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British Industrial History

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Jersey Railway

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The Jersey Railway was opened in 1870 and was originally a standard gauge railway, 3.75 miles long, on the island of Jersey in the Channel Islands. Converted to narrow gauge in 1884 and extended, the line closed in 1936.

In 1864 the States of Jersey passed a law authorising the construction of the island's first railway. This standard gauge line was constructed, connecting St. Helier to St. Aubin, and the first train ran 25 October 1870. This railway was not a success and the company declared bankruptcy in 1874. The railway continued to operate but passed through a succession of proprietors until 1883.

Meanwhile the owner of a granite quarry near La Moye had petitioned to build a railway linking his quarry to St. Aubin. This law passed in June 1871 and the St Aubin & La Moye Railway commenced construction to the narrow gauge of 3 ft 6 in. This line too, ran into financial problems and although construction trains ran on the section from La Moye to Pont Marquet, the company declared bankruptcy in 1878 before completion or opening to the public.

In 1883 the Jersey Railway and the partially completed St Aubin and La Moye Railway were amalgamated into the Jersey Railways Company Limited. The St. Helier to St. Aubin line was relaid to 3 ft 6 in gauge and the railway re-opened to passengers on 15 March 1884, initially operating as two separate sections until the two lines were connected at St. Aubin in 1885 to form a complete railway. The first through service ran between St Helier and La Corbière on 5 August 1885.

This railway hit financial difficulties and in 1895 entered voluntary liquidation.

In 1896 a new company, the Jersey Railways and Tramways Co. Ltd. was formed to take over the assets of the failed company. The railway was improved, with an extension to La Corbière Pavilion opening in 1899 and was successful up to the outbreak of the First World War. The railway continued during the war, but by 1917 traffic had declined significantly.

In 1922 the decision was made to introduce railcars to reduce operating costs. These helped the company to revive its fortunes in the mid 1920s with 1925 being the peak in terms of passengers carried and profitability.

By 1928 competition from buses and private cars were threatening the railway's future.

By 1932 the winter service had been withdrawn.

In October 1936 a fire destroyed the roof of St. Aubin station and consumed 16 carriages. The line did not reopen for the 1937 summer season, and all remaining locomotives and railcars were scrapped in 1937.

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