Light Railways Act 1896

Light Railways Act 1896

The Light Railways Act 1896 (59 & 60 Vict c. 48) of the Parliament of the United Kingdom defined a class of railways with the intention of enabling development of such railways without legislation specific to each line. A light railway is not a tramway but a separate class of railway. The creation of the act was triggered by a combination of problems with the complexity of creating low cost railways that were needed at the time for rural areas, and the successful use of tramway rules to create the Wisbech and Upwell Tramway in 1882 which was in fact a light railway in all but name.

The act limited weights to a maximum of 12 tons on each axle and speeds to a maximum of 25 miles per hour (mph), and 8 mph on bends. It did not exclude standard-gauge track, but narrow gauge tracks were used for many railways built under its provisions.

A number of municipal and company-owned street tramways were built or extended by the Act, in preference to the Tramways Act 1870. The procedure of the 1896 Act was simpler, permission easier to obtain (local authorities had the right to veto lines under the 1870 legislation), and there was a 75% savings on rates payable as compared to a tramway.

The light railway act was never a great success. By the 1920s the use of road transport killed the majority of these little railways although some survived thanks to clever management and tight financial control.

Until new rules introduced Transport Works Orders, preserved railways in the UK were operated under Light Railway Orders.

Railways built under the act

* Teifi Valley Railway Opened by preservationists on the old GWR standard gauge trackbed between Pencader Junction and Newcastle Emlyn (currently only runs Henllan - Pontprenshitw - Llandyfriog)
*Lee-on-Solent Light Railway, opened in 1894 (re-authorized under the act, 1897)
* Bankfoot Light Railway, opened in 1898
* Forsinard, Melvich and Port Skerry Light Railway, opened in 1898
* Lauder Light Railway, opened in 1898
* Weston, Clevedon & Portishead Light Railway, opened 1885 but reincorporated under the act in 1899
* Wick and Lybster Light Railway, opened in 1899
* Kent and East Sussex Railway, opened in 1900
* Basingstoke and Alton Light Railway, opened in 1901
* Poole and District Light Railway, opened in 1901
* Bentley and Bordon Light Railway, opened in 1905
* Cromarty and Dingwall Light Railway, authorised in 1902, but never finished, track lifted in WW1.
* Vale of Rheidol Light Railway, opened in 1902
* Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway, opened in 1903
* Kelvedon and Tollesbury Light Railway, opened in 1904
* Leek and Manifold Valley Light Railway, opened in 1904
* Tanat Valley Light Railway, opened in 1904
* Cairn Valley Light Railway, opened in 1905
* Horton Light Railway, opened in 1905
* Mid-Suffolk Light Railway, opened in 1905
* Falkland Light Railway, opened in 1906
* Campbeltown and Machrihanish Light Railway, opened in 1906
* North Lindsey Light Railway, opened in stages from 1906
* Shropshire and Montgomeryshire Light Railway, opened in 1911
* Derwent Valley Light Railway, opened in 1913
* Elsenham and Thaxted Light Railway, opened in 1913
* Sand Hutton Light Railway, opened in 1922
* Ashover Light Railway, opened in 1925

A number of railways have, over the years, been built on private land and called names that end in "Light Railway". These have not needed parliamentary powers or a light railway order. The name has only reflected light nature of the railway. Many miniature railways are named in this way.

External links

*UK-SLD|1064887|Light Railways Act 1896

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