The History and origins of the NW&DMR
How it all began:
Back in 2013, the late Richard Goulding started planning to construct a miniature railway at the Epping Ongar Railway in Essex at North Weald Station. A steam locomotive was purchased from Station Road Steam (now our Stafford R.J Goulding), track work was built and work began. Sadly however the project never fully materialised and was abandoned. The track was put into storage and the locomotive moved to the Lodge Farm Park Miniature Railway where Richard ran it on a few occasions until he sadly passed away in 2015.
Two years later, a plea was put out by the Epping Ongar Railway Volunteer Society (EORVS) for volunteers to attempt to re-kindle the project and to build and run a miniature railway somewhere on the EOR site.
Very rapidly a group of volunteers was formed. It also happened that by chance Richard Goulding's Stafford steam locomotive was put up for sale having not done much work since Richard passed. The volunteer group saw a massive opportunity here to re-unite Richards engine with its original home, and so approached the EORVS to see if a fund could be put in place to purchase the locomotive. Sadly the EORVS could not find the funding at the time to purchase the locomotive. So, scratching heads, a miracle occurred when the miniature railway volunteer group managed to club together and purchase the locomotive for themselves. To do this a new independent volunteer group was formed, and so the Epping Ongar Miniature Railway Group (EOMRG) was formed and the locomotive arrived at North Weald in the summer of 2017.
The EOMRG continued to look for a site to build a permanent miniature railway, but during this time the group manged to get together the track that Richard had built for the original layout and used some of it to run a portable track at special events at the EOR using the Stafford steam engine along with a couple of sit astride LNER type coaches that the group had also acquired. The group also acquired a box trailer which enabled the railway to be taken to events further afield from the EOR, enabling the group to attend town fairs and school fetes. The Stafford also did some touring, running at different railways including the East Herts Miniature Railway, and Spinney Light Railway.
The Lodge Farm Park Miniature Railway in Romford, where our Stafford once ran, had just completed their track and invited our Stafford to run at their grand opening day on the 29th April 2019. Richards family and friends from the railway rode behind the locomotive on the line that Richard helped to build. To mark the occasion, we had a set of brass name plates made for the locomotive, officially naming the locomotive after its former owner 'R.J Goulding'.
Tony Goulding with his fathers locomotive at Lodge Farm in 2016
Adam Gorski unpacks the Stafford on arrival at North Weald in 2017
EOMRG Running at the EOR
'R.J Goulding' running at the Lodge Farm grand opening with the new name plates
NWDMR, a new chapter:
In April 2019 the EOMRG went on the hunt to look for a potential site for a permanent layout close to its home base in North Weald. We approached a few possible land owners, including the Harlow Garden Centre which had recently come under Blue Diamond ownership. Blue Diamond got back to us very quickly and expressed a great interest in having us at their site at Harlow.
The site is a garden area on the south side of the car park. A well landscaped area that had been left during recent months and was getting towards the overgrown stage. The site includes several island type plantations and pond area.
Within a month a plan of the proposed route was put forward to Blue Diamond for approval. It included a two phase plan. Phase one includes a loop line round the main garden area starting and finishing at a terminus station. Phase two is line running south from the station to the boundary line and then west towards the M11 motorway.
In May 2019 we had a very rare chance to purchase an entire railway stored in a 40ft container. The Fenn Bell Miniature Railway, was a line that ran around a zoo in the grounds of the Fenn Bell Inn in Kent. Sadly however, the line only ran for 18 months before closing and the railway with all its assets were put into a 40ft storage container.
We were very lucky to have the chance to purchase the Fenn Bell container and with a massive thanks to Paul Wenham, the container arrived on site at Harlow in late May.
The container contained a virtually complete railway including track, signals, coaches, a freight set of three wagons, a part built petrol hydraulic loco and a sit in battery locomotive.
Over the next few months the line advanced out of the yard area and around the start of the mainline.
July 2019 saw the arrival of a few locomotives.
The ex-EOMRG locomotives, including the Stafford 'R.J Goulding' and a american outline battery locomotive known as 'Bigfoot' arrived on the site. And along with a new addition to the fleet in the form of privately owned diesel electric shunter outline locomotive known as 'Jenko'
In August 2019 the railway opened to the public for the first time. Running trains over the current completed sections of line, around 300 meters. On the same day, the Epping Ongar Railway was hosting a vintage bus rally. At the end of the day a cavalcade of over 30 heritage buses descended on the Garden Centre, which put a nice ending to the NWDMR's first day of operation.
2020 - Present:
With phase one completed the railway had a full loop around the gardens to run around giving just over a 1/4 of a mile run. We got very excited to open the full loop for the first time!! and then the covid pandemic hit us and miniature railways across the whole country ground to a halt. No trains ran at all for a good 6 months until we slowly started running trains again, opening with social distancing in place!
once a sense of normality returned the railway went into full swing, hosting our first major summer event at our now annual "Miniature and Model Fest!" which was an amazing event! Easter, Halloween and Santa Specials followed, all very successful events!
In late 2021 we turned our attention to Phase 2 of the railway. The extension plans were looked at and approved by the Garden Centre and work began in early 2022. A Phenomenal effort was put in by our amazing volunteer team, who completed the project in a record 6 months! With the extension formally opening to the public on our "Miniature and Model Fest 2022!"
Meanwhile our locomotive fleet has grown hugely with our fleet growing to a strong 10 locomotives of all shapes and sizes!
The Future looks bright for the NW&DMR!!