All aboard as Lakeshore Railroad in South Marine Park celebrates 50th anniversary in South Shields

A much-loved miniature steam railway is to celebrate 50 years of delighting children and parents.

On March 31, Good Friday in 1972, the Lakeshore Railroad in South Marine Park, South Shields, carried its first passengers.

Half-a-century later, the coal-driven train is providing as much pleasure to countless people as it ever did.

To mark the occasion a 50th Anniversary weekend is to be held over July 2 and 3.

Opening day in 1972, with mayor of South Shields Vince Fitzpatrick in the driving seat.

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It begins at 10.30am on Saturday, July 2 with a reopening ceremony by Anthony Coulls, historian and senior curator of Rail Transport at the National Railway Museum in York, followed by an opening train recreation.

The railway began in the early 1970s as an idea from engineers and enthusiasts Jack Wakefield and Don Proudlock. A special trio was completed by the third founder, Micheal Henderson who still owns the railway today.

The day is also significant as for only the second time in the railway’s history there will be up to six visiting and resident locomotives working in the park. The engines are arriving from as far as Crewe in Cheshire and Malvern in Worcestershire.

Another special visitor will also be coming from what was Scotland’s oldest miniature railway, Auld Reekie, from the Kerr’s Miniature Railway in Arbroath which sadly closed in 2020.

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Lakeshore Railroad is as popular as it ever was.

Auld Reekie is the sister of South Marine Park’s own original engine, Mountaineer. It will be the first time the two have ever “met” or are likely to ever do so.

There is also a dash of royalty in the form of two 1924 Wembley Exhibition carriages, once rode in by George V during a rare public appearance.

Organisers say the railway is the last public steam-hauled working railway of the 9 ½ inch gauge to be found anywhere in the country. So a gathering of such engines is very rare.

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Mark Nunn is Lakeshore Railroad’s archivist and events and marketing manager.

Two of the Lakeshore Railroad's three founding fathers, Jack Wakefield and Don Proudlock, in 1972.

He said: “Having been operating for half a century, we are now seeing grandparents bringing their grandchildren for a trip, having been on themselves as a child.

“After all these years too it’s still the same engines, same carriages, same people and most importantly the same friendly ethos keeping it running.”

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