The new line replaces my old West Kent Light Railway, a Colonel Stephens inspired line that was demolished to make way for a house extension in 2010. As the name suggests the new railway draws inspiration from the Welsh Highland, encouraged by the rebuilding of that line. That said, it's not the shiny modern era with Garratts and the like that I'll be modelling, but the 1920s, when Russell and "his" shedmates struggled to maintain a viable service in the face of recession and road competition.
Since the old line closed I've been saving for WHR locos, scratchbuilding rolling stock and gradually constructing my new line. It's much closer to ground-level than my old line for increased realism (I hope!) and will feature steep gradients (1 in 50-ish) both to better represent the real thing and also to match the sloping profile of the garden.
The plan is that the line will represent a fictitious branch off the "main line", originally built by the North Wales Narrow Gauge Railways and then extended during the WHR construction in the early 20s. That will allow me to feature the solid stone and brick architecture of the NWNGR and the WHR's corrugated iron. I'm currently planning an end to end line but should be able to reconfigure it as a circuit if I find I'm getting bored.
The first section I've built will eventually become the passing station in the middle of the line and a short length of track beginning the descent to the lower terminus:
Here's my old Friog diesel on a test train, standing in what will be the platform road - obviously there's till a great deal to do! Just as First Great Western are forever making tannoy announcements about the "heightened security situation" at Bristol Temple Meads (presumably to justify the occasional presence of armed police) these dangerous times have necessitated that the Thompson Twins are on duty to ensure nothing untoward takes place.
Initial tests have shown that I need to do more work to increase the distance between the loop's clearance points before I finally fix down and ballast the track. Even then my trains may need to be shorter than I'd originally intended.
The test train ventured down as far as the current "head of steel" - hopefully that will be extended around the edge of the patio over the winter, followed by some scenic work on the existing section in the spring.
Here's Mark hard at work. Actually I think he's in the process of phoning his other half to let her know that our engineering works had overrun...
A couple of cold wet weekends of work have seen the new line extended by about 20' or so round the patio. This section is on a timber structure designed to take up as little space as possible - come the spring I'll add pots etc underneath to try to make it all look a bit more natural. It combines new parts with bits recycled from the old railway, but because it's all edged and fenced with old bits it looks like it's been there a while. Cosmetic tidying up will include restringing all the fencing because most of it's broken.
The line's now 40 or 50 feet long, not a lot, but enough to justify a steam-up, particularly because I was keen to see how Russell would manage the sharp (3'6" radius) curves and steep (1 in 50-ish) gradients. I raised steam and, after a quick light engine test run, coupled up three quite heavy wooden-bodied carriages - I'm pleased to report that Russell coped beautifully, chuffing merrily up and down until the batteries in the transmitter appeared to go flat. They hadn't, just fallen out (!), but I didn't spot that 'til later... Russell is fitted with a Summerlands Chuffer and made a lovely racket heading up the bank...
Unfortunately the camera batteries really had died so I couldn't capture the wonderful plume of steam in the cold air but had to settle for these shots posed as dusk fell - they've been heavily Photoshopped to make them even vaguely presentable!
Although the garden's a bit bleak and barren at the moment, when there are pots on the patio, the beds are planted up and the fruit trees (from front to rear cherry, apple and plum) are in bloom it should all begin to look quite nice...
I'm pleased to report that, despite the short length of line currently available and a lack of facilities usually associated with steam locos (like run-round loops, or even stations), regular train services can return to my back garden following the introduction of specially designed Railcar Reversal Ramps. Otherwise known as bent bits of old coat-hanger, the ramps enable my trusty Faller railcar to trundle merrily back and forth, the reversing lever underneath being triggered at each end of the line.
I might not look like anything that ever ran on the old WHR, but for now it will do the job while I build the rest of the line and catch up on the gardening...
I imagine poor Driver Barleymow (an ex-Early Learning Farmer) was cursing whoever it was that decided that trundling two empty coal trucks about was reason enough to brave the wintery conditions, and that the open-cabbed Regner was the loco to do it with! He was probably right - I seem to have picked up a cold now...
Apologies for the poor quality photos, may try to find better ones later...
The warmer weather of the last few weeks (where's it gone?!) has seen me out in the garden giving the under-construction railway a bit of a cosmetic makeover. I've refurbished the old West Kent Light Railway buildings, moved existing plants and begged new ones ferom family, and spread slate chippings round fairly liberally. It's not going to look like this in the longer-term but this work has smartened everything up while I construct the next section. Sorting out the trackbed and ballasting is waiting until that extension's built - then I'll fettle the whole lot and sget itr running really smoothly before finishing the job.
At the bottom end of the current line the recycled fencing has been re-strung with fishing wire and the first few potted plants added to soften the line's impact...
Where the line rejoins the garden proper I've added some rocks and the beginnings of some planting. I need to find a thin sice of matcing rock to place behind the hill to make a cutting - the idea is that eventually it looks like the train is trundling through the lower slopes of a larger hillside. I'm not sure what the rock is and would have prefered slate, but this was what was available in local skips!The box bush has now been moved twice since planting, iI hope it survives...
The wonky section of stone walling is an experiment using some textured expanded polystyrene found in a neighbour's skip (again!). I painted it with acrylics about 9 months ago and it's been outside ever since - it seems to be holding up OK so I think I'll use the technique for the tretaining wall and bridge abutments on this section.
The next section of line will change completely, hopefully becoming much rockier. For now there's my old PW hut and lots of slate chippings...
The station uses the WKLR's old Windmill Hill station building, a converted child's toy - and not designed to be seen from this angle!
It looks better from this side - it'll do until it's replaced with something in the NWNGR style...
The upper end of the line currently peters out underneath the deck, next to the wood store. I rebuilt that last week and although it's hardly a scenic delight it will inevitably form the backdrop to many of the (WH)WHR's workings - and it gave me an excuse to run a lumber train! I may have to fit my locos with spark arresters!
That's all for now. I think the line's likely to stay looking like this while I build the extension to the lower terminus...
All the best,
- Mr. Bond of the DVLR
- Retired Director
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"It's a model icebreaker sir."
"It's a bit big isn't it?"
"It's a full scale model sir....."
Yes, I'd wondered about liberating some waste slate from a tip somewhere.laalratty:83399 wrote:Nice work, getting slate to improve the look of my line I found was a great excuse to get a parent to drive me to North Wales (although I'd drive myself these days), in particular the waste tips at Cwmorthin are very accessible. Not quite sure of the legal status of acquiring slate this way though....
Legally I guess it must be dubious, the stuff must belong to someone whether they want it or not.
Morally I reckon it's probably OK, depending on where it's from - if it's from a slag heap hundreds of feet high that's been there unwanted for 150 years that would seem to me to be OK.
I don't know if there's an environmental consideration? Is a slate tip an important eco-system? Would I risk disturbing the nesting place of the Lesser-Spotted Slate Warblers or distracting the endangered Purple Crested Slag Lizard from the task in hand during the important mating season? Dunno...
Of course it would cost a whole load to drive from Bristol to Wales, but I could do with a nice inspirational trip in that direction...
- Narrow Minded
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Not being a Welsh based railway, I've not had the slate quarry quandary, but I too have been "liberating" stone while on my trips around the UK - just the odd one or two from here and there which is slowly building up and yes, I have suffered the "moral dilemma" of taking it.
It's never come from a wall or other structure, but always "in the wild", so I've applied the Native American philosophy - which includes Show deep respect for the mineral world.. (I bring it home to look after it! )
As for Windmill Hill station building, I have one of those, the old Koala Brothers House I've replaced mine as a station building and I'm thinking of recycling it as some sort of yard office (I just love the little bell by the side door )
Keep up the good work, looking forward to progress.
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