First of all. Thank you for visiting this page. Our group of dedicated volunteers run and operate a 5 inch gauge miniature railway and carry both children and adults alike. We are based at the Lavender Line, a heritage railway running from Isfield Station in East Sussex.
We proudly raise money for the Evelina Children’s Hospital, London, which is part of Guys and St Thomas’. All money from fares and donations is sent to the Evelina, last year was our best year yet, raising a staggering £2,984.
However, due to the Coronavirus, sadly we are unable to operate and the Lavender Line has decided it will not reopen this year. It is currently planned to reopen at Easter 2021. As last years figure was so impressive, we’re deeply saddened that we are unable to raise any money for the Evelina this year and so we believe this may be our only option.
Evelina London Children's Hospital is a specialist NHS hospital in London. It is administratively a part of Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust and provides teaching hospital facilities for London South Bank University and King's College London School of Medicine. Formerly housed at Guy's Hospital in Southwark, it moved to a new building alongside St Thomas' Hospital in Lambeth on 31 October 2005.
We have decided to aim for raising £3,000 to slightly better that raised last year. Thank you in advance for any donation made to this very worthwhile charity.
For more information on Riley’s Miniature Railway and why we send the money from the fares we collect to the Evelina, please read on:
Riley's Miniature Railway is a not for profit, fun, miniature railway where 100% of fares and donations are sent to the Evelina Children's Hospital in London. Charging a very reasonable 50p per person per ride, we give rides to both children and adults alike. We are one of the few, ground level, 5 inch gauge railway's open to the public in the UK and as such, is considered to be the smallest practical ride on track gauge.
It is located at The Lavender Line at Isfield Station, Near Uckfield, East Sussex, TN22 5XB. With generous free parking, this is a delightful standard gauge heritage railway with preserved steam and diesel locomotives offering a two mile round trip. The railway's shop can be found within the old waiting room, the grade II listed signal box can be visited and a popular cafe is located in the old station building.
Climbing aboard the mini train at Evelina Junction station, passengers get a free souvenir ticket and sticker, and the driver will often let the younger visitors wave the green flag. One of the miniature locomotives takes the train out of the station, past the loco/carriage shed and over points to the sidings where there's often other miniature locomotives resting, on display for visitors to see.
As we pass the signal box, the driver often prompts the passengers to look to see who is asleep just inside the window, many often fooled by the fake cat fast asleep! As the train continues on its journey we pass the second loco/carriage shed and then travel over another set of points to a another siding which gives us more track space for visiting locomotives. Passengers are prompted to lookout for a real steam train or heritage diesel on the big railway alongside. The resident friendly Robin is often seen as the train travels up to and over the girder bridge.
Sneaking through the short tunnel, the train then navigates the passing loop. On busy days, another miniature train maybe waiting here for a train to pass. Before approaching the end of the line, the railway's turntable and third loco/carriage shed comes into view. With the shed on our left we travel over our latest extension, curving to the right and then to the left before coming to a stop at the current northern terminus.
With the loco at the front, a family photo opportunity presents itself before heading back on the return journey via the passing loop by means of spring loaded points. This subsequently sends the train down the opposite side of the passing loop before rejoining the main line. This setup certainly adds a little more interest to the route.
Back at the Evelina Junction station, several souvenirs are on offer, such as postcards, keyrings, badges, fridge magnets, colouring in sheets, posters, etc and notices are displayed explaining how much we raised last year, details on volunteering and if you have one, visiting with your own locomotive.
The collection of locomotives is quite vast, mainly consisting of diesel outline locomotives which actually run on two 12 volt car batteries producing 24 volts. Don't be fooled by these little locomotives, they are very powerful and can haul several adults and children.
The railway does indeed have visiting locomotives, some on occasion being real steam engines which do attract a lot of interest. Extra care obviously has to be taken in this case regarding safety as real steam engines are hot, oily and sooty. Locomotive types in use can be of a freelance design or scale models of real locomotives, the prototypes of which range from various stages in railway history, right up to modern day locomotives.
The railway relies on a dedicated team of volunteers, however this number can pretty much be counted on one hand, some able to offer more time than others, and its fair to say, more help would not go amiss as there is actually a lot to do, ranging from track work, such as replacing sleepers, rail and ballasting, but also other things such as painting, gardening and locomotive and passenger stock maintenance, etc.
Riley's Miniature Railway also has its very own portable railway, in which many sections of raised track make up a generous length to take to various country and steam shows in the South East throughout the year, such as the Weald of Kent at Woodchurch and Tractorfest at Biddenden, both in Kent. Again, all fares and donations collected are sent to the Evelina Children's Hospital in London.
The miniature railway has its own Facebook page which is updated regularly and is a vital tool to share operating days, updates, to contact, to like, to share and to see what events we are attending with our portable railway. Several videos can also be found on YouTube and we have been featured in a few magazines, all of this has helped to get the word about in hope further visitors will visit and support us.
But why Riley's Miniature Railway? Where does the name come from and what does it stand for? It's all about a little boy called Riley who was born at the Evelina Children’s Hospital in London on Christmas Day of 2010. Over the years Riley has needed constant care and monitoring since his birth. He has had several operations and is still to this day under the care of the Evelina Children's Hospital, which incidentally is part of Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust. Naturally, the Evelina cannot be thanked enough!
Grandparents Larry and Sandra Lewis from Bexhill on Sea, East Sussex wanted a way of raising money for the Evelina but knew that a skydive, climbing a mountain, running a race or riding from Land's End to John o' Groats wasn't going to happen. Having an interest in model engineering, miniature railways and railway's in general, Larry and Sandra, were at the time involved with a 5 inch gauge miniature railway at Knockhatch Adventure Park in Hailsham, East Sussex.
Around the same time news was given that this railway was due to close. Subsequently, Larry and Sandra had a great idea of constructing and running a charity railway where children and families could benefit, with all fares and donations collected going to the Evelina Children's Hospital.
Several attractions and places of interest were considered, however after a conversation with the management at the Lavender Line at Isfield Station, East Sussex, their idea was welcomed with opened arms. The Lavender Line had realised how this would benefit the Evelina and of course the Lavender Line itself and were very pleased to offer a rent free site, meaning all money collected could be sent to the Evelina. Larry and Sandra were and still are very grateful for the Lavender Line's kindness and support.
The site was surveyed and the best location found to construct the mini railway. It was decided to lay the track at the back of platform two with its station located just to the north of the gift shop. Track was obtained, with the points from Knockhatch being available for re-use. Donation's of ballast, fencing and other materials were gratefully received. Larry already had a diesel outline battery powered Class 73 loco in his possession, although a passenger and drivers wagon had to be built.
Opened in July 2011, the railway had been constructed and maintained by Larry and Sandra almost single handedly with assistance on hand, notably with the construction of the loco/carriage sheds, turntable and station canopy. Over the years, further locomotives have been sourced or built and sidings have been added with scale buffer stops. The track has continued to creep northwards, making the journey longer and longer with it currently at 105.2 metres in length.
A signal box, water tower, tunnel and girder bridge have also been constructed and various advertising signs from days gone by can be seen in the station. Much time has spent creating lovely flower beds which are full of colour in the spring and summer months. Miniature vehicles and figurines have been added to the lineside, all of this brings a little interest to the journey and would appear to be appreciated by all.
Riley's Miniature Railway has become a welcomed addition to the Lavender Line with the word of it being there slowing spreading. Kids as well as adults enjoy visiting and riding on the little railway and apart from a disappointing year out in 2020 due to the Coronavirus and a very upsetting disaster back in August 2013 where considerable damage was caused to the track and lineside fencing by several escaped cows, the railway has gone from strength to strength.
More importantly though, Riley's Miniature Railway has proved to be a great way of raising funds for the Evelina Children's Hospital with well over £15,000 having been collected and donated since 2011. The best year so far was 2019 when £2,984 was raised. Considering this has been made up from 50p fares per person per ride and small donations, that's pretty good going.
For further information please visit our Facebook page.