Tuesday, 9 July 2019


Photo by Dave Rowbotham

The last couple of weeks have seemed really busy. Probably because they have been.

The goats, Jaffa, Fig and Ginger - spot the theme - have a new shed to live in that will at least look like a ticket office. That necessitated lifting the "tramway" ready for the new and much-improved alignment. I still don't know how the levels will work out, but we will have a digger on site soon to help move things forward. At the very least it will improve railway access to the driveway and the woodsheds.

We have collected five new rescue chickens to restore the flock destroyed by Mr Fox.  Somehow on the same day I also fitted in the collection of the 5" gauge portable track for a self-contained line for the next generation of railway people. As well as use by grandchildren this will give me my introduction to proper live steam. One day...

Meanwhile, in Wales, the 70th anniversary of the Compton Down Railway was being celebrated. I couldn't make it myself, so I did the next best thing and sent my new Accucraft Wren, Peter Jones, to be named. I'll just repeat again that Matt Acton has transformed this loco and given it a distinct personality. Rather like an expensive watch I don't feel I own it so much as I'm looking after it for future generations.

Oh yes, and then I seem to have purchased this...

Thursday, 27 June 2019

Back to Planning

I mentioned the imminent arrival of goats in my last post. This has several implications for the railways in the garden.

Laurel is poisonous to goats, and currently, the "tunnel" largely consists of a large stand of laurel bushes. So that all has to be grubbed up. Superficially that is bad news, but in conjunction with having taken out some sycamores and elders last month it actually means I can plan a better alignment for the ELR on that side of the house, and perhaps even get an extension to the site of the planned main station finished in this year's campaign.

Laurel is bad for goats but they positively love vegetable beds, possibly even more than the chickens do. So I'm going to have to bite a rather large bullet and relocate my raised beds to their new location at the far end of the other garden. That is a real pain in many ways but in the long terms builds the business case for an extension for the yet to be built garden office.

The garden office will at some point be home to the Art of Compromise layout, and I'm still debating internally whether I build it as the original Roy Link plan in OO or as a slightly wider EM Tanat Valley version. I'm favouring the second at the moment.

Moving the raised beds to that part of the garden means losing the site I'd earmarked for the 7/8ths line but I already had a couple of alternative locations in mind.

So that just leaves finding somewhere to shoehorn in the 5" line...

Tuesday, 25 June 2019


Matt Acton of Berry Hill Works has finished the lining of my Accucraft Wren and I think you'll agree he has done a stunning job.

Many of you will recognise that it is named after the late great Peter Jones of Compton Down fame.
Peter must have inspired many many garden railway modellers over the year.  He encouraged people to have a go, whatever their abilities, and was one of the first to popularise the scenic "modelled" garden railway as opposed to trains running around a lawn or flower bed. He also had a 1:1 model of a Wren in his "greenhouse" so it seemed a particularly apt choice.

Whilst I obviously can't wait to get my hands on it, the Llechfan Garden Railway at Towyn, which has preserved so much of Peter's legacy, is holding a 70th anniversary celebration of the Compton Down, so I'm trying to arrange for the Wren to visit for the day, though sadly without me. I'll be collecting rescue chickens to replace our flock which a fox devastated whilst we were on holiday.

I did harbour plans to snap up one of the last Accucraft Bagnalls, but that plan has been compromised by finally losing patience with my ride on mower and deciding to replace it with something more robust. Oh and goats, my wife has decided we need goats which are arriving next month as well. The Eaugate Light Railway is becoming increasingly agricultural!

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

Plans and more Plans

It has been a funny first half of a year. Whilst the Winter months were busy with work Spring was focussed on family and improvements at Elder Cottage, particularly in the garden.

That is quite significant for the Eaugate Light Railway, because as our plans become more concrete for the garden so do the plans for the extensions, and revisions, of the 7 1/4".

One of our local crafters made this rustic version of Elder Cottage
The trees on the left of the photo have now gone.
You can see how close to the house and the overhead cables they were

In the short term the biggest change is that we've taken out several of the mature self-seeded trees that had grown alongside the house, and the old apple trees a third of the way up the garden.

Now I normally hate having to have trees cut down, but I salve my conscience with the fact that we are still to count all the trees on our land, and the long term plans involve more suitable replacements.

The sycamores and elders were stealing light from one of the rooms, their roots were in danger of causing structural problems and their branches were dangerously close to overhead cables. It is pure coincidence that they also formed a major barrier to extending the line down that side of the house.

With them out of the way we can now plan what will be a short but significant new section of track that will eventually lead both to additional wood storage areas and a road-accessible terminus. The trees will be replaced by native hedging. One thing that is already clear is that I need to alter the alignment of the last 5m of the "tramway" section, so I'm glad I made the decision to lay the tramway as temporary track.

It was a tough choice deciding whether or not to remove the apple trees. They were very productive, in fact far too much so, giving us a massive glut of fruit and a major problem clearing away windfalls each Autumn. Visually we also found them a major barrier to us even beginning to imagine our vision for the garden. That eventual vision will obviously have a big impact on the big extension to the ELR and its eventual route to the garden office. The apple trees will be replaced by a more manageable and diverse mini-orchard as part of the redesign, which will also let us remove some of the other fruit trees that have also grown out of hand.

We are hoping to have the garden office built by the end of the year, and that will also give me more space for a modelling workshop and a more permanent layout. It is odd thinking about returning to 4mm standard gauge after what has been a four-year gap, but that is a story for another day.

Thursday, 9 May 2019

Learning Curve

Model Earth Design Wagons

My adventure into 7/8ths scale over the last few weeks has been surprisingly exciting.

It isn't like I'm new to garden railways, having built my first line in 1980, and first having played around with 7/8ths in 2000.

My old Outline Simplex, which went "missing" in a house move
But this time around I'm finding it not only exciting, but fun and ..well I was going to say challenging, but encouraging might be a better word, because, to be honest, it is is too easy to be challenging.

The new production techniques being exploited by small manufacturers are incredible compared to say, the original 16mm Association GVT coach "kit" or the Archangel ones that didn't even have the planks marked on them.

But here is the odd thing, because the kits are essentially simple it means I'm spending more time thinking about how to finish them. So some very simple Model Earth Design resin wagons have been subjected to a  new to me weathering technique of misting on basic rattle can paint.

Other models, from North Pilton Works, Bole Lasercraft and Resurgam are being subject to a range of wood stains and finishes designed for full-sized structures.

After a cryptic phone call from Accurcaft, the Wren is now en route to Matt Acton for lining out.

Just for old times sake, I've built a 16mm kit, one of Matt Nunn's excellent range

On top of all that I'm getting a crash course form James Hilton on modern R/C technology.

I haven't had this much fun since, oh around 1980!

Monday, 29 April 2019

Springing Forward

The combination of poor light in my current office/workshop and a cruel wind around the Eaugate Light railway's engine shed means modelling takes a backseat until mid-Spring. Early Spring is dominated by gardening, but the 16mm show at least kickstarts the thinking process.

This year's thinking is dominated by 7/8ths scale, and the workbench is littered with work very much in progress on the rolling stock front, whilst the loco fleet is on order. I'm particularly excited about one of the locos because it is one of the ones I wanted many many years ago, but for now it will have to stay under wraps.

I've also settled on a temporary site for the 7/8ths line, although in the long term it will fall foul of the expansion plans for the Eaugate Light Railway.

A side issue is that changing my mind about where the 7/8ths will go frees up some space for a 16mm line, though 16mm is very much on the backburner at the moment. Well apart from the loco and wagon that are also WIP on my desk, but they are intended for another micro layout.

Talking of micro layouts, Rails Round the Garden took a major step forward yesterday.

Saturday, 6 April 2019

Another year, another 16mm show

Yes, it has been quiet here.  Not that nothing has been going on, but little of it has involved modelling. Since moving to the country again I've realised I need Spring and Summer light and late evenings to get modelling.

So the 16mm  AGM, on my doorstep, seems a good place to kickstart the thinking for future plans. Not in 16mm though, since I've started selling off my 16mm  stock to finance a move to 7/8ths scale.

It is a shame in a way, because having spent years complaining that too much 16mm rolling stock was built to a variety of scales, none of which were actually 16mm it is probably true that we are in a golden age for the availability of true 16mm rolling stock.

The catch is it just doesn't seem to suit the current garden. It isn't easy to articulate why. It is something aesthetic about the difference between seeing a railway in a landscape and it getting totally lost, combined with something practical about a garden where even the 7 1/4" gets derailed by nature, as well as being vandalised by chickens.

It isn't my first foray into 7/8ths, that was many years ago and unfortunately, my nascent line got nicked in one of the many house moves when I had things in storage.

So a little while ago I ordered the new Accurcraft Wren in green.

It might be 7/8ths, but it is still relatively small

I've got it booked in for lining and detailing, and I think this is the livery I'm going for:

Beacon Down was on the Heritage section, which this year had the theme of previous show award winners, and there were some gems

I got to the show quite early this year, and even when I left the Model of The Year competition table was sparsely populated, and, as in previous years, hard to photograph because of the light from the windows.

Needless to say, the other display stand that caught my eye was the 7/8ths scale one

The disappointment this year was the layouts. Indian Hills was as entertaining as always

But too many others seemed toy-like in conception and featured high-speed trains. Tony Hills' electric.

 Melin Llechi stood out as always

And for some reason, I have a soft spot for G3

The Garden Railways Magazine layout, built by Phil Parker in a day with support from the local Notcutts garden centre deserves a special mention. It might not be everybody's cup of tea, but the children at the show seemed to really appreciate it being at their level.