by Phil Gould
: Added February 2006
By far the biggest number of amusements were to be found at our next stop, Rhyl.

When we first visited Sunny Rhyl in the 60s I thought it was fantastic as it had not one but two amusement parks. I know that I always used to spend hours pestering my parents on 'When are we going to Rhyl?'

My memories of Marine Lake are much hazier than that of the seafront Ocean Beach park. Although I was only a child when the park was still in operation I still recall feeling that Marine Lake had perhaps gone past its prime. It always seemed to be much less crowded than its rival and the rides appeared out dated in comparison.

From the road you could not fail to notice the wooden figure eight Roller Coaster. This had been installed in 1920 and lasted until the park closed at the end of the '60s.

Many of the rides were more like those you found at a permanent park rather than those found at travelling funfairs. There was a River Caves and the dodgems were in a building along with a Ghost Train and a set of Gallopers.

I don't recall there being that many roundabouts although I understand there was a Satellite at one point and possibly a Waltzer.

One of the highlights was the miniature train. This started off in the amusement park, even passing under the park's entrance, and then took a journey around the perimeter of the lake.

By 1969 the company that owned the park had had enough, as they also ran the more popular Ocean Beach. The whole park was razed to the ground and handed back to the council.

It installed a number of family orientated attractions. There was a large six lane Astroglide (with a cafe underneath), Moon Walk, kids rides and a Ghost Train called The Bogey Run. I think this might have been the one that ended up at Ffrith Beach in later years.

But this was much more low key than the park had been during its glory years. In fact, the only thing that remained from the original Marine Lake park was the miniature railway. Although all these other rides are now long gone the railway still carries thousands of passengers around the lake each summer.

The railway at Marine Lake, Rhyl first opened on 1st May 1911, and is now the oldest miniature line in the UK.

FROM WALES TODAY: Alan Cliff of Rhyl talks about the development of the town's miniature railway...

In April 1911 Wenman Bassett-Lowke announced he was going to build a mile-long 15" gauge passenger-carrying railway around the Marine Lake in Rhyl.
By May that year the 'father' of model and miniature railways in Britian had completed the line and commenced services. On August Bank Holiday Monday 1911 just over 5000 passengers were carried during 13 hours of running.

By 1920 it was clear the original locomotives needed replacing and in August 1920 a local engineer, Albert Barnes of Albion Works, Rhyl, produced the first of his 'Albion' Class of 4-4-2 steam locomotives for the Rhyl line. This 'Atlantic' type of engine was named Joan.

Between 1920 and 1934 a further five locomotives were built, three of which - John, Michael and Billy - remained at Rhyl. Another Michael (subsequently named Railway Queen) went to Belle Vue, Manchester and Billie (named after a girl) went to Margate.

It is a tribute to Albert Barnes and his Rhyl craftsmen that all six locomotives are still in existence and are universally known as the 'Barnes Atlantics'. Joan still runs at Rhyl. Billy, Railway Queen and Michael slumber in North Wales, awaiting the call to home and duty. Billie and John are privately owned elsewhere in the UK. John has recently paid a courtesy visit. Despite many difficulties in latter years, the oldest public passenger-carrying 15" gauge miniature railway in the UK, and possibly the world, is still hard at work. Trains run from Easter to September.

A board of trustees, mainly local residents, now manages the assets. Plans for the future include a new station which will also function as a Visitor Centre. A maintenance depot is envisaged as part of the complex. A supporting group, the Friends of the Rhyl Miniature Railway, has been formed. The 'Friends' not only raise money for the railway but supply trained volunteers to drive and maintain the locomotives, repair the track and staff the station. Most of the volunteers are North Walians, several being Rhyl citizens. However, as the fame of the railway grows, 'Friends' are joining from all over the UK and abroad.

The Trustees and 'Friends' are working hard to see that Rhyl Miniature Railway's historic and special place in both the world of miniature railways and the world of entertainment is assured for the foreseeable future. The August 2003 Gala Weekend at the railway saw 1300-plus passengers carried. The fiery jewel in Rhyl's entertainment crown is burning brightly again.


View of pleasure grounds from Water Chute. Photograph: Dawn

Marine Lake at night. Photograph: Dawn

Figure Eight coaster from landing stage. Photograph: Terry Cooper Collection

Postcard of Marine Lake after the revamp. Photograph: Terry Cooper Collection

Marine Lake Miniature Railway, Rhyl in 2005. Photograph: Unknown



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