Land Train History
The very first land train set off from the Hiker Cafe terminus on 1st April 1968
On 1st April 1968, a new “toytown train” service began from Double Dykes car park to Mudeford Sandbanks. According to an article from the time, there had been a fuss surrounding the introduction of the train service, which was to deny Christchurch Corporation’s beach hut users use of the road during the six months of the year when they most wanted to use it. Mr Roger Faris and his wife, Joyce, paid the corporation £750 for an experimental six months running the service.
The article mentions furious letters in the press and sent to the town hall letterbox, pleading for the Council to have a change of heart. Even the park inspector at the time, Mr Alf Little, thought that the little train ‘was something that is not going to work’.
But the decision was upheld to restrict motor vehicle access to protect the natural beauty of the Head – which is now a Site of Special Scientific interest with International importance.
By 12th April that year, the train was experiencing vandalism and sabotage. Someone had put sharpened roofing nails in the path of the train, causing eight punctures.
By November 1968, Bournemouth Parks Committee and Department, promoters of the Hengistbury Head ‘Noddy’ train, met the Mayor of Christchurch and the Chair of the Christchurch Beach Committee. Whilst all agreed the train should run again, there was a need to make it more sophisticated, with roomier carriages, doors, windows and some suspension. A shelter would also be added at the Mudeford terminal.
Bournemouth Parks Committee then agreed to recommend to the Council that it offer the operator and owner of the train terms suggested by him a three-year contract and he was to pay the corporation £1,000 a year for the rights.
Roger sadly passed away in the late 1980’s, but the train service was run by the Faris family very successfully for 45 years until Joyce’s retirement in 2015 - Joyce is now in her 90s.
Today, the land train is owned and operated by BCP Council, who have continued to provide this very well-loved service, which helps to create fond memories for those who ride Dunlin (green), Mallard (orange) or Shelduck (blue).
Newspaper Image courtesy of Christchurch Herald April 5, 1968