Riley Lewis gets ready for a ride on the miniature railway named after him at the Lavender Line, Isfield. Sitting with him are his dad Darryl, and his grandmother Sandra.

Fund-raising miniature railway needs help to secure future

A miniature railway which has raised £10,000 for a children’s hospital through 50p rides and donations since it opened in 2011 now needs help itself.

Riley’s Miniature Railway is run by volunteers at The Lavender Line in Isfield and gives 100% of its income to the Evelina Children’s Hospital in London.

It is one of the few, ground level, five inch gauge railways open to the public in the UK and considered to be the smallest practical ride on track gauge.

But the railway is showing signs of wear and tear and since volunteers are totally against taking money from raised funds to help with maintenance costs they have launched a crowdfunding appeal.


An engine at Riley’s Miniature Railway under steam.

Just five days of the £1,000 appeal remains. Money raised before the deadline the money will go towards work such as replacing worn rail, sleepers, ballast, a new point, and materials for a new loco shed.

Any additional funds would be secured in a pot for future maintenance such as new wheels/bogie sets for passenger wagons, paint, wood preservative and fencing.

The volunteers say: “If you are in a position to help, and you wish to do so, please have a look here.

“We thank you in advance for your financial contribution and support in helping to keep this miniature railway going, which in turn helps a very worthwhile charity.

“All updates, including our next running days, are posted on our Facebook page.”


The station at Riley’s Miniature Railway.

Riley’s Miniature Railway exists because of a little boy called Riley Lewis who was born at the Evelina Children’s Hospital in London on Christmas Day of 2010.

He was born with six separate heart defects, including a hole in the heart, reversed arteries, back to front valves and various conditions that made his arteries thick, which made it difficult for blood to pump around his body.

One year, three operations and two procedures later, he made it home to celebrate his first birthday.


An earlier picture of Riley Lewis on the miniature railway line named after him. He is pictured with dad Darryl and grandfather Larry.

Riley has needed constant care and monitoring since his birth. He has had several operations and is still to this day very much under the care of the Evelina Children’s Hospital, part of Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Trust.

Grandparents Larry and Sandra Lewis from Bexhill on Sea wanted a way of raising money for the Evelina but knew that a skydive, climbing a mountain, running a race or riding from Land’s End to John o’ Groats wasn’t going to happen.

Having an interest in model engineering, miniature railways and railways in general, Larry and Sandra, were at the time involved with a five-inch gauge miniature railway at Knockhatch Adventure Park in Hailsham.

Charity railway

Around the same time news was given that this railway was to close, and Larry and Sandra had the idea of constructing and running a charity railway where children and families could benefit, with all fares and donations collected going to the Evelina Children’s Hospital.

Several attractions and places of interest were considered, but after a conversation with the management at the Lavender Line at Isfield Station, near Uckfield, their idea was welcomed with open arms.

The Lavender Line realised this would benefit the Evelina, and the Lavender Line itself, and offered a rent free site, meaning all money collected could be sent to the Evelina.


Larry and Sandra were, and still are, very grateful for the Lavender Line’s kindness and support.

The site was surveyed and the best location found to construct the mini railway with track laid at the back of platform two and the station located just to the north of the gift shop. 

Track was obtained while the points from Knockhatch were available for re-use. Donations of ballast, fencing and other materials were gratefully received.

Larry already had a diesel outline battery powered Class 73 loco in his possession, although a passenger and driver’s wagon had to be built.


Larry Lewis, grandfather of Riley, replaces sleepers on Riley’s Miniature Railway line.

The railway opened in July 2011, and was constructed and maintained by Larry and Sandra almost single-handedly but with assistance on hand, notably with the construction of two loco/carriage sheds, turntable and station canopy.

Over the years, further locomotives have been sourced and sidings have been added. The track has continued to creep northwards, making the journey longer and longer.

A signal box, tunnel, and girder bridge have also been built and various advertising signs from days gone by can be seen in the station.

Flower beds

Much time has been spent creating flower beds which are full of colour in the spring and summer months. Miniature vehicles and figurines have been added to the line side, all adding interest to the journey and appreciated by all.

Riley’s Miniature Railway has become a welcome addition to the Lavender Line with the word of it being there slowly spreading.

Kids and adults enjoy visiting and riding on the little railway and apart from a disaster back in August 2013 when escaped cows caused considerable damage to the track and line side fencing, the railway has gone from strength to strength.


More importantly though, Riley’s Miniature Railway has proved to be a great way of raising funds for the Evelina Children’s Hospital with well over £10,000 having been collected and donated since 2011. Considering this has been made up from 50p fares per person per ride and small donations, that’s pretty good going.

• The Riley’s Miniature Railway crowdfunder appeal can be found here:

• Riley’s Miniature Railway will be open on Sunday, September 29, and again during the Lavender Line’s gala on Saturday and Sunday, October 5 and 6.

See also:

Miniature steam engines and classic cars coming to Lavender Line

Community events launched at The Grove, Blackboys

Plans for new estate at Harlands Farm resurface

Find local businesses in our Uckfield Directory

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