Welcome to the SMR History page of the

FSMR site.

Celebrating our golden jubilee year in 2008





 The railway began life back on the 18th May 1958, when the first line opened from the old stable hill station and car park to the main hall. The Second Lord Gretton was looking for an additional attraction for families to the Stately House and grounds, which first opened to the public in 1953.

He saw an advertisement and purchased second hand, two David Curwen 4-4-2 steam locos, six coaches and 2,000 feet of track. This created the line from Stable Hill car park to the House.

The line was extended in autumn 1958 and opened to the lakeside on 3rd may 1959. The first train to the lake being hauled by 4-4-2 John O Gaunt, (now John H Gretton). The Central station and the train operated crossing, both to become a notable feature were constructed at the same time. The Haven cafe and station were added at the lakeside terminus in 1959.


By the end of the 1961 season, passenger numbers had trebled to 21,355. With the railway at full capacity now, a relief train was required for peak periods. This was provided by David Curwen, designing and building at Curwen and Newbury, a model of a Western region Warship Diesel Hydraulic Loco. This used a Ford petrol engine driving a mechanical drive through fluid clutch. The new loco went into service during may 1962 and with 6 new coaches, proved to be very popular.

Then during a cruise aboard the Shaw Saville Line SS "Southern Cross", The Second Lord Gretton had the idea of having a scale model of a liner constructed to carry passengers on the lake. This would be combined with the railway ride to the Haven terminus at lakeside. Visitors had long asked for the chance to hire boats on the lake, but this was deemed difficult to administer and police. The liner would solve this problem, and add to the railways operational interest. The replica of SS "Northern Star" Was constructed by Curwen and Newbury and made her maiden voyage on the Stapleford park lake on 27th June 1963. The lake includes islands and even had a working lighthouse on one!



Miniature SS Northern Star 1963

A great website for the full size Northern Star liner can be found at

New Zealand Maritime


The sister ship SS "Southern Cross" arrived in June 1968, and the pair at the time, were the largest scale passenger carrying liners in the world, being 45 feet long and 8 feet in beam.


The Second Lord Gretton (centre) with Mr H.A. Marshall, Commodore (left) and Mr C.S Birch, Master of the Northern Star with the newly arrived Southern Cross in 1968



One of the two liners departs lakeside for a trip around the lake while the other prepares to dock

These were the largest scale passenger carrying boats in the world during their time at Stapleford.



One of the two liners Southern Cross departs lakeside for a trip around the lake. The railway runs up to the hill to house along the right.


The railway continued to develop and became a well known tourist attraction

A drive through Lion reserve and Zoo were also added in the early 60’s.



During the late 60s and 70s the line continued to expand and with his son John, the Third Lord Gretton following his fathers love of steam the American Berkshire class steam loco was constructed on contract at the Stapleford Works to cope with the heavy lakeside trains, more passenger stock was constructed, and a tunnel added near to the top of the bank by the house.

John O Gaunt (now  named John H Gretton) and  Blanche Of Lancaster  double head a train up from lakeside in the early 70’. Blanche was sold and now operates at the Trago Mills shopping centre railway in Devon. Still in her original blue livery with the SMR lettering



Later on, the line was extended from the lakeside Haven to run around in a balloon circuit via the lakeside to return over the river to the Haven via a sprung point (The railway used to run opposite to the current direction, which now crosses the river first). A simple halt was also built in the Chestnuts picnic area of the loop, called "Chestnuts"!


The third Lord Gretton, the late John H Gretton brings  the Curwen Green “John O Gaunt”( now renamed after him) down the bank to lakeside in the mid 70’s


 and the current station, then called the car park was also constructed and visitors would park near the zoo and catch a train to the Central station and House. They could then get a different one to the Haven and lakeside circuit.


The third Lord Gretton, the late John H Gretton brings in the Curwen Green “John O Gaunt (now renamed after him) to the new car park station circa 1979. The signal box now sits on the triangle to the left of the loco



The Second Lord Grettons death in 1982 saw the Estate and railway closed to the Public at the end of that season, the Third Lord Gretton putting the railway into safe storage. The house was sold in 1985, and is now owned by a consortium and run  one of the countries top sporting hotels.

However, the railway and Estate remained within the Gretton family and almost everything remained untouched.

Sadly, the Third Lord Grettons untimely death in 1989 appeared to spell the death knoll of the railway, but his dreams were never forgotten by a small group of enthusiasts connected with the original operations, who later in the 90’s formed the FSMR in order to restore and preserve the railway.


Box tunnel portal after closure. The trees above the tunnel were all removed during the total rebuilding of the tunnel by the FSMR prior to public reopening in 1995 but the craftsman built stonework on Box portal was carefully rebuilt

Follow the link for the story of how the SMR was restored.


For history on the FSMR and how the railway was restored click here.