The Downs Light Railway


Unlike other miniature railways, the Downs Light Railway is not a club, society, or an attraction. The Downs Light Railway is both an indoor and outdoor classroom for young people and children to learn. The railway is simply a catalyst for a variety of learning activities that the children can relate to the working environment of a fully working railway. There are no gimmicks, illusions, or simulations. The railway is where the children learn everything for real. 

90 years on from its inception in 1925, the railway is an integral part of The Downs Malvern's extracurricular activities. During the school term, two sessions are run for the pupils lasting 1½ hrs each. Each session can have up to 16 pupils, with some of the more enthusiastic and experienced pupils attending both!

The hobby time is where the children are actively involved in the maintenance of the railway. Selecting the railway as a hobby within the school is down to the individual child, none of them are compelled by school to take part. Similarly, while each child is encouraged to drive a locomotive, it is entirely voluntary. Operating fully working locomotives, the railway awards two levels of competence for the children. A blue neckerchief is awarded when a child is fully competent at operating the petrol-hydraulic locomotive; both in driving, refuelling and oiling the locomotive. A red neckerchief follows the same principle but for the steam locomotives. Of course, with the added complexities, the competence level required is much higher.


The railway has a mixture of both boys and girls of all ages, between 7 and 14 years. Their interest in railways is neither important nor relevant. Each child that chooses to take part is encouraged to get involved in all the activities; these range from physical track work, to complex disassembly, repair and reassembly of locomotive components. It becomes a great opportunity for the children to get their hands dirty, while both physically and mentally challenging them in a practical environment. The group activities requiring collective problem solving enable each child to develop their own leadership and team working abilities. The senior pupils invariably take a lead, directing or teaching their peers with the knowledge they themselves have developed. This is not necessarily age bias, and frequently younger children can find themselves teaching an elder child or even an eager parent who has jumped at an offer to sit on the foot plate to drive a locomotive.


The children get to prove their hard work, by running the railway for the school’s events. This can be anything from school Open Days, to specific celebratory events. While the railway is exclusively run for the school, on very rare occasions it can be run for local charity or community events. The railway can have up to three trains running at anytime. The children confidently take turns in driving and guarding the trains, managing the platforms, controlling the points, and operating the token signalling. With some of the larger events in the past, they have coped easily with over 400 passengers.

Many children struggle with academics and sports, but the railway has proven to be an area where they can flourish. Invariably it becomes the making of them. With many years of schooling ahead, these children will walk away with foundation skills that will last them all their lives.

© The Downs Light Railway Trust 2010-18. Registered Charity No. 513882
Last edited: 9 January 2018

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