Railway event brings local history to life

Leighton Buzzard Railway (archive picture)
Leighton Buzzard Railway (archive picture)

This weekend, the Leighton Buzzard Railway is bringing to life a part of Bedfordshire’s local history that’s almost forgotten.

Exactly 100 years ago, in the spring of 1916, the Motor Rail company started production of its Simplex locomotives in Bedford, following an order from the War Department for the supply lines to the trenches.

By the end of the First World War two years later, more than 800 locomotives had been made.

After the war, Motor Rail sold its products to many different customers around the world, but one of their best customers was on their doorstep – the sand quarry railways of Leighton Buzzard.

The company closed in 1987, and the Leighton Buzzard Railway is marking its centenary with a programme of events over two weekends – May 28 to 30 and June 4 and 5.

There will be a working display of Simplex petrol and diesel locomotives, including visitors from other railways, and the last chance to see 40hp ‘protected’ Simplex LR3098, built in 1918, at work on the town’s railway, as it will be soon be returning to its owners, the National Railway Museum.

On Sunday, Leighton Buzzard Railway will be making a record bid for the largest number of Simplexes ever to pull a train.

This will be attempted on the last train of the day, the 16:25 departure from Stonehenge Works. There will be a premium on ticket prices for this train and advance online booking is strongly recommended.

Author Alan Keef will be launching his new book about the machines and the Motor Rail company which designed and produced them over the weekend, and can be found in the Buzzrail Cafe on operating days, where he will be happy to sign copies of his book.

Some of the images from the book will be on display at Stonehenge Works, covering the whole Motor Rail story from pre-First World War tramcars to the final years of decline in the 1980s.

To mark the centenary in its town of origin, one of the original Great War designs, plus a War Department wagon, are on display throughout the summer at the John Higgins museum, Bedford.

For more informationand bookings, see www.buzzrail.co.uk/