Eastwell and Waltham Ironstone Company

Gauge: 3ft (915mm) & 1m

The Eastwell and Waltham Ironstone Company owned ironstone quarries in Leicestershire. Rail operations commenced in 1885 and finished in 1959.

Leicestershire contains isolated outcrops of the Midlands ironstone deposits and opencast working was carried on by several companies around Eastwell and Eaton. Land worked was leased from the Duke of Rutland. The Eastwell Iron Ore Company and the Waltham Iron Ore Company were both owned by Staveley Coal and Iron, (later Staveley Minerals) whose policy was to form a subsidiary company to work each of their groups of quarries. The quarry companies were allowed a certain amount of operational independence and individuality. In 1957 the companies were united as Eastwell and Waltham Ironstone Company.

Quarrying depended on the various single track branches of the Midland Railway and the GNR to move the massive amounts of iron ore from the quarries to the foundries, and equally the Midland and GNR built branches in anticipation of this traffic. This interdependence was a feature of the Midlands ironstone industry. When a quarry company wished to start working a new field, it had to persuade the railway to provide a siding on the appropriate branch. Then the company laid narrow or standard gauge track across its fields to convey the ore to the siding. Where narrow gauge was used transhipment was required, the loaded standard gauge wagons being collected by the daily workings along the branch.

Working at Waltham began in 1885 by which time the Eaton branch of the GNR was open. Unusually, since 3 foot was the norm, a one metre gauge tramway transported ore to the branch. A wagon tippler emptied the tram wagons into standard gauge stock. By the mid 1920s four quarries were in operation all served by tramway branches. Steam locomotives were used, two of which were possibly built by the parent company, Staveley. Later locos were bought in and included Nantes and Cambrai, the only locos built in France to run in Britain.

World War Two saw intensive production replace the uncertain 1920s and 30s and the quarries were almost exhausted. Further quarries were cut requiring extension of the tramway system to over three miles from the tippling dock. Waltham Quarries closed in 1958, a year of depression in the iron ore industry. By then only two locos were working – Cambrai and Dreadnought.

Eastwell Quarries were worked from 1889. To convey the ironstone down to the GNR Eaton branch where there was a tippler, a steel rope-operated gravity incline was used. From its head 3 foot gauge tramway tracks led to the working faces. Operation of Eastwell changed little, although new quarries came and were exhausted. Eventually to obtain fresh reserves which would double Eastwell’s output, a lengthy tramway extension was required to bypass clay deposits. It had to pass under the GNR Eaton branch, over a road, and over a river, by viaduct. Work began in 1911.

The first locomotives on the tramway, John Green and Belvoir, were built by Staveley and had vertical cylinders. Further locomotives came from various sources. Despite some mechanisation, by 1950 Eastwell and Waltham were becoming outdated. The rope-worked incline was the last in the industry. By 1957 most of the Eastwell tramway was redundant with only two locos serviceable – Pioneer and Nancy.

Plans were made to replace the 3ft gauge tramway with a standard gauge line from the quarry to the BR Eaton Branch. Negotiating new charges with BR took time and lorries were introduced. The last quarry train ran on 21st October 1959.

Eastwell Iron Ore Company 3ft gauge

Number / NameManufacturerTypeNotes
John GreenStaveley (?) in 1880. Boiler by Clayton & Shuttleworth0-4-0TScrapped 1913
BelvoirStaveley (?) in 1880. Boiler by Clayton & Shuttleworth0-4-0TScrapped 1920
Lord GranbyHudswell, Clarke & Co. No.633 of 19020-4-0STPreserved by Eastwell History Group
The ScotHudswell, Clarke & Co. No.776 of 19060-4-0STScrapped 1957
UnderbankPeckett & Sons No.873 of 19000-4-0STScrapped 1961
BansheeManning, Wardle & Co. No.1276 of 18940-6-0ST1921-1928
WoodcockBlack, Hawthorn & Co. No1046 of 18920-4-0STScrapped 1948
Pioneer  W G Bagnall No.1980 of 19130-6-0STScrapped 1962
MountaineerW G Bagnall No.2203 of 19230-6-0STScrapped 1960
ScaldwellPeckett & Sons No. 1316 of 19130-6-0ST1947-1950. Preserved at the Southwold Railway Trust
BelvoirHunslet Engine Co. No.1823 of 19360-6-0STScrapped 1962
NancyAvonside Engine Co. No.1547 of 19080-6-0TPreserved at the Cavan and Leitrim Railway, Dromod

Waltham Iron Ore Company 1m gauge

Number / NameManufacturerTypeNotes
George BondStaveley (?) in 1884. Boiler by Clayton & Shuttleworth0-4-0TScrapped 1913
RutlandStaveley (?) in 1886. Boiler by Clayton & Shuttleworth0-4-0TScrapped 1920
DreadnoughtManning, Wardle & Co. No.1757 of 19100-4-0ST. Later 0-4-2STScrapped 1960
The Baronet  Markham & Co. No.102 of 18890-4-0STEx-Cranford Ironstone Co. 1923. Scrapped 1960
NantesCorpet & Louvet No.936 of 19030-6-0TPurchased 1934. Scrapped 1960
Cambrai L Corpet No.493 of 18880-6-0TEx-Loddington 1956. Owned by the Narrow Gauge Railway Museum. On loan to
Irchester Narrow Gauge Railway Museum.