New Territory

The story so far… At the end of my gripping previous post on where to build my railway – I ended on a cliffhanger. Two possible locations, both suffering the limitations of my narrow, steep, garden. Which would I choose?

Fortunately, at the start of this year, the Moel Rhos Light Railway Company acquired additional land adjacent to the existing garden. Greater width meant running side to side – following the contours – suddenly became a viable prospect. I went from having only one possible site at the top of the garden to having a myriad of possibilities. I could even run a loop of around 3/4 scale mile around the edge of the new land (albeit with some civil engineering to cope with the 1m variation in heights). At a scale 15mph, a train would take a satisfyingly slow 3 minutes to complete the circuit.

An appealing idea, but dangerously ambitious given my resources and abilities. Reflecting on my 4mm experience, the only success I’ve had in getting anywhere close to completing layouts was to build iteratively. Dufftown started out on a flat 3’6” x 2’ baseboard (but grew larger and more complicated to a 6’ x 8’ L on 3 levels). I needed to be able to reach a point where I could run trains in the garden – and therefore reap the rewards of my labour, and investment – this summer. And speaking of investment, there was also the small matter of the financial impact the land acquisition had. In short, the railway was skint. No live steamers for Simon. This was going to have to be done on a shoestring.

So, I have decided to lay a single loop of just over 15m – to serve, in effect, as a test track. That’s as much a test of my enthusiasm for the garden railway, and a test of my building techniques, as it is a track for test running locos and stock. No station, no sidings, not even a passing loop. But I chose a location which would ensure that no one place in the garden would afford a view of the whole layout – trains would appear and disappear from any angle of viewing – and to add to the interest, there’d be a couple of tunnels. And I did a bit of thinking to make sure future expansion would be possible, if I had the desire and the capital at some later date.

(In fact, because I can’t help myself, I have worked out how it can be expanded in future phases: phase 2 taking a line into the shed; phase 3 gradually building up the larger loop; maybe even a phase 4 branch line too… But I had to forbid myself from any detailed planning to avoid distraction from the current project.)

I have to admit that the careful drawn and detailed plan above is retrospective. It only existed in my head at the time I blasted* the first cutting and quarried* the first stones. But…

The game was afoot.

* dug with a spade
** ordered from Wickes

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Simon Wood

Lecturer in medical education, lapsed mathematician, Doctor Who fan and garden railway builder. See for more...

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