When word reached us of a Howdenshire property with its own train line running through the garden, we assumed that it must be a model railway. How wrong we were!
When we visited Elizabeth Shutt’s home near Wressle, we were greeted with a standard gauge – that’s full size – working railway line, complete with an engine and carriages. The East Wressle and Brind Railway, as it’s officially known, is one eighth of a mile long and even has a level crossing, a platform, waiting room and an engine shed!
It’s modelled on the network of branch line railways that were built up and down the country by Colonel Holman Fred Stephens during the early part of the 20th century. The ambitious project was the work of Elizabeth’s late husband Colin Shutt, who was inspired to create it after building a replica of the Ford rail buses that would once have transported passengers along Colonel Stephens’ lines.
Elizabeth explained: “After building the rail bus for a competition, Colin thought ‘what can I do with it?’, so, he built the railway around the garden! He had to apply for planning permission, then he and a friend built the engine shed.
“Although the rail bus has since been donated to the Colonel Stephens Railway Museum at Tenterden in Kent, we have a Ruston 48DS diesel locomotive and various other rolling stock, which is in the process of being restored.”
Colin first came up with the idea in 2004 and worked on the project right up until his death in February 2016. Since then, a number of his friends have given up their free time to ensure that the project continues, visiting each week to maintain the line and give the locomotive a run out. They’re currently busy restoring an old goods carriage and creating the façade of a station master’s house, complete with a porch and cottage-style garden, in the end of an old outbuilding, in keeping with Colin’s vision for the site.
David Bancroft, Colin’s former business partner, explained: “We’re all friends of Colin’s and, because we’re retired, we come here most Thursdays. There were others involved too in the early days.
“The Ruston shunter dates back to the early 1950s and had been supplied new to a firm in Leicester, where it had been used to pull aggregrates from the main line to their works. Elizabeth bought it for Colin for his birthday one year, but he had to pay the delivery costs, which ended up being more than the cost of the engine!”
Cousins Gerald and David Christian became involved after spotting the railway line in Elizabeth’s garden through a gap it the hedge and stopping to chat to Colin about it. David lives at Laytham, but Gerald travels from Mirfield in West Yorkshire each week to work on the project.
He said: “We come to do maintenance, but we have lots of fun. Recently, we completed the level crossing that Colin has started making and we’ve got the old coal truck to restore next. That’s our project for this winter; it came from the Derwent Valley Railway.”
In a strange coincidence, after they began working together on railway line – originally alongside Colin – the men realised that they’d all grown up in Horsforth near Leeds, although they didn’t know one another in those days. If anything, it was their shared passion for engineering that brought them together. Before they retired, David Bancroft and Colin ran an engineering company together in Leeds; Gerald was a mechanic at Kirkstall Forge; and David Christian was a buildings surveyor for Selby District Council. It seems fitting that the group of friends have continued to work together to enhance and preserve Colin’s wonderful legacy.
- Although, the East Wressle and Brind Railway is not open to the public, it has hosted visits from interested parties, including The Branch Line Society, the Railway Ramblers and a bus trip organised by local company Thornes Motor Services.