(Note: Numbers in brackets refer to specific references)
The first section of this pleasantly scenic single track line was the seven and a half mile Garstang to Pilling Railway Co. which began operations in 1870, mainly to support the local agricultural industry. From an exchange siding in the goods yard of the LNWR Garstang & Catterall station the line passed through Garstang itself then Nateby and three small stations to the terminus at Pilling. The noise made by the engine on the curves was likened to the squealing of a pig and trains on the line were thereafter generally known as 'the Pilling Pig' by the locals. Following the development of the local rock salt mines in the 1890's the line was extended in 1908 via Preesal to Knott End, a small coastal town on the opposite bank of the River Wyre from Fleetwood. A small steam passenger and bicycle ferry operates from Knott End to Fleetwood, the tidal range making car traffic impractical. A small branch on the new section, between the two towns, served the salt mine and an associated salt works from which most of the rock salt was moved by rail to a quay near Knott End for loading into ships of up to 1600 tons. The salt works accepted regular shipments of coal, delivered in PO wagons from Preston. The salt works closed in 1925, the salt was then pumped as brine through a pipeline to a works on the far side of the river, however I believe rock salt was still mined and shipped by rail. The company also purchased six new goods wagons and three brake vans to handle traffic on the extended line. The G&KER was grouped into the LMS in 1923 and the last passenger service ran in 1930, goods services continued until the end of 1950 and the track was lifted about a year later. (3)
The G&KER meandered through lovely countryside and this line can match any of the Colonel Stephens light railways for sheer character (had the line been built after the Light Railways legislation in 1895 it would almost certainly have been built as such). The line was operated (officially) on a one-engine-in-steam basis until 1908 and had no signals until the extension was built. The signals then installed were timber slotted post types. Goods yards at Garstang, Pilling and Knott End were usually well filled with farmers carts, it was not unusual for odd wagons to be dropped off along the line for loading with produce. On the return journey these wagons were simply pushed ahead of the engine to the next goods yard. The original coaches were veranda-ended six wheelers introduced in the 1870's (3), these were supplanted by a rake of bogie coaches (2 & 3), again with veranda ends, when the new extension to Knott End opened in 1908. A contemporary account of the bogie coaches records that the tramcar-like vehicles of the Garstang and Knott End were bravely described as "handsome new corridor carriages." They were in fact open saloon types with slatted wooden seats to either side of a central isle, I believe they were a failed export order for an African line (2). The nearest I have seen in model terms are the Arnold forty two foot 'old time' bogie coaches. There was considerable seasonal traffic in visitors to the coast and there are stories told of people riding on the veranda ends of the coaches 'in all weathers' when the coaches were full. There were four all-third coaches and four first/third. As these had no guards compartment a couple of passenger brake vans were also purchased. In 1920 the company hired an LNWR steam rail-motor which remained in use until passenger services ended.
The early locomotives were leased saddle tanks, the first engine actually owned by the company was named 'The Farmers Friend' of 1884. Later the line operated its own 2-6-0 and 0-6-0 side tank engines. The company apparently favoured outside cylinder locomotives and as far as I am aware they never owned any tender locos. Under the LMS ex L&Y 0-6-2 tanks were used and ex LNWR 0-6-2 tank engines made occasional trips. In later years main line engines such as black fives operated on the line.
Goods stock was painted dark grey (body and chassis) with black strapping and running gear. The lettering, as shown in the sketches, was white (1 & 3). Numbering was not sequential, for example a one plank open wagon and a goods brake van built in 1908 carried No.1 (2). This may have been a re-numbering following the extension to Knott End and the change of name of the line. The four early coaches were painted a colour close to 'red oxide' (3). The fleet of bogie coaches, all eight of them, were painted dark red with yellow lining and the company initials about six inches high along the waist in yellow, possibly shaded black (2 & 3). From the coloured postcard (3) the locomotives were also painted dark red, the tanks appear to have been lined with a black line down the centre of a white stripe.
Modelling the very short peaked roof salt van was described in article 8 of my series on Traffic for Tickling (Railway Modeller March 2002 ) although my model was painted in the livery of a fictitious light railway. These were old eight plank open wagons converted to vans in 1912. I believe the last of these was withdrawn in 1923 (1).
(1) The Garstang & Knott End Railway by W Rush and M. R. Price - Oakwood Press. - 1985 A useful revised and expanded second edition book containing the history of the line along with photographs, a map and several scale drawings of the rolling stock.
(2) LNWR Miscellany Vol.2 by E Talbot, OPC, ISBN: 086093070X Contains black and white photographs of a one plank wagon (No.1), a goods brake van (also No.1) and a passenger brake van. There is also a two-page spread of a black and white builders photograph showing the entire fleet of bogie carriages.
(3) www.pillingpig.co.uk is a web site operated by a caravan site on the route of the old line, the web site used to feature a set of four vintage coloured postcards illustrating locomotives, coaches, goods stock and a map of the line but these have, for the moment, been replaced by a set of black and white vintage photographs.
(4) METRO-CAMMELL - 150 Years Of Craftsmanship by Keith Beddoes Colin & Stephen Wheeler 1999, ISBN 1 870 754 468. Contains photos of wagons and all eight veranda ended coaches painted dark red with yellow lining.
I have not been able to trace an association devoted to this line, one might exist however and I would be pleased to hear of it. The people at www.pillingpig.co.uk are planning to build a heritage centre and are actively researching this line.
There are no suitable models for the GKER locomotives in N/2mm, the closest being the little 0-6-0 Hornby Minitrix 'dock tank' or the well tank offered by Trix on the same chassis, although this latter would require the addition of a saddle tank to more closely resemble the prototype. No specific models of GKER stock are known however the Arnold forty two foot 'old time' bogie coaches do resemble the 1908 coaches supplied to this line.
Special thanks are due to Mrs. Joan Moran for her assistance with local research.