The Locomotives at Betchworth Lime Works in Southern England


The industrial railway was once a ubiquitous feature of quarries, mines, and manufacturing sites, facilitating movement of minerals and goods to and from main railway systems, canals, rivers, and processing plants. The printed coverage of these systems by railway historians, particularly since the 1960s, has been voluminous, which might, ironically, tend to reduce their attractions as topics of research by other historians of technology. Before the early 1800s, when these were the only railways in existence, they determined the most widely used (or standard) gauge (4 ft., 8 1/2 in.; 1,435 mm) and were testing grounds for early methods of propulsion, rolling stock, and track materials.[1] Significantly, the oldest preserved locomotive was built for colliery railway propulsion, namely William Hedley’s Puffing Billy of 1813, which entered what is now the London Science Museum in 1862.

Industrial railways displayed a great deal of individuality and diversity, using various kinds of wagons, locomotives, and track gauges to suit a particular location or type of operation. Invariably in later years, as the industries they served fell upon hard times, the railways became objects of curiosity and antiquarian interest. Their decline and abandonment followed changes in demand, automation, and the introduction of conveyer belts, rubber-tired road vehicles, pipelines, and forklift trucks. For example, in the 1960s, once gas and oil replaced coal as a major source of energy, conveyance was by pipeline rather than by railway; coal gasworks, some with locomotives of lilliputian proportions to permit movement in the restricted headroom of retort houses, were closed down.

Elsewhere until the 1960s, it was usual to find working steam locomotives dating back to the 1870s and 1880s still doing the jobs for which they were originally designed. The visual element rendered by photographs, such as those accompanying this article, best suggests the aesthetic qualities of these long-since obsolete items of machinery. Industrial railways attracted railway enthusiasts who, often in meticulous detail, recorded their activities, a fact that today helps compensate for the lack of historical source material on many industrial sites. Once these railways fell into disuse or disrepair, particularly from the 1950s, they attracted serious preservationists who became responsible for the large amount of equipment now deposited in museums. Reflecting the cultural change in attitude fostered by the decline in steam traction and enhanced by sentimentality, maybe it was no accident that the downcast shunting engine Victoria—to the untrained eye very similar to two of those illustrated here—was one of the stars in J. Lee Morgan’s 1959 movie North West Frontier. Parenthetically, it should be noted that industrial locomotives became the inspirations for whimsical characters in books and animations, such as in Thomas the Tank Engine and Ivor the Engine.[2]

Perhaps the second-oldest preserved industrial locomotive is also the most famous, Rocket, designed by George Stephenson, which ended its working days on a colliery railway (1836–40). Recently this machine has become the focus of intense industrial archaeological study, significantly, one that emphasizes the importance of contributions from enthusiasts in the quest for restoring and displaying machinery in near-original appearance or as at a particular time.[3]

Rocket, incidentally, is a good example of how certain industries accumulated second-hand locomotives, often built by different manufacturers. This was especially the case for the network that served the collieries connecting with Seaham and other harbors in Durham on the northeast coast of England. In many instances, however, such as the slate mines of North Wales, the trend was to adhere to one or two types, in this case the products of Hunslet Engine Co. Ltd. of Leeds. As a further example, the larger gasworks in Scotland relied on locomotives designed and supplied by Andrew Barclay, Sons & Co. Ltd. of Kilmarnock. These eclectic mixes and industry- and locale-distinctive machines engaged in internal rail transport added to the character of industrial sites from the mid-19th century as much as the types of industrial activity. The locomotives made the numerous industries that they had served, particularly in Britain, attractive as places to study just before they also disappeared. While locomotives were generally the main initial attraction, this certainly fostered serious study of nonrailway aspects of industrial sites.

The interest in the preservation of industrial steam locomotives accompanied the wane in steam traction on railways, not just in Great Britain, where mainline steam ended in 1968, but also elsewhere, such as in France around 1970 and, more recently, in both eastern and western Europe. Narrow gauge locomotives, particularly if they were to be operable, had the advantage of taking up very little space, which explains why initially the main emphasis was on the 2-foot gauge. In the United States, where space was generally a less restricting factor, attention turned to larger 3-foot gauge and standard gauge industrial locomotives, including the Shay geared type, ideal for use on lightly laid logging and mining railroads. It is perhaps less than ironic that in the same month and year, September 1958, Robert C. Post and the author independently and on two different continents were seriously engaged in “tracking down various sorts of devices that Lewis Mumford had dubbed paleotechnic, especially steam locomotives.”[4]

For the author, a study of the locomotives at the former Dorking Greystone Lime Co. Ltd. at Betchworth, in Surrey, England, was the formative experience in industrial archaeology and history of technology. Not only did I participate in the photography, measurement, and listing of remaining relics, but I also became involved in the preservation of one of the six locomotives that existed when the rail system closed. It was probably the first move in Britain to preserve several industrial locomotives from one location. Until the early 1990s four of the locomotives—two (almost identical) four-coupled tank engines of 3-foot, 2 1/4-inch gauge; one diesel of the same gauge; and a similar diesel of 2-foot gauge—could be seen at Amberley Chalk Pits Museum (now Amberley Working Museum) in Sussex.[5] A fifth, a vertical-boiler machine, has been restored by the descendant of the original maker, and another, a standard-gauge larger version of the two tank engines, is at the Bluebell Railway in Sussex. A further point of interest at Betchworth was the variety of means for internal guided movement. At one time, four different railway gauges and, during the first decade of the 20th century, an extensive aerial ropeway existed.

This article is not another history of the site and its railways; rather, it revisits, through notes made in 1958, the natural habitat of these machines.[6] A major aid to research has been the Dorking Greystone Lime Company’s records, now preserved at the Surrey History Centre, Woking. The records are unusually comprehensive and represent the best historical documents on a lime-making facility in southeast England.[7]

Limestone at Betchworth

The North Downs beauty spot known as Box Hill in Surrey overlooks an escarpment that to the east is soon interrupted by a massive, stark white scar. Observable from as far away as Lewes Castle, the scar stands out against the surrounding green hills and provides evidence of the chalk base upon which Box Hill stands. It is a constant reminder of former extensive quarrying activity at Betchworth, midway between Dorking and Reigate. Perhaps Jane Austen had observed lesser scars at both Betchworth and nearby Brockham when early in the 19th century she decided on Box Hill as the venue for a day trip made by heroine Emma and her friends.

Grey or Middle Chalk outcrops to the west of the Betchworth site. Below is the Lower Chalk, containing greystone, converted into what was known as Dorking Lime. Deeper down are seams of hearthstone. Chalk or limestone rock is calcium carbonate. Limestone burning and slaking of the resulting lime are among the oldest chemical manufacturing processes. Strong heating, or calcining, in a kiln at above 900° C converts limestone into quicklime (calcium oxide), also called “burnt lime.” Calcium-containing alkaline products are covered by the generic term lime. Quicklime is used in the manufacture of steel, to refine beet sugar, and in agriculture to improve soil fertility. Slaking with water creates hydrated lime (calcium hydroxide), also used in agriculture and in construction. If slaking is continued, a white suspension of hydrated lime known as “milk of lime” is created, a useful bleaching agent, used to treat sewage. The lime-making chain has several components: quarrying, transport to kilns, firing, transport to crushing and slaking plants, slaking, packing in strong paper bags (to prevent attack by rain and moisture that could, and did, generate sufficient heat to cause wagons to burn), and transport to customers. Until around 1960, transport invariably meant the industrial railway.

The Dorking Grey Stone Lime Co. Ltd., as it was originally known, was founded in 1865, principally by Eustace and Townsend Hook of Snodland paperworks, Kent, and managed by the engineer William Finlay.[8] In 1866, Finlay installed under license the first Hoffman kilns in England that burned limestone in a continuous cycle.[9] In 1867, the first of six conical flare kilns was erected, the start of what became known as the southern battery for production of white lime. Two of the flare kilns were replaced in 1887 by Dietzsch kilns, modified from those used in the manufacture of cement. Later, an eastern battery was created.[10] The batteries of kilns were sited appropriately in relation to the positions of the quarries (at a higher level) and the standard-gauge works railway that descended by means of a steep switchback arrangement to the sidings at Betchworth station, which was adjacent to the works. Originally, the Grey Chalk was quarried and used in production of grey lime. The western quarry, opened later in the 19th century, was a source of limestone required for conversion to white lime; during 1900–01, an aerial ropeway was installed by the Ropeways Syndicate Ltd. to transport the limestone to a gantry placed above the Dietzsch kilns. Though this operation ceased by 1910, the gantry is one of the most prominent surviving features of the former quarry workings.[11] The western quarry was the first to close. The later quarries comprised an upper eastern whitestone pit and a lower pit. They were worked extensively during 1930–60. Prior to the changeover to iron oxide, white lime was much in demand at gasworks; production for gas purification purposes continued until 1945. Sewage lime was produced until 1940.[12] These and other products were sold through an office in London’s Old Kent Road. White lime was an important product until the end of operations at Betchworth. Brick making based on Betchworth products was also substantial.[13]

Flare kilns were last used at the southern battery in 1924 when an adjacent hydrator plant was installed. From the early 1930s, all lime production took place in the eastern battery. Continuous mixed-feed (so-called Brockham-type) kilns eventually replaced flare kilns in the eastern battery. While the location of the kilns was determined by the elevation of the land, in order to minimize the severity of the railway gradient, another factor was that their positions afforded the difference in level between railway-based charge and discharge points, particularly for the nonflare kilns.

Because of their historical interest, including as examples of technology transfer from mainland Europe and adaptation from cement to lime manufacture, the remaining kilns at both Betchworth and nearby Brockham are undergoing conservation by the Surrey Archaeological Society’s Surrey Industrial History Group in collaboration with the Surrey County Council. The kilns are expected to be classified as Scheduled Ancient Monuments under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979.

From the start, the works was connected through the internal railway with the South Eastern Railway at Betchworth station. Without this connection, worked initially by horses, the whole enterprise would not have been viable. Moreover, in winter months, particularly following prolonged heavy rain, the quarries would have been unworkable without railed transport. By the 1870s the quarries were served with narrow gauge tracks.

The Standard Gauge Railway and Its Locomotives

The Betchworth site, within easy reach of London, was highly accessible since it was crossed by an ancient public path, part of the route of the Pilgrim’s Way. This historical connection contributed to the fact that the railway system, by the 1930s, was attracting those interested in industrial railways and their locomotives.[14] During the next two decades, and especially after 1945, numerous photographers turned up to record the railway scene.[15] Eight locomotives are known to have worked at Betchworth, of which six survived into preservation. Four of the eight were of standard gauge. The first one, delivered in 1871, had a vertical boiler and cylinders. Power from the latter was transmitted to the driving axle through gear wheels. (Several vertical-boiler locomotives, though of a different design, once worked on the lightly laid narrow gauge railways in the slate quarries of North Wales.) The second Betchworth locomotive was a saddle tank that arrived in 1875 and was sold in 1878. The third locomotive, no. 3, a four-coupled side tank, arrived new in 1877 from the Whitehaven works of Fletcher, Jennings & Co. (the Lowca Foundry). It was works no. 158, constructed to the design of the firm’s B-class. Since Fletcher, Jennings provided three of the locomotives employed at Betchworth, all of which have survived, its history and products deserve a brief review.

The forerunner of the Lowca Foundry was established just to the north of Whitehaven on the Cumbrian Coast in 1763 to manufacture cannons and hardware. Locomotive construction was commenced in 1840 by the then owners, Tulk & Ley, who sold out to Fletcher, Jennings & Co. in 1857. In 1884, the Lowca Engineering Co. Ltd. (known as Lowca Engine Works) of Whitehaven was created, which in 1905 became the New Lowca Engineering Co. Ltd. Locomotive construction ceased in 1921, and the works was closed by the mid-1920s.[16] The firm was known for Fletcher’s patent four-wheel locomotive, based on English patent no. 321 of 6 February 1864. In this, the driven axle was the rear axle, as was usual practice, but the valve gear was worked from the leading axle that bore the two eccentrics.

In 1871, the typical Fletcher, Jennings four-wheel locomotive was described by engineer Zerah Colburn as follows:

This is a small engine suitable for collieries and quarries, and low speeds. It is fitted with Alan’s straight-link motion, which was probably the most convenient of application, as the whole motion is sustained by a reversing shaft. The link-motion is also for convenience worked off the leading axle, which is coupled to the driver—an arrangement which admits of the driving axle being placed under the firebox. But the movement is transmitted with some degree of obliquity from the expansion-links to the valve-spindles, and there is no doubt that such obliquity of action must shake the freely hung pendulous gearing considerably at high speeds.[17]

While these machines were not designed for high speeds, some were employed by Danish Railways in passenger service. The Fletcher, Jennings catalog declared that the four-coupled machines

combine remarkable steadiness with a short wheel base, and equal weights upon the axles, whilst the great overhanging weight and length at the footplate end, which is inseparable from all four-wheeled Engines of the usual construction, in which the firebox overhangs the driving axle, is avoided. This is accomplished by placing the axle beneath the firebox (with a shield to defend it from heat) and removing the valve eccentrics to the leading axle.[18]

This arrangement actually gave quite a long wheelbase of around 6 feet.

Locomotive no. 3 at Betchworth had 12 inch-diameter cylinders, with 20-inch stroke. It was 18 feet, 6 inches long; wheels were 3 feet, 6 inches in diameter; boiler pressure was 150 pounds per square inch; and the tractive effort was 8,740 lbs.[19] Bar frames, more characteristic of American than British practice, carried the wheels and cylinders. The disc wheels were a distinctive feature and fitted to many Fletcher, Jennings locomotives. No. 3 was originally supplied without a cab. Later a simple, corrugated metal roof was fitted and, eventually, a more substantial cab.[20] It was named Captain Baxter in 1932, and Baxter in 1947, although until the end of working, the side tanks bore both names.

A fourth steam locomotive at the site for a decade from 1939 was the four-wheeled Gervase, a product of the Sentinel Waggon Works (1920) Ltd. of Shrewsbury that adapted its road lorry power unit (involving a vertical boiler and geared drivetrain) to railway use. This locomotive appears to have been at Betchworth mainly for boiler repairs, which suggests that the workshop was capable of handling all but the largest repair jobs. Inventories, probably drawn up for insurance purposes, show that there were around 25 wagons in the 1930s and probably more at an earlier period. From 1924, a few had been converted into transporter wagons to carry 2-foot-gauge skips, or side-tippers, from the eastern battery to the hydrator and associated crushing plant. This operation continued until 1952, when a direct connection mounted on steel trestles was made between the two 2-foot-gauge sections. 19

Personal Journeys
Betchworth: A Visit in 1958

By the late 1950s, the quarries and works at Betchworth were in the terminal decline stage. Time was fast running out when I recorded in writing and on film the details of my first trip to Betchworth. One Saturday morning in September 1958 two school friends and I were at the works entrance of the Dorking Greystone Lime Co. Ltd. The office was a brick building whose chimney incorporated a round-arched opening that no doubt once sported a works bell. We had come to observe the firm’s standard gauge locomotive no. 3 at work. Permission had already been granted through correspondence, which (surviving letters suggest) the company was invariably happy to allow visiting geologists, paleontologists, railway enthusiasts, and those interested in lime manufacture, including a representative of the Cyprus government.[21]

We were directed along the steep path that paralleled the rather overgrown rail connection, part of the switchback that connected with the exchange siding at Betchworth station. The path led to a cluster of buildings similar in outward appearances to those found in farmyards and stables. They included the carpentry and fitters shop. Just beyond was a very decrepit locomotive shed. Inside the narrow shed, at the back, stood the rusting vertical-boiler machine. It had been christened “Coffeepot” by the men at the quarry, although it never carried that name. Since much of the corrugated iron roof of the shed had disappeared, it was possible to make observations at close quarters. The worksplate read “T. Head Engineer, 90, Cannon Street, 1871.” Two or three birds’ nests were prominent ornaments on the boiler; all the gearing was filled with mud and grit. Yet, at that time, as we were later informed, there was still hope that the locomotive would be rebuilt for further use. At the entrance to the shed stood the one other standard gauge locomotive, no. 3, a little younger in years, and the one that we had come to see at work. Its faded red side tanks bore a metal plate with the name Baxter and builder’s and number plates as well as the second name, painted on—Captain Baxter. The heat exiting from its boiler, a wisp of rising smoke from the tall chimney, and smell of oil informed us that Baxter was being readied for the day’s work.

The driver, or engineer, was nowhere to be seen, at least until we came across a short, sprightly figure who was filling an old paint pot with sand. This friendly individual, James Smith, had been in charge of the standard gauge locomotives since the 1930s.[22] Smith pointed out that recent heavy rains had caused flooding of part of the line at the eastern battery of kilns, which might lead to curtailment of operations. The intention, as took place on Saturdays, was to dispatch a single loaded wagon at the battery on the first part of its journey to a customer. We were invited to join Smith in the cab. After a few minor adjustments, the ancient machine reversed out of the shed along track of uncertain but sufficient gauge, passing below a corrugated roof that extended from the works and then along a short section half buried in mud deposited by lorries and part submerged in storm water. Baxter rolled down the grade and came to a halt outside the office, from where the driver received his instructions. Meanwhile, we inspected and photographed the locomotive.

After Smith reappeared, Baxter set out on the steep, unbroken climb to the eastern battery. As we made our way, chimney forward, on the grass-grown track, Smith distributed sand from the back of the cab onto rails that were clearly moving apart. This sanding was intended to aid the next downward journey. Baxter slipped violently on the wet grass, with smoke and ash flying from the chimney, and steam seemingly leaking from everywhere, as it climbed toward and past its shed with flanges squealing on the sharp curve leading to the eastern battery. Driver Smith brought Baxter to a standstill, just before the battery, alighted, and moved aside a section of the trestle carrying the 2-foot-gauge track that crossed the standard gauge. Smith decided to risk the flooded section in the battery area. With much clanking, Baxter puffed forward to its goal, the loaded open wagon whose lime contents were protected with a tarpaulin. By this time water was almost at the cylinders. The wagon was coupled up, and Baxter reversed back, stopping once it had left the flooded track so that the wagon destination slip could be firmly attached.

Setting off down the gradient, Smith told us to be ready to jump off in case he lost control or Baxter decided to leave the rails, suggesting that such events were not unknown or perhaps infrequent. Baxter was fitted with a handbrake that had, on occasion, seized up in cold weather, causing the locomotive to run away on the grade leading to the sidings at Betchworth station. Fortunately our short journey was accomplished without undue mishap, no doubt aided by the sanded rails.

We passed by the quarry office again, stopped a little beyond it to change the points (switch in U.S. terminology), and Baxter now gently guided its load down another steep gradient that brought the track to the level of the British Railways exchange siding. After moving some distance on the level, the wagon was uncoupled, and Baxter reversed back towards the quarry link, accompanied by a shower of autumnal leaves knocked from a trackside tree. On this section Smith explained how Baxter had been capable of 70 miles per hour in its heyday, although there was certainly not sufficient track for this to have been achieved along the quarry lines.

The next and final job was to propel an empty wagon into place at the eastern battery. Baxter set off up the steep track, this time to be diverted onto a siding. Hardly slowing down, Baxter pushed the empty wagon right off the rails into the undergrowth beyond before jolting to a halt. The wagon was coupled up and with a little pulling and pushing, and some very skilful driving, was returned to its railed position. After uncoupling, Baxter was reversed a short distance and brought to a stop beside a substantial pile of coal. Smith ascended to the summit of the pile and, with the help of a colleague, began throwing lumps onto the footplate. Then Baxter moved the empty wagon to the kiln shed, where it was deposited to await loading with the next rail-borne shipment.

Baxter had now finished work for the day. It was lunchtime, and the works, at least the rail section, was closed for the rest of the weekend. Baxter was driven forward to the locomotive shed where it pulled out the “Coffeepot” for our benefit . This required the assistance of a strong worker who managed to turn the well-rusted brake handle. The effort required was hardly surprising; “Coffeepot” had last worked in 1952. The two engines were then returned to the shed, with a great deal of effort on the part of Baxter.

Betchworth: More Visits and Preservation

During the following year and a half, we made several other visits to Betchworth and on one occasion donned overalls to clean Baxter. We were free to wander the paths to the quarries, which included crossing the track of the ancient Pilgrim’s Way, and follow the rails that crossed the quarry floors. We also explored the derelict structures, hardly of priceless historic significance but fascinating and characteristic of the locale, where locomotives were accommodated and serviced. Of great interest was the 3-foot, 2 1/4-inch gauge line and especially its two steam locomotives, almost scaled-down versions of Baxter. They had arrived in 1880, works nos. 172L and 173L, built to the general arrangement of the Fletcher, Jennings class E locomotive. In 1930, Major Edgar William Taylerson, the then managing director, an engineer by training, and an enthusiast for the historic equipment at Betchworth, decided to give them names. One, 172L, became Townsend Hook, after the first chairman of the company, and the other, William Finlay. They had been out of service since 1952 and 1955, respectively, but were quite well preserved in their shed, helped by ample amounts of grease. Although the provenance of the unusual gauge is uncertain, it has recently been suggested that the engines may have been originally intended for export to Mauritius for use on a railway of 3-foot, 1 1/4-inch gauge.[23]

The wooden-bodied wagons that these locomotives hauled had been constructed in the works. Outwardly they were similar to contractors wagons, designed for end or side discharge, according to the loading arrangements at the kilns. The upper quarry was 200 feet higher than the railway that brought the greystone to the batteries, and connection had once been made by means of inclines. The main incline lasted until around 1952. Its earthworks were still clearly visible. The 1-in-2 slope meant that the wagons also had to be designed so as not to tip their loads when on the descent. Lifting on the ascent and braking on the descent were controlled by a locomotive down below, moving back and forth on a special siding while connected up to the wire haulage cable that reached the head of the incline through a system of pulleys .

From 1945, the previously horse-worked, high-level eastern pit railway was worked by a Montania-type Orenstein & Koppel diesel locomotive that arrived from William Jones Ltd. of London, the former agent for the German firm. It was nicknamed “Monty” and given the number 6. A lower greystone face had been opened to the east in 1930, requiring a 300-yard rail connection with the eastern battery. It was steam operated until “Monty” took over in 1952. At that time, a second Montania diesel, this time of 2-foot gauge, no. 7, worked the newly laid railway of that gauge, installed in the upper pit. (Tracks of 2-foot gauge were referred to as “Decauville gauge” in Betchworth documents, after Paul A. Decauville, the French designer of 60-cm [23 5/8-in.] gauge equipment). A conveyor belt delivered the greystone to a hopper situated above the wider gauge line below. After this operation was introduced, there was no longer any need for the steep incline. This is how we found the working quarry and its railways during 1958–60.

We also explored remains of other old buildings and the wooded area that led down to the abandoned belowground hearthstone workings, located east of the eastern battery. Its 19-inch gauge rope-worked line that once connected with the standard gauge was still in position, although out of use for several years.

At the end of 1959, Dorking Greystone Lime ceased trading, and the works became the property of the Dorking Lime Co. Apart from the narrow gauge line that served the hydrator, rail working ended in 1960. Road vehicles now took over, as did the preservation movement, much aided by a sympathetic Major Taylerson. Baxter went by road to the Bluebell Railway in October 1960, where it was steamed on one or two occasions. A mechanical overhaul was commenced several years later and completed in March 1982, followed by a boiler overhaul in 1990. It is currently undergoing an extensive overhaul at Sheffield Park  and is scheduled to be operational again in 2006. The entries in a copy of a late-19th-century fitter’s notebook held at Sheffield Park show that Baxter required far less maintenance than the other two Fletcher, Jennings locomotives.

In September 1960, “Coffeepot” was taken to Head, Wrightson & Co., of Stockton-on-Tees, where in 1961 it was cosmetically restored, as had been an equally venerable Seaham Harbour Dock Co. vertical-boiler locomotive, also manufactured by a predecessor of Head, Wrightson.[24] Historical interest lay in the fact that the Betchworth machine was the very first locomotive that the firm had manufactured, although it was then owned by Thomas Head. In 1960, as a member of the Narrow Gauge Railway Society, I helped in the acquisition of Townsend Hook, which on 10 April was taken by road to Sheffield Park.[25] Through the generosity of Major Taylerson, Townsend Hook found a new home two years later at Brockham, where it became the first and principal exhibit at Brockham Museum.[26] It was followed in 1962 by two diesel locomotives, on permanent loan from Major Taylerson, and two wagons.[27]Townsend Hook, donated to the Amberley Working Museum in 2002, is currently undergoing restoration to working order by apprentices at Eastleigh College.[28]William Finlay, in private ownership, was steamed several times in the late 1990s at the site of the Woking Miniature Railway Society and is now in storage.


This article has focused mainly on the working habitat of industrial locomotives from one site that are now preserved in museums and, in one case, on a preserved working railway. The preservation efforts took place around 1960, just as the historical significance of these machines and the industries that they had served came to be appreciated. This followed efforts earlier in the decade that led to the preservation and restoration of the Welsh Talyllyn and Festiniog railways and growing appreciation of the aesthetics of fast-disappearing 19th-century locomotives, no doubt also brought to public attention by cartoonist Rowland Emett’s narrow-gauge Far Tottering and Oystercreek Railway at the 1951 Festival of Britain Exhibition. At another level, the cost of purchasing and transporting Townsend Hook to Sheffield Park in 1960 was around 90 pounds sterling. The cost of industrial narrow-gauge locomotives purchased a decade later by individuals, preserved railways, and museums had grown more than tenfold. Those from the quarries of North Wales, for example, fetched up to 20 times the price of Townsend Hook. Even allowing for inflation, this reflected the acknowledgement that small industrial locomotives had become, for individuals and organizations with sufficient resources and interest, valuable and irreplaceable relics of past industrial activity.[29] There can be few other items of industrial equipment that have attracted so much affection and loving attention to detail.

Those of us engaged in preserving the locomotives at Betchworth were driven by enthusiasm as railroad fans interested in a few specific items that became available. Little did we realize that tremendous growth of interest would follow from the 1960s, particularly the serious study of industrial archaeology and the desire to save examples of a fast-disappearing industrial heritage. As for Betchworth today (May 2005), the quarry is a landfill site. The other prominent reminders of past activity are a tall brick kiln, the gantry from the former ropeway, and a few buildings close to the site of the recently demolished standard gauge locomotive shed.


The author thanks the referees and editor for stimulating criticisms and suggestions.


1. David Gwyn, “Tredegar, Newcastle, Baltimore: The Swivel Truck as a Paradigm of Technology Transfer,” Technology and Culture 45 (2004): 778–94.

2. One locomotive discussed here, Baxter, appears in Wilbert Awdry, Stepney the Bluebell Engine (London: Edmund Ward, 1963). I thank Christopher Awdry, son of Rev. Wilbert V. Awdry, for discussing the inspirations for industrial locomotives appearing in the Thomas the Tank Engine series.

3. Michael Bailey and John Glithero, The Stephensons’ Rocket: A History of a Pioneering Locomotive (London: Science Museum/York: National Railway Museum, 2002). For a discussion of industrial railways, see Michael J. T. Lewis, “The Railway in Industry,” The History and Practice of Britain’s Railways: A New Research Agenda, ed. R. W. Ambler (Aldershot, England: Ashgate, 1999), 77–95, and in Industrial Railway Record 14, no. 156 (March 1999): 109–20.

4. Robert C. Post, “‘The Last Steam Railroad in America’: Shaffers Crossing, Roanoke, Virginia, 1958,” Technology and Culture 44 (2003): 561.

5. Ian Dean, Andrew Neale, and David Smith, compilers, for Chalk Pits Museum, Industrial Railways of the South-East (Midhurst, West Sussex: Middleton Press, 1984).

6. In the preparation of this article I have received considerable assistance from the staff at Surrey History Centre, Woking, Surrey, England, and the Science Museum Library, London. Lewis Nodes and colleagues at the Bluebell Railway, Sussex, England, were kind enough to allow me to examine and photograph the locomotive Baxter in its dismantled state on 30 May 2005.

7. Extensive documentation on the Dorking Greystone Lime Co. Ltd. held at the Surrey History Centre, Woking, will be found under the following file nos.: 2073, 2159, 2274, 2497, 2632, 4099, 4105, Ac1053, Ac1110, Ac1373, Ac1418, and 7628 (henceforth abbreviated as DGLC papers). See also National Register of Archives catalog references: NRA 24035 Dorking Greystone; NRA 3518 Surrey RO misc.

8. File 4105, DGLC papers (see n. 7).

9. File 2159, DGLC papers (see n. 7).

10. J. L. Townsend, Townsend Hook and the Railways of the Dorking Greystone Lime Co. Ltd. (Betchworth, Surrey: Brockham Museum/London: Narrow Gauge Railway Society, 1980).

11. Site visit by author, 31 May 2005. See also file 2274, DGLC papers (n. 7).

12. Sales records for 1927 to 1957 in file 2632, DGLC papers (see n. 7).

13. Paul Sowan, “The Betchworth Limeworks and Sandlime Brick Manufacture at Holmethorpe (Merstham/Redhill),” Surrey Industrial History Group Newsletter 126 (2002): 28–30.

14. Clarence Winchester, ed., Railway Wonders of the World, 2 vols. (London: Amalgamated Press, 1935–1936) 2: 1015–22.

15. Harry Lime, “The Dorking Greystone Lime Company and Its Railways: A Tale of Four Gauges,” Railway Byelines 6, no. 8 (July 2001): 350–58.

16. Ian Kyle, Steam from Lowca: A History of the Rise and Fall of Locomotive Building at Lowca Foundry, 1840–1921 (Moresby: Ian Kyle, 1974). Second impression 1985.

17. Zerah Colburn, Locomotive Engineering and the Mechanism of Railways: A Treatise on the Principles and Construction of the Locomotive Engine, Railway Carriages, and Railway Plant, with Examples, 2 vols. (London: William Collins, Sons and Co., 1871) 1: 282.

18. Quoted in Mike Fell, “From Lowca to the Indian Ocean,” Industrial Railway Record 16, no. 181 (June 2005): 139–47.

19. For a recent photo of Baxter, go to the site of the Bluebell Railway Preservation Society < bluebell/pics/baxter.html>.

20. File 1053, DGLC papers (see n. 7), contains photographs of the Betchworth locomotives, groups of workers, and the site in general, in addition to information about the kilns, etc. See also file 4105, DGLC papers (n. 7), which includes an aerial picture dated 1934.

21. File 2073, DGLC papers (see n. 7).

22. “The Captain’s Mate,” Bluebell News 24, no. 2 (Summer 1982): 73–74.

23. Fell, “From Lowca” (see n. 18).

24. Evening Gazette (12 April 1961): 6 (Middlesborough) [Surrey History Centre Archives, Woking, England].

25. J. L. Townsend, The Dorking Greystone Lime Co. Ltd. and “Townsend Hook.” (London: Narrow Gauge Railway Society, 1961).

26. Andrew Neale, “Locomotive Preservation: (2) Brockham Narrow Gauge Museum,” Industrial Railway Record 1, no. 9 (March 1966): 212–15.

27. Townsend, Townsend Hook (see n. 10).

28. The Sentinel locomotive Gervase also survives in preservation, on the Kent & East Sussex Railway, where it arrived in 1962.

29. On 11 June 2005, at an auction of railwayana in Sheffield, a nameplate and a builder’s plate from Townsend Hook fetched 2,600 pounds sterling. William Finlay was privately preserved in 1960 by John B. Latham, and is now in the care of his son, Bryce Latham.

By Anthony S. Travis