The Eaton Railway was built for the 1st Duke of Westminster by Sir Arthur Percival Heywood, who had pioneered the 15 inch gauge railway. Before the railway was constructed there was a constant stream of horse-and-cart traffic from Balderton Station to Eaton Hall. A light railway was the obvious means of coping with this traffic.
The 1st Duke’s decision to construct a railway may have been influenced by his son, Victor Alexander who was passionately fond of mechanical engineering and was frequently to be found in the railway workshops at Crewe, and often driving the Wild Irishman between London and Holyhead.
The 1st Duke’s agent, his nephew, the Hon. Cecil Parker, visited Sir Arthur Percival Heywood’s 1894 exhibition at his Duffield Bank Railway. Parker’s approach to Heywood to lay a light railway at Eaton Park was met with the favourable comment, “Here was a perfect opportunity for a practical experiment with the 15 inch gauge”.
The experiment proved a success. The new railway provided an efficient haulage service for coal and stores on the estate, and an enjoyable passenger service for visitors to Eaton, including members of the Royal Family, dignitaries and local schoolchildren. In 1922 a petrol-mechanical locomotive replaced the steam locomotives, but in 1947, during the period when Eaton Hall was leased to the War Department, the railway was taken up and sold. In 1996 a replica engine Katie, was acquired and the Eaton railway was reinstated. Now Katie and the railway provide pleasure and amusement for guests and visitors at the Garden Open Days.