Monday, 23 September 2019

Cavan & Leitrim

Ireland always draws me back, even when it means stupid amounts of miles up stupid hills in the stupid rain.

This year the lovely folk at Cycling Safaris came up with a new trip to The Secret West.

The immediate attraction of this was it covered some key locations on the Cavan & Leitrim Railway

The downside, you might have guessed, is that it involved stupid amounts of miles up stupid hills in the stupid rain.

As a group cycling holiday it also made it difficult to go off-piste to explore the C&L as much as I would have liked. For instance travelling by train with heavy luggage meant I missed Nancy in steam at Dromod on the train from and to Dublin. And I also forgot to check the links I had to historic maps showing the route of the line, meaning on at least one occasion I cycled along it for a few miles without realising. Anyway here are a few photos.

The coal mine at Argina were the main source of traffic on the C&L.

Which is why the museum includes a model of a train

And elsewhere you find odd reminders

Few as poignant as this

Though the nearby station remains well preserved

Just waiting for trains to return.

Elsewhere the Marble Arch Caves are an incredible tourist attraction 

As a student, a book of his poems was always in my pocket

Train services are improving

It is always good to meet up with The Enterpises

The famine ship replica is haunting, even though they chose to model it on an original with an exemplary record

But we should never forget

And I ended the trip with an Azuma experience that did not match my expectations

Friday, 13 September 2019

Peter Jones

Having fitted three holidays into a brief period this Summer I have a backlog of posts to publish, though given the lack of railways on the island the Crete one will be brief.

Railway construction across the gauges has obviously suffered as well. I'm hoping it is a case of going backwards to go forwards. It certainly is on the ELR. Major works in the garden have necessitated lifting 10m of track, but enabled the prospect of relaying another 20m on a better alignment and simplifying the laying of the next additional 20m. At the moment it looks terrible thanks to the deprivations of JCBs, goats and chickens.

The OO9 micro layout is pretty much done, other than additional layering of scenic details, and completing some more rolling stock kits for eventual use on a larger version.

A drainage issue has delayed the building of the home office, but I am at least beginning to be able to think about the four or five layouts I'm hoping it will eventually home. A canal trip to the area has reinvigorated my enthusiasm for the next EM gauge iteration of the TVR. What I'm still not sure about is whether I'll also build a TAoC OO gauge layout, or if I'll combine the two concepts to produce an EM gauge, TVR inspired layout but using TAoC trackplan. Of course I could always build TAoC in N gauge...

What will definitely be built is a small OO gauge dock/canal side micro layout, and the slightly enlarged OO9 layout.

On the back burner is a small tramway layout with a Kinver theme, and various 16mm and 7/8ths micro-layouts that will essentially be for photographic purposes.

Ah yes, 7/8ths. I'm still struggling with a site for the planned 7/8ths garden line whilst being seduced by more and more stock. The conclusion I've come to is the ideal site for it doesn't exist yet and won't until the garden redesign is complete, especially the construction of a duck pond.

But in the meantime let me return to the eponymous subject of the title of this blog. Peter Jones, Tom Cooper and Brian Clarke were my mentors as a teenage builder of garden railways at a time when, to be frank, I found many in the 16mm Assoc to be snobbishly middle class.

The three of them were unstinting in their support and encouragement.  So it felt an obvious choice to name my Accucraft Wren after Peter, and Matt Acton did a brilliant paint job on it. The stars aligned and Peter's daughter, Kes, the doyen of the Tallylln Railway shop, performed the naming ceremony on it at the 70th anniversary celebrations of the Compton Down Railway.

But I thought it would be nice to put Peter himself on the footplate of a class of loco he held in particular affection, and who better to do that than Rob Bennett?

So here it is, a collaborative effort in many many ways to which I've so far contributed pretty much nothing.

Having posted this picture on FB a comment led to also post this wonderful family group caricature Rob did eleven years ago

Monday, 5 August 2019

On the Rails

Getting Tug to the railhead was a bit of an epic journey that took longer than it might have done.

Wednesday, 31 July 2019


The new, if possibly temporary, loco for the ELR arrived whilst I was in Ireland last week.
I returned with a nasty case of shingles, which, along with doing over 2,400m of climbing on the bike has left me shattered. So unpacking the loco and coach is turning into a slow process.

I've also managed to do some minor damage to the coach roof. The way it was packed resembled the Sofa on the Staircase. 

The loco is a Phoenix Tug fitted with a rather lovely brass tram controller . Keith at Phoenix deserves a special mention for getting in touch to provide me with all the relevant manuals without beign asked. It is a bit of a beast and as I mentioned at the start I'm not sure how it fits into my long term plans, especially since several people have already made me offers for it. If I do keep it there a few things I would change over time. A chain guard in the cab being a priority with animals and children around. It has the parts for a cab as well. In theory it could even be converted to a 10 1/4" gauge petrol loco.

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!