Royal Arsenal Railway

Royal Arsenal Railway

The Royal Arsenal Railway was a private military railway. It ran inside the Royal Arsenal, Woolwich, south east London.

The earliest parts of this railway system was constructed as RailGauge|18 narrow gauge and it comprised of some 50 to 60 miles of track.cite book |title=The Eighteen Inch Gauge Royal Arsenal Railway at Wooolwich|author=Clarke, B.R. and Veitch, C.C|year=1986 |id=ISBN 0-948951-00-1 |publisher=privately published by B.R. Clarke] It ran from 10 January 1873 until much of it was abandoned in the 1920s and various locomotives were then advertised for sale. The dual gauge track was removed at the same time. However five new narrow gauge locomotives were bought in World War II, between 1934 and 1941; and a final one from Hunslet Engine Company in 1954. The remaining narrow gauge lines finally closed in 1966.cite book |title=Encyclopaedia of Narrow Gauge Railways of Great Britain and Ireland|author=Middlemass, David|year=1991 |publisher=Patrick Stephens Limited]

Parts of the narrow gauge track were built as dual gauge track, with the outer rails gauged to standard gauge; other parts of the site were only served by standard gauge track. Some 120 miles of mixed or purely standard gauge track existed by 1918.

The 18 inch gauge railway

History and use

Due to the needs of moving ammunition during the Crimean War and the development of steam locomotion, the construction of an RailGauge|18 gauge railway was approved in 1866.cite book |title=Britain in old photographs: The Royal Arsenal, Woolwich|author=Masters, Roy|year=1995 |id=ISBN 0-7509-0894-7 |publisher=Sutton Publishing] It was based on the Crewe Works Railway operating since 1862 inside the London and North Western Railway's Crewe Works.

The Royal Arsenal's RailGauge|18 gauge railway opened on 10 January 1873. It was designed to replace an ad hoc arrangement of individual plateways constructed within the Royal Arsenal. Laying of plateways had started in 1824 and was completed by 1854-5; they then came under the control of the Corps of Royal Engineers.

The RailGauge|18 gauge railway provided for the movement of both goods and passengers within the Royal Arsenal.


Locomotive data from .

Rolling stock

* A former explosive wagon, previously on display at North Woolwich Old Station Museum, is now back on the Royal Arsenal site near the Heritage Centre, standing on some ex Chatham cast track plates.

The standard gauge railway

This railway was initially linked into the national railway system, to the London Chatham and Dover Railway, near Plumstead railway station.


See also

* British industrial narrow gauge railways
* British narrow gauge railways
* Decauville
* Minimum gauge railway
* Royal Arsenal

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