The beginnings of Brooklands miniature railway
It all began in 1964 when a Mr David Stanier and a Mr Ernest Woods proposed a railway for the site.
The idea was that of the present licensees of the boating lake, Mr D. Stanier and Mr E. Woods, who had bought a £2,000 layout including an 11ft scale working model of an American Yankee Clipper engine complete with cowcatcher, bell and tender.
The engine was fired with Welsh steam coal and could haul six or seven coaches carrying up to 50 children at about 4mph.
The track that they had purchased was of 9½-inch gauge and the engine stood at just over 2ft high.
Their plan was to put the track along the western side of the boating lake from near the car park at the northern end, running along side the pitch and putt course to the southern end, where the lake overflows the weir into a culvert to the sea.
It was to be a single track with a loop line for uncoupling the engine so that it can turn round for the return journey.
Their plan also included small station layouts at each end of the track, with perhaps halts alongside the run.
Once the planning particulars had been submitted, the proposal for a railway at Brooklands was later accepted by the council and work to build the railway begin in early 1965.
Not only would ballast and track have to be laid but also many small cuttings would have to be dug and re-grassed.
An engine and carriage shed was also constructed, measuring 40ft in length, 12ft in width and 7ft in height.
This concrete building was, in fact, a standard car garage, similar to a Marley garage and was purchased, in kit form, from Sompting Concrete Products, in Rectory Road, Sompting.
This mammoth task of laying the railway was achieved on schedule and the 660-yard “end to end” railway, with “run round loops” at either end, was officially opened in time for the Easter period in 1965.
On September 16, 1966, the miniature railway was again mentioned in a Worthing Borough Council meeting.
The minutes stated: “The Town Clerk submitted a letter from Messrs. Woods and Stanier stating that they would like to extend the miniature railway round the lake and in this connection asking whether the Corporation would be prepared to construct a bridge at the north end of the lake and prepare the land on the east side of the lake for the laying of the track, on the understanding that the Corporation would be reimbursed the cost, as agreed, over a period of years.”
A brand new collection, which included a British Railways blue, class 52 Western locomotive called “Western Comet”, six accompanying BR blue “toast rack” style carriages and just over 1,760 yards of 10¼-inch gauge track was purchased from the miniature railway builder Severn Lamb Ltd, in Stratford-upon-Avon.
The track was delivered to the park in January, 1967, although the locomotive and carriages would remain at Severn Lamb Ltd until the track had been completely laid.
The new railway featured on the front page of the Worthing Gazette on Wednesday, March 22, 1967.
The newspaper explained: “This gleaming blue and white miniature diesel engine has attracted crowds of youngsters to Brooklands Park since it arrived on Saturday.
“It is a unique handmade scale model of a Western Enterprise engine and is called the Western Comet.
“With a top speed of 20 miles an hour it can pull six carriages with about 70 passengers.”
The Worthing Gazette continued: “Throughout the winter Mr David Stanier and Mr Ernest Woods, who operate the railway, have been laying more track and have built a bridge across the lake.
“The track now completely encircles the lake and is a mile long.
“The Western Comet cost £1,600 and about £5,000 has been spent on improving the railway this winter.”
“Western Comet” and the coaching stock was later painted red and operated in this livery for many years.
Several operators have come and gone and, as many will know, the railway still operates today, although different locomotives and coaches are now used.