The Whittingham Hospital Railway (W.H.R.) was a private light railway operated by Lancashire County Council to serve Whittingham lunatic asylum. Opened in 1889, it carried goods and passengers between Grimsargh on the Preston and Longridge Railway and the hospital grounds. It closed to all traffic in 1957.
The asylum was built in 1873 and enlarged in 1879 to accommodate 2895 patients. Before becoming the hospital, it was the long-time residence of the Waring family. The house was built in 1869 by Cooper and Tullis of Preston, to the designs of Henry Littler for £338,000.
In the early days of the hospital, all supplies, including coal and provisions, had to be transported by horse and cart from Preston – a distance of 7 miles (11 km) – or from Longridge at the terminus of the Preston and Longridge Railway some 3 1/2 miles (5.6 km) distant. The cartage was expensive; permanently staffed with a stud of horses and vehicles. In 1884, the significant costs of this operation prompted the authorities to consider building a railway between the hospital and the village of Grimsargh 2 miles (3.2 km) to the southeast.
The railway had two substantially built stations, one at each terminus, the one at Grimsargh being diagonally opposite the level crossing from the mainline station. This station had the only run-around loop on the railway and a connection with the Preston and Longridge branch facing in the direction of Longridge. Two sidings were also provided. The station at Whittingham Hospital was of brick and corrugated iron construction which sported an overall glass roof above its single wooden platform and track. Access was by the means of steps as the station was situated on a high embankment.
The first locomotive purchased by the W.H.R. was an 0-4-0 saddle-tank (works number 304) built by Andrew Barclay & Sons Co. in 1888 at their Caledonia Works, Kilmarnock. The original locomotive was fitted with outside cylinders gave good service until 1947 when it was scrapped. A further Barclay locomotive (works number 1024) arrived in 1904 becoming No. 2. It sported a 0-4-2 wheel arrangement with identical cylinders to engine No. 1, and 4 ft 1 in (1.24 m) wheels. This locomotive worked until 1952 when it was also scrapped.
With the scrapping of No. 1 just following the Second World War, new steam locomotives were only available on four year lead times, therefore a second-hand engine was acquired in 1947 from the Southern Railway at a cost of £750. This was a William Stroudley 0-4-2 D1 Tank and was named James Fryers in honour of the Chairman of the Hospital Management Committee. The engine was originally built for the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway in 1886. Numbered 357, it carried the name Riddlesdown. In Southern Railway service it bore the number 2357. Serious boiler defects in 1956 curtailed its working career and the engine met the scrap-man that year when it proved beyond economic repair. Before scrapping, it was the sole surviving member of its class.
A further locomotive was thus required and a 100 hp (75 kW) Sentinel shunter, named Gradwell, was acquired from Bolton gas works. It worked for only 18 months before the line was closed.
The Ribble Steam Railway will be using Sentinel St.Monans as W.H.R. ‘Gradwell’ as part of a special exhibition to mark the anniversary during 2017