A narrow-gauge railway (narrow-gauge railroad in the US) is a railway with a track gauge narrower than standard 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in). Most narrow-gauge railways are between 600 mm (1 ft 11 5⁄8 in) and 1,067 mm (3 ft 6 in).
Since narrow-gauge railways are usually built with tighter curves, smaller structure gauges, and lighter rails, they can be less costly to build, equip, and operate than standard- or broad-gauge railways (particularly in mountainous or difficult terrain). Lower-cost narrow-gauge railways are often built to serve industries and communities where the traffic potential would not justify the cost of a standard- or broad-gauge line.
Narrow-gauge railways have specialized use in mines and other environments where a small structure gauge necessitates a small loading gauge. They also have more general applications. Non-industrial, narrow-gauge mountain railways are (or were) common in the Rocky Mountains of the United States and the Pacific Cordillera of Canada, Mexico, Switzerland, the former Yugoslavia, Greece, and Costa Rica. In some countries, narrow gauge is the standard; Japan, Indonesia, Taiwan, New Zealand, South Africa, and the Australian states of Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania have a 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm) gauge, and Malaysia and Thailand have metre-gauge railways. Narrow-gauge trams, particularly metre-gauge, are common in Europe.
A narrow-gauge railway is one where the distance between the inside edges of the rails is less than 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in). Historically, the term was sometimes used to refer to standard-gauge railways, to distinguish them from broad-gauge railways, but this use no longer applies.
The earliest recorded railway appears in Georgius Agricola's 1556 De re metallica, which shows a mine in Bohemia with a railway of about 2 ft (610 mm) gauge. During the 16th century, railways were primarily restricted to hand-pushed, narrow-gauge lines in mines throughout Europe. In the 17th century, mine railways were extended to provide transportation above ground. These lines were industrial, connecting mines with nearby transportation points (usually canals or other waterways). These railways were usually built to the same narrow gauge as the mine railways from which they developed.
The world's first steam locomotive, built in 1802 by Richard Trevithick for the Coalbrookdale Company, ran on a 3 ft (914 mm) plateway. The first commercially successful steam locomotive was Matthew Murray's Salamanca built in 1812 for the 4 ft 1 in (1,245 mm) Middleton Railway in Leeds. Salamanca was also the first rack-and-pinion locomotive. During the 1820s and 1830s, a number of industrial narrow-gauge railways in the United Kingdom used steam locomotives. In 1842, the first narrow-gauge steam locomotive outside the UK was built for the 1,100 mm (3 ft 7 5⁄16 in)-gauge Antwerp-Ghent Railway  in Belgium. The first use of steam locomotives on a public, passenger-carrying narrow-gauge railway was in 1865, when the Ffestiniog Railway introduced passenger service after receiving its first locomotives two years earlier.
Many narrow-gauge railways were part of industrial enterprises and served primarily as industrial railways, rather than general carriers. Common uses for these industrial narrow-gauge railways included mining, logging, construction, tunnelling, quarrying, and conveying agricultural products. Extensive narrow-gauge networks were constructed in many parts of the world; 19th-century mountain logging operations often used narrow-gauge railways to transport logs from mill to market. Significant sugarcane railways still operate in Cuba, Fiji, Java, the Philippines, and Queensland, and narrow-gauge railway equipment remains in common use for building tunnels.
The first use of an internal combustion engine to power a narrow-gauge locomotive was in 1902. F. C. Blake built a 7 hp petrol locomotive for the Richmond Main Sewerage Board sewage plant at Mortlake. This 2 ft 9 in (838 mm) gauge locomotive was probably the third petrol-engined locomotive built.
Extensive narrow-gauge rail systems served the front-line trenches of both sides in World War I. They were a short-lived military application, and after the war the surplus equipment created a small boom in European narrow-gauge railway building.
Narrow-gauge railways usually cost less to build because they are usually lighter in construction, using smaller cars and locomotives (a smaller loading gauge), smaller bridges and tunnels (a smaller structure gauge), and tighter curves. Narrow gauge is often used in mountainous terrain, where engineering savings can be substantial. It is also used in sparsely populated areas where the potential demand is too low for broad-gauge railways to be economically viable. This is the case in parts of Australia and most of Southern Africa, where poor soils have led to population densities too low for standard gauge to be viable.
For temporary railways which will be removed after short-term use, such as logging, mining or large-scale construction projects (especially in confined spaces, such as the Channel Tunnel), a narrow-gauge railway is substantially cheaper and easier to install and remove. Such railways have almost vanished, however, due to the capabilities of modern trucks.
In many countries, narrow-gauge railways were built as branch lines to feed traffic to standard-gauge lines due to lower construction costs. The choice was often not between a narrow- and standard-gauge railway, but between a narrow-gauge railway and none at all.
Narrow-gauge railways cannot freely interchange rolling stock (such as freight and passenger cars) with the standard- or broad- gauge railways with which they link, and the transfer of passengers and freight require time-consuming manual labour or substantial capital expenditure. Some bulk commodities, such as coal, ore, and gravel, can be mechanically transshipped, but this is time-consuming, and the equipment required for the transfer is often complex to maintain.
If rail lines with other gauges coexist in a network, in times of peak demand it is difficult to move rolling stock to where it is needed when a break of gauge exists. Sufficient rolling stock must be available to meet a narrow-gauge railway's peak demand (which might be greater in comparison to a single-gauge network), and the surplus equipment generates no cash flow during periods of low demand. In regions where narrow gauge forms a small part of the rail network (as was the case on Russia's Sakhalin Railway), extra money is needed to design, produce or import narrow-gauge equipment.
Another problem commonly faced by narrow-gauge railways is that they lack the space to grow; their cheap construction was engineered only for initial traffic demands. Many narrow-gauge railways were impractical to improve; speeds and loads hauled could not increase, so traffic density was limited. In Japan, a few narrow-gauge lines have been upgraded to standard-gauge mini-shinkansen to allow through service by standard-gauge high-speed trains; due to the alignment and minimum curve radius of those lines, however, the maximum speed of the through service is the same as the original narrow-gauge line. If a narrow-gauge line is built to a higher standard, like Japan's proposed Super Tokkyū, this problem can be minimized.
If narrow-gauge rails are designed with potential growth in mind (or at the same standard as standard-gauge rails), obstacles to future growth would be similar to other rail gauges. For lines constructed to a lower standard, speed can be increased by realigning rail lines to increase the minimum curve radius, reducing the number of intersections or introducing tilting trains.
The heavy-duty 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm) narrow-gauge railways in Queensland, South Africa, and New Zealand demonstrate that if track is built to a heavy-duty standard, performance almost as good as a standard-gauge line is possible. Two-hundred-car trains operate on the Sishen–Saldanha railway line in South Africa, and high-speed Tilt Trains run in Queensland. Another example of a heavy-duty narrow-gauge line is Brazil's EFVM. 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 3⁄8 in) gauge, it has over-100-pound rail (100 lb/yd or 49.6 kg/m) and a loading gauge almost as large as US non-excess-height lines. The line has a number of 4,000-horsepower (3,000 kW) locomotives and 200-plus-car trains. In South Africa and New Zealand, the loading gauge is similar to the restricted British loading gauge; in New Zealand, some British Rail Mark 2 carriages have been rebuilt with new bogies for use by Tranz Scenic (Wellington-Palmerston North service), Tranz Metro (Wellington-Masterton service), and Transdev Auckland (Auckland suburban services).
Narrow gauge's reduced stability means that its trains cannot run at speeds as high as on broader gauges. For example, if a curve with standard-gauge rail can allow speed up to 145 km/h (90 mph), the same curve with narrow-gauge rail can only allow speed up to 130 km/h (81 mph).
In Japan and Queensland, recent permanent-way improvements have allowed trains on 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm) gauge tracks to exceed 160 km/h (99 mph). Queensland Rail's Electric Tilt Train, the fastest train in Australia and the fastest 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm) gauge train in the world, set a record of 210 km/h (130 mph). The speed record for 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm) narrow-gauge rail is 245 km/h (152 mph), set in South Africa in 1978.
A special 2 ft (610 mm) gauge railcar was built for the Otavi Mining and Railway Company with a design speed of 137 km/h. Curve radius is also important for high speeds: narrow-gauge railways allow sharper curves, which limits a vehicle's safe speed.
Many narrow gauges, from 15 in (381 mm) gauge and 4 ft 8 in (1,422 mm) gauge, are in present or former use. They fall into several broad categories:
4 ft 6 in (1,372 mm) track gauge (also known as Scotch gauge) was adopted by early 19th-century railways, primarily in the Lanarkshire area of Scotland. 4 ft 6 1⁄2 in (1,384 mm) lines were also constructed, and both were eventually converted to standard gauge.
1,067 mm (3 ft 6 in) between the inside of the rail heads, its name and classification vary worldwide and it has about 112,000 kilometres (70,000 mi) of track.
As its name implies, metre gauge is a track gauge of 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 3⁄8 in). It has about 95,000 km (59,000 mi) of track.
According to Italian law, track gauges in Italy were defined from the centre of each rail rather than the inside edges of the rails. This gauge, measured 950 mm (3 ft 1 3⁄8 in) between the edges of the rails, is known as Italian metre gauge.
There were a number of large 3 ft (914 mm) railroad systems in North America; notable examples include the Denver & Rio Grande and Rio Grande Southern in Colorado and the South Pacific Coast and West Side Lumber Co of California. 3 ft was also a common track gauge in South America, Ireland and on the Isle of Man. 900 mm was a common gauge in Europe. Swedish three-foot-gauge railways (891 mm or 2 ft 11 3⁄32 in) are unique to that country.
A few railways and tramways were built to 2 ft 9 in (838 mm) gauge, including Nankai Main Line (later converted to 3 ft 6 in or 1,067 mm), Ocean Pier Railway at Atlantic City, Seaton Tramway (converted from 2 ft) and Waiorongomai Tramway.
800 mm (2 ft 7 1⁄2 in) gauge railways are commonly used for rack railways. Imperial 2 ft 6 in (762 mm) gauge railways were generally constructed in the former British colonies. 760 mm Bosnian gauge and 750 mm railways are predominantly found in Russia and Eastern Europe.
Gauges such as 2 ft 3 in (686 mm), 2 ft 4 in (711 mm) and 2 ft 4 1⁄2 in (724 mm) were used in parts of the UK, particularly for railways in Wales and the borders, with some industrial use in the coal industry. Some sugar cane lines in Cuba were 2 ft 3 1⁄2 in (699 mm).
2 ft (610 mm) gauge railways were generally constructed in the former British colonies. 1 ft 11 3⁄4 in (603 mm), 600 mm (1 ft 11 5⁄8 in) and 1 ft 11 1⁄2 in (597 mm) were used in Europe.
Gauges below 1 ft 11 1⁄2 in (597 mm) were rare. Arthur Percival Heywood developed 15 in (381 mm) gauge estate railways in Britain and Decauville produced a range of industrial railways running on 500 mm (19 3⁄4 in) and 400 mm (15 3⁄4 in) tracks, most commonly in restricted environments such as underground mine railways, parks and farms, in France. Several 18 in (457 mm) gauge railways were built in Britain to serve ammunition depots and other military facilities, particularly during World War I.
Narrow gauge is defined as anything less than the standard gauge of UK main lines
The Alford Valley Railway is a 2 ft (610 mm) narrow gauge railway in the Howe of Alford, Aberdeenshire, Scotland. It is located at what used to be the terminus of the passenger and goods Alford Valley Railway which connected with the Great North of Scotland Railway main line at Kintore.Barsi Light Railway
Barsi Light Railway (BLR) was a 202-mile (325 km) long, 2 ft 6 in (762 mm) narrow-gauge railway between Miraj and Latur in the state of Maharashtra in India. It was the brainchild of British engineer Everard Calthrop, and regarded as having revolutionised narrow-gauge railway construction in India.Bengal Provincial Railway
Bengal Provincial Railway was a 2 ft 6 in (762 mm) narrow-gauge railway from Tarakeswar to Magra, in Indian state of West Bengal.Derbyshire Dales Narrow Gauge Railway
The Derbyshire Dales Narrow Gauge Railway (DDNGR) was a short, 2 ft (610 mm) narrow-gauge railway located at Rowsley South at Peak Rail. It operated ex-industrial diesel locomotives and carriages.Floriade 1972
Floriade 1972 was a garden festival held in Amsterdam, Netherlands following its recognition by the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE). The 1972 exposition was the fifth edition of the international horticultural exposition organised under the auspices of the Association of International Horticultural Producers (AIPH) and the second Floriade in the Netherlands. The first Amsterdam Floriade lasted from March 30 to October 1, 1972.
The exposition was held at the newly created Amstelpark and Beatrix Park. The landscaped grounds at Amstelpark covered 700.000m². Beatrix Park, part of the Amsterdam RAI Exhibition and Convention Centre and a portion of the embankment on which later the ring road south and the Amsterdam RAI railway station were built, was part of the Floriade. The sites were connected by a cable car and carts. A narrow gauge railway and Ferris wheel were also built at Amstelpark.
After the closure of the Floriade, much of the amenities that were built for the event remained at Amstelpark. These included the Amstel train (a narrow-gauge railway ), a maze, a rose garden, an orangery, the Glass House, greenhouses, a miniature golf course, the Rhododendron Valley, The Abandoned land, Galerie Papillon Park and a large playground for children.Forest railway
A forest railway, forest tram, timber line, logging railway or logging railroad is a mode of railway transport which is used for forestry tasks, primarily the transportation of felled logs to sawmills or railway stations.
In most cases this form of transport utilised narrow gauges, and were temporary in nature, and in rough and sometimes difficult to access terrain.Gartell Light Railway
The Gartell Light Railway is a privately run narrow gauge railway located at Yenston in the Blackmore Vale, south of Templecombe, in Somerset, England. It operates a 2 ft (610 mm) narrow gauge railway running for 3⁄4 mile (1.2 km), partly along the track of the old Somerset and Dorset Joint Railway. The railway has 4 stations - Common Lane, Pinesway Junction, Park Lane and Tower View.
The railway is controlled using a comprehensive signalling system operated from two signalboxes - Common lane and Pinesway Junction. Both signalboxes control a mix of semaphore and colour light signals with mechanically operated points.The railway is open to the public on selected dates through the year when it normally operates an intensive 3 train operation with departures from Common Lane station every 20 minutes through the day between 10:30 and 16:30.Kundala Valley Railway
Kundala Valley Railway was the first monorail system in India, later converted to a 2 ft (610 mm) narrow-gauge railway, that operated in Kundala Valley, near Munnar in Kerala, India.Leighton Buzzard Light Railway
The Leighton Buzzard Light Railway (LBLR) is a light railway in Leighton Buzzard in Bedfordshire, England. It operates on 2 ft (610 mm) narrow-gauge track and is just under 3 miles (4.8 km) long. The line was built after the First World War to serve sand quarries north of the town. In the late 1960s the quarries switched to road transport and the railway was taken over by volunteers, who now run the line as a heritage railway.Lochaber Narrow Gauge Railway
The Lochaber Narrow Gauge Railway was a 3 ft (914 mm) narrow-gauge industrial railway. It was a relatively long line, built for the construction and subsequent maintenance of a 15 miles (24 km) long tunnel from Loch Treig to a factory near Fort William in Scotland. The tunnel was excavated to carry water for the Lochaber hydroelectric scheme in connection with aluminium production by British Aluminium. The railway came to be known colloquially as the 'Old Puggy Line'.Narrow-gauge railways in Russia
The Imperial Russian narrow railway track gauge was 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm), the current track gauge is predominantly 750 mm (2 ft 5 1⁄2 in). In Soviet Russia, narrow-gauge railways were mostly common in forestry and peat industries in low inhabited places. Usually they have one main line and number of temporary branches. There was commonly a passenger service to villages and towns for workers.
As of the mid 2010s, a number of industrial railways survive in places with bad roads, but every year some railways are closing.
A government railway operator, RZD, closed all owned common 750 mm railways, but still have a number of children's railways with standard rolling stock.
The most well-known narrow-gauge railways are Alapayevsk narrow-gauge railway (municipal passenger), Apsheronsk narrow-gauge railway (mountain industrial railway with passenger service), and Karinskaya narrow-gauge railway (suburban passenger private railway). Also children's railways are located in many big cities.Narrow Gauge Railway Museum
The Narrow Gauge Railway Museum (Welsh: Amgueddfa Rheilffyrdd Bach Cul) is a purpose-built museum dedicated to narrow-gauge railways situated at the Tywyn Wharf station of the Talyllyn Railway in Tywyn, Gwynedd, Wales.
The Museum has a collection of more than 1,000 items from over eighty narrow-gauge railways in Wales, England, the Isle of Man, Ireland and Scotland. This includes six locomotives on display (and several others in store or at other sites); eleven wagons inside with a further eleven outside; a display showing the development of track work from early plateways to modern narrow-gauge tracks; several large signals along with single line working apparatus and documents; a growing collection of tickets and other documents, posters, notices, crockery and souvenirs; relics from vehicles scrapped long ago and the Awdry Study, re-created with the original furniture and fittings in memory of the Rev. Wilbert Awdry, an early volunteer on the Talyllyn Railway and best known for his series of railway books such as "Thomas the Tank Engine."North Wales Narrow Gauge Railways
The North Wales Narrow Gauge Railways (NWNGR) was a railway company that planned to build a number of inter-connected 1 ft 11 1⁄2 in (597 mm) narrow-gauge railways across North Wales. The first two of these lines - jointly known as the "Moel Tryfan Undertaking" - were authorised by Act of Parliament 1872 and were built and opened in the 1870s. The original main line ran from Dinas Junction to Bryngwyn and opened in 1877. The second line was a branch from Tryfan Junction to South Snowdon, though shortly after opening, the company designated the Tryfan Junction to Bryngwyn section as the branch, and the Dinas Junction to South Snowdon section as the main line.Phyllis Rampton Narrow Gauge Railway Trust
The Phyllis Rampton Narrow Gauge Railway Trust is a British charity which is registered with the British Charity Commission as 292240 under the classification of "Education/Training Environment/Conservation/Heritage". The Trust is the 100% shareholder of the Vale of Rheidol Railway in Wales and was established to both protect the future of the railway and provide funds to build a museum at Aberystwyth station.Rügen narrow-gauge railway
The Rügen narrow-gauge railway (German: Rügensche Bäderbahn, formerly Rügensche Kleinbahn or RüKB) – nicknamed Rasender Roland ("Raging Roland") – is a steam-powered narrow-gauge railway that runs from Putbus by way of Binz, Sellin, and Baabe to Göhren on the island of Rügen off the Baltic Coast in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany. Since 2008, it has been run by the Eisenbahn-Bau- und Betriebsgesellschaft Pressnitztalbahn mbH. There is an interchange with the island's Deutsche Bahn mainline network via the Veolia-run OLA railways. The Rasender Roland is one of the island's tourist attractions. It serves several holiday destinations, mainly the bathing resorts in Rügen's southeast.
The railway runs regularly along a stretch of 24 km (14.5 mi.) of track with historic steam locomotives and coaches, some of which are almost a hundred years old. Unlike the Deutsche Bahn national system which uses 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in) standard gauge, Rasender Roland uses the narrow gauge of 750 mm (2 ft 5 1⁄2 in). The maximum speed is 30 kilometres per hour (19 mph).Toddington Narrow Gauge Railway
The Toddington Narrow Gauge Railway (TNGR) is a 2 ft (610 mm) narrow-gauge railway running alongside the Gloucestershire and Warwickshire Railway at Toddington. It was built in 1985 when the Dowty Railway Preservation Society needed a new home for its collection of narrow-gauge rolling stock. The rail used on the railway was purchased from the Southend Pier Railway.
The railway was originally named the North Gloucestershire Railway, but in 2018 is officially called the Toddington Narrow Gauge Railway.Transport in Poland
Transport in Poland involves air, water, road and rail transportation. The country has a large network of municipal public transport, such as buses, trams and the metro. As a country located at the 'cross-roads' of Europe, Poland, with its highly developed economy, is a nation with a large and increasingly modern network of transport infrastructure.
The country's most important waterway is the Vistula river. The largest seaports are the Port of Gdańsk, the Port of Gdynia and the Port of Szczecin. Air travel is generally used for international travel, with many flights originating at Warsaw Chopin Airport. Railways connect all of Poland's major cities and the state-owned Polish State Railways (PKP) corporation, through its subsidiaries, runs a great number of domestic and international services of varying speed and comfort. In addition to this, five out of sixteen Polish voivodeships have their own provincial rail service providers.Wenecja
Wenecja [vɛˈnɛt͡sja] (Polish for Venice) (German: Venetia) is a village in the administrative district of Gmina Żnin, within Żnin County, Kuyavian-Pomeranian Voivodeship, in north-central Poland. It lies approximately 6 kilometres (4 mi) south-east of Żnin and 38 km (24 mi) south-west of Bydgoszcz.
The village has a population of 300.
Its picturesque location among three lakes (Biskupinskie, Weneckie, Skrzynka) resulted in its name alluding to the location of Italian Venice. The village, called "the pearl of Pałuki", is one of the greatest tourist attractions in the Pałuki region. Wenecja is located on the line of the narrow gauge railway running from the town of Żnin to famous Biskupin and further on to Gąsawa. The Narrow Gauge Railway Museum and the ruins of the 14th century castle attract thousands of tourists to this beautiful Pałuki village.Zittau–Oybin/Jonsdorf railway
The Zittau–Oybin/Jonsdorf railway, or Zittau–Kurort Oybin/Kurort Jonsdorf narrow-gauge railway (German: Schmalspurbahn Zittau–Kurort Oybin/Kurort Jonsdorf), is a narrow-gauge railway system employing steam locomotives and serving the mountain health-spa resorts (German: Kurorte) of Oybin and Jonsdorf in the Zittau Mountains in southeast Saxony (Germany). The track gauge is 750 mm (2 ft 5 1⁄2 in).
Narrow-gauge railways by continent