, Derbyshire
Patron: Sir Peter Heywood Bt.
Welcome to the Heywood Collection
We have two objectives:
- to conserve remaining artefacts from the work of Sir Arthur Heywood, who developed and promoted the concept of the minimum gauge railway
- to provide an educational resource for those who take an interest in his work and minimum gauge railways as an effective means of transport for freight and passengers
|The curators of the collection are:-|
Maud Foster Mill
PE21 9EGTelephone 01205 352188
GL16 8QBTelephone 01594 834991
A brief Introduction
Railways come in many sizes, and are usually measured by their gauge, which is the distance between the rails.
As the gauge of a railway reduces so the stability of vehicles decreases. In about 1874 a country gentleman called Sir Arthur Percival Heywood started experiments to find the narrowest gauge ‘possessing the necessary stability for practical use’. Sir Arthur came from a wealthy family and his father took a perverse pride in bringing his sons up to pursue no profession. This meant that although Sir Arthur graduated in mechanical engineering at Cambridge he had to remain an amateur and carry out his experiments at home on his miniature estate at Duffield Bank just north of Derby. He eventually developed one of the finest private railways and workshops there has ever been.
Sir Arthur was working in the era before the internal combustion engine when the practical alternative to a railway was usually a horse and cart. He looked for the minimum gauge that could be used to serve the needs of an agricultural district or (in belligerent times) supply troops in the field. He settled on 15 inches. Sadly, the only opportunity he had to put his ideas into practice personally was when the Duke of Westminster commissioned him to construct an estate railway at Eaton Hall in Cheshire, in 1895. Most subsequent 15 inch gauge railways have been built to carry passengers for pleasure. However the Eaton Hall line was built for carrying coal, timber and bricks, and the Ravenglass & Eskdale line in Cumbria carried thousands of tons of granite for many years. The very closely similar gauge of 40cm was used in many industrial locations including Martin Earle’s cement works near Rochester. There was considerable use of both 15″ and 40cm gauges on the continent of Europe.
In addition to the serious development work which was carried out on the ‘Experimental Railway’ at Duffield Bank there was time and money available to develop some wonderful examples of Victorian whimsy. The Duffield Bank Railway therefore possessed its own dining carriage with seats for a dinner party of eight persons, served from a small but practical galley. It also had the ultimate miniature railway vehicle, a sleeping car, in which young members of the family and their guests could slumber as the little train ran through the night, whistling into the tunnels, thundering through the stations, and trundling over the viaduct. The Duffield Bank line was created when steam trains were both an awe-inspiring technology and a supremely romantic symbol of emancipation from a past when most people were born, lived, and died in a single place.
Sir Arthur died in 1916 and his family left Duffield Bank soon afterwards. The railway at Eaton Hall suffered depredations during the drive to obtain scrap metal during the Second World War, and was dismantled soon afterwards. The family seat at Dove Leys was sold in 1948. Gradually, the remaining examples of Sir Arthur’s work became dispersed and many were destroyed as they became worn out and unfit for further service.
Despite these vicissitudes, knowledge of Sir Arthur’s work has never been completely lost. Almost every text on English narrow gauge railways has included a reference to his ideas and the surviving photographs of Duffield Bank and Eaton Hall have appeared in numerous publications. Many people have been entranced by the concept of a railway which is extremely small but which nevertheless performs a useful function, and model-makers have found inspiration for their own creations.
In recent years a sustained effort has been made by interested persons to revive the Heywood tradition. These efforts have included the publication of a new book, Sir Arthur Heywood And The Fifteen Inch Gauge Railway, and the re-creation of lost artefacts such as the locomotives Ursula, Katie, and Effie, and the Duffield Bank Dining Carriage. Meanwhile collectors have discovered original artefacts from Heywood’s lines and other examples of very small railways. Some of these artefacts are kept very privately, but others have been acquired with the intention of putting them on public display. The largest example is the “Heywood Collection” of which details can be seen by clicking this link, which also lists some other artefacts which are on public display.
In the future we intend to publish information about Heywood’s work and other aspects of the minimum gauge railway.
Since 1951 when the Tal-y-llyn railway in North Wales became the first preserved railway there has been a tension between the desire to conserve historic railway relics and the need to continue operating, for tourism purposes, railways which had previously been thought to have no remaining economic basis. Sometimes this tension has resulted in serious damage to important artefacts. We do not criticise those who have “restored” railway equipment to the point where there is little or nothing left of the original material because we recognise that in most cases the only alternative would have been the scrapping of the original. But we do not follow this approach ourselves. When we acquire an original Heywood artefact we take great care to assess its condition and its potential. If its condition is such that it has the potential for continued use for its original purpose we will carry out sufficient work to make it safe to continue using it, provided that such use will not damage it. We usually refer to this as ‘light use’ and we think such use is justified by its educational potential. Examples of this approach include the Duffield Bank/Dove Leys wagon, and the Eaton Hall Platelayer’s trolley. If you want to, you can touch these vehicles, move them, or (in the case of the wagon) attach it to a train and carry some article of commerce along a public railway. However, in some cases the only means by which an artefact can be brought back into use is by carrying out such extensive work, and replacing such a large amount of original material, that the finished product will not be original any longer. In such cases we feel it is little short of vandalism to try to bring the artefact back into use, and the most appropriate action is to conserve the original material as a static exhibit. There is a sound educational basis for our approach. Whenever we replace original material we destroy forever the potential for future generations to study it. If we carry out such extensive work on a historic artefact that there is little or nothing left of the original material we are actually imposing our concept of the original on future generations. Therefore, when the original artefact is “too far gone” to be “restored” we limit our efforts to conserving what is left, with the sole aim of preventing any further deterioration. Sometimes this requires enormous expenditure of time, effort and money with no prospect of recoupment. Sometimes our enthusiasm leads us one step further so that a re-creation of the original is produced. A re-creation (the critics call it a replica) enables us to demonstrate the operation of the original without damaging the original itself.
The Heywood Collection is very much “work in progress”. The story is not yet complete. Of course this is a minority interest, but we are encouraged by the excitement and enthusiasm of children who are entranced by their contact with these very small trains. In a world where Schumacher’s dictum that ‘small is beautiful’ is often forgotten, and where “bigger” is often uncritically assumed to be synonymous with “better” with scant regard for environmental impact, we think there is an important lesson to be learned from Sir Arthur Heywood’s work. He sought to find a means of transport which suited perfectly the small demands of specific activities. Perhaps by conserving the remaining examples of his work we may encourage others to think along similar lines in the future.
If this page has enticed your interest please do contact us. We will be delighted to show you the collection. We do not publish email addresses but you can contact us by using the telephone numbers at the top of this page or by going to the Perrygrove Railway contact us page. Information about work in progress on the Collection is published on the Perrygrove Railway Blog.
Useful Links: A page on Heywood’s locomotives
Sir Arthur Heywood was also well known in a separate field. He was a prominent campanologist and did a great deal to promote the practice of bell ringing.