In May 2014 I decided that I needed a front garden
railway. I don't have much of a front garden, at most
3.5 metres by 5.5 metres and with a 0.5 metre
slope across the short dimension. But I didn't have
anywhere else to put a railway and so it needed to be
done. The space is so small that realistic curves are
impossible however I did want to run real steam so I
commissioned Roger Melton of Just The Ticket
railway supplies in Salisbury to build me a Gauge One (i.e.
45 mm track spacing, with an accepted scale of 1 metre
== 32 mm) loco that would fit. And, of course, it had
to be a 0-6-2T tank engine of the type that would have run on
the Rhymney Valley line in South Wales in 1964, the year I was
born. In discussion with the secretary of the Welsh Railways Research Circle
I determined that the "native" 0-6-2T engines of the Rhymney
Valley line, with the flat-topped tanks, as seen in the Rhymney
Valley line books, were all withdrawn by the mid 1950s so the
engines that would have been running on that line in 1964 would
be ex-GWR 0-6-2T 56xx
series engines, in BR colours, with slanted-top tanks.
Roger said he couldn't commit to a timescale, so the engine
has been in the making for a little while. Provided it
will go around the tight radii I don't mind. Now that he's
not far off completion it is time for me to begin work.
Below find my front garden railway diary, starting with the things I did in the years
of waiting and then the clearing
of the space. Updates on progress are then in chronological
order, most recent at the top.
As an interesting example of synchronicity, after this project
started our local pub, the Railway Arms, which had been closed
by Charles Wells (who were planning to turn it into houses) was
bought by the community and is now run as a community pub, in
which we are of course shareholders. And the logo chosen
for the Railway Arms includes a 0-6-2T tank engine:
[logo reproduced with permission]
6 January 2024
Despite having already purchased a load of Peco G45
track, after meeting Cliff Barkerback in 2017, I have now purchased his
stuff for rather better scale accuracy. Comparing the two,
the differences really are huge:
They almost look like they must be different gauges, yet the
spacing between the rails of both is 45 mm. The truth
is they probably are different scales, the Peco G45 track
intended for rather larger scale but narrow-gauge rolling stock.
The practical difference is the height from the tops of the
"chairs", i.e. the things holding the rail to the sleepers, and
the top surface of the rail, which in the case of Barker is
2 mm and in the case of Peco is a truly gi-normous
4.5 mm. In other words Peco track could run just about
anything. I have checked and all of the wheels I have run
perfectly happily on the Barker track. Specifically, a chose
his "fine" version, in stainless steel, with a very slightly
widened track spacing of 45.5 mm; that will help the running
on my unrealistic radius.
As shown in the plan below
I needed two points: one straight right-hand and one curved
left-hand, both at my unrealistic radius. I considered
making my own but the process
is quite involved and includes soldering rails in a jig that I'd
need to make, etc., so I gave in to sense and got Cliff to make
them for me, adopting 1121 mm as the radius of the outer
Since he only lives 50 miles away from me I dropped into his
"shop" (i.e. his garage) where he was busy with one of four
injection moulding machines pumping out track segments while a
gentleman at a bench made points for other people; fascinating.
To lay the curves of track I needed a radius guide, 45 mm
wide, also of the exact 1121 mm radius. I created this
the design SW that happens to come with my High-Z/S-400T CNC
milling machine (from cnc-step.de);
I wanted the guide to be 750 mm wide but the machine is
limited to a 400 mm throw so the
design had to be "tiled" (which VCarve
does for you) and milled in three separate sections, moving the
2 mm thick aluminium sheet exactly the right amount each time
(by dint of having marked and drilled the temporary fixing holes very
carefully). I used a Mastermill AL (HPC) 3 mm slot-mill from
Europa Tool Co Ltd, run at 14000 RPM, applying LOTS (slightly
over one 300 ml can) of WD40 during the cut to stop the tool
just melting the aluminium. A sacrificial strip of 3 mm
ply was placed underneath the job so that the tool could cut
through. In the pictures below you can see the test cuts and
mistakes I made through my own incompetence and while having a few
arguments with the collet-holding mechanism of the milling
machine, swiftly resolved with the excellent customer service of
Philip at Prototools.
If you look carefully you can see very slight stepping in the
radius guide at the edges of the milling "tiles":
Measured, the step is somewhere around 0.25 mm, which should
be OK I think, especially as, through sheer luck, the steps are
symmetrical about the centre of the guide. Time to start
thinking about concrete.
Mountain, Oh Mountain
24 September 2023, updated 1 October 2023
As the old Vogon poem "Mountain, Oh Mountain" goes, I needed to
decide where to put the mountain of the front garden railway.
Since I want to have a tunnel, there has to be a mountain, but it
should look as little as possible like I just needed a tunnel and
so piled some earth somewhere. Yes, I know, anyway...
To better visualise the problem, I spent the afternoon laying out
where the track might be using 3 mm ply and spare decking
board; ignore where the earth is currently piled, that's just
where it ended up when I dug the hole for the water tank.
Of course, there also needs to be a station, or maybe just a
"halt" given the lack of straight edges; enough for the two coaches of DMU
I have. I had always assumed this would go at the back, on
the concrete surrounding the bay window; need to ponder.
Update, 1 October 2023:
I really wanted to have two sidings, each with a clear 2 metre run
to them, so I rearranged somewhat, bringing the left-hand curve as
close to the yew tree as possible to allow it.
10 September 2023
Now that the engine is confirmed to be able to take the curves it
is time to start thinking about construction; first, given the
unrealistic radii, I calculated the loading gauge. I had
built the Gauge One
DMU some time ago for just this purpose; taking its
measurements and reckoning on a 2242 mm diameter, we have:
Result: I need to allow an extra 22 mm clearance on the
inside of my curves and, for safety, lets say half that on the
outside of my curves.
Can She Take The Curves?
27 August 2023
Having shown that the engine runs, the next question is whether
she can take the extremes of curve radius required. I
brought out the circle of Peco G45 standard curves, with a
0.6 m diameter radius, a truly unrealistic curve (about half
what the front garden railway will have) that I used to test the
chassis of the DMU, with similar results:
Conclusion: yes, just need to unstick the engine startup (and
remember to mount those pointless rear wheels in future).
Running On Compressed Air
26 August 2023
After a few exchanges of instructions and parts with Roger I now
had the bits that fit into the hole
in the cylinder block, exhibits A being the "ARM1G block
lubricator banjo bolt", "lubricator banjo" with pipe attached, and
a brass union to be soft-soldered onto the end of the pipe,
steam/oil flow path indicated in the pictures by the arrows:
...exhibit B being a lubricator reservoir:
...and exhibit C being a double-union that allows one to be
connected to t'other. I took a few guesses as to what
connected to what, then called Roger to find out how it really
works: the pipe from the cylinder to the reservoir is a kind of
bi-directional thing, steam being pushed out and oil dragged back
in from the reservoir; the second, blocked-off, pipe from the
reservoir is purely for draining.
The pipes had to be bent so that the reservoir would fit inside
the engine body, where the water tank would be in a real loco;
Roger's advice was to do the bending by hand but to "do it once",
as the copper case-hardens quite swiftly. After doing the
bending, soldering the union onto the end of the pipe was pretty
straightforward: the rear-end of the union is designed to fit
tightly onto the copper pipe and, with the surfaces well cleaned
and fluxed, applying gentle heat with a blow-torch, soldering took
but a moment. Here are the parts, bent, soldered and ready
12 August 2023, updated again 26 August 2023
I took a look at the water level in the tank today: with the
water intake still blocked for the entire life of the water-flow
experiment so far, my dip-stick showed 15 cm of water.
That means there are around 185 litres of water still in the
tank, which must all be rainfall collected via the return from
the pond at the far end, and this despite the pump running
12 hours a day for 3 months over the summer, with a
slight leak from one of the joints. Since there is plainly
no shortage of water, I upgraded the pump to 1000 l/hr, made a
proper job of the joints to remove the leaks, then unblocked the
intake: time to see how things work for real.
One thing I have noticed is that the water-return from the
pond needs upgrading: a leaf can block the small pipe entrance;
it needs to have a filter on it so that detritus doesn't get in
and, at the same time, have a wider filter-mouth so that
collected detritus on the filter surface does not itself cause a
blockage. The same goes for the overflow, which will be
the next thing to test.
Update 26 August 2023: water seems to overflow correctly:
Ystrad Mynach Station
19 July 2023
In the 70's, when I were still a boy, and wanting to make an N
scale model of the local Rhymney Valley line Ystrad Mynach train
station, my father sought-out the ex-station master, Mr G Morgan,
and got him to draw a plan of the station. I duly made some
plasticard models of the buildings, which have survived and can be
used as a basis for sizing, since I would have measured the
buildings at the time (all of them are long gone). Last
night I found all of this hiding in a box in a filing cabinet.
Preparing To Run On Compressed
28 May 2023
It took a little while to figure out the thread that was on the
inlet to the pistons at the front of the engine:
Such a large number of threads per inch could not be found in
the usual tables; turns out that this is a 1/4" model engineers
thread; you probably need to scale your threads to carry
steam pressure. It took a little while to purchase the
right size of union cone, nut and copper pipe:
I cut a 50 mm length of the 1/4" copper pipe (20 gm
copper pipe, meant walls about 1 mm thick) and drilled it out,
3 mm deep, to 5 mm diameter in order to fit on the
rear-end of the union cone. I fluxed both the drilled-out
section inside the pipe and the rear-end of the union cone then,
with a blow torch, tinned the fluxed-inside of the pipe and,
while balancing the cone/nut on something
supportive/flame-proof, joined the two together by applying
Blowing into the pipe proved
it was air-tight, however it also showed that there was a part
missing on the other side of the cylinder block which wasn't in
the box: Roger had said this might happen and to contact him when
it did; more once I've got hold of that.
21 May 2023 - 28 May 2023
While the parts I needed to run the engine on compressed air were
being sorted, I installed the pump etc.for the river, so that I could check that water goes from and
to the right places, viz:
...and also to get some idea of the loss to evaporation etc.
[Ignore the green conduit: it contains the broadband cable].
A dipstick showed that the water in the tank was 350 mm deep
at the outset, all of which was collected off the roof in just a
few hours of heavy rain. The tank is 1010 mm x
1250 mm with walls probably 15 mm thick which suggested
0.43 cubic metres of water or 430 litres;
1.23 litres per mm. With the system running in steady
state, the little pond full, this dropped to 320 mm, meaning
that the pond etc. held 37 litres. I set it to run from
08:00 to 20:00.
Update: after seven days of running for twelve hours a day, in
reasonably warm weather, and with a drip from the connector out of
the top of the tank to the "river" pipe [which should serve to
make this a worst case measurement], the water level in the tank
was 305 mm: 18.5 litres lost, about 250 ml per hour
or, assuming all of the water in the tank could be used, the
system would run for about 4 months from one tank-full.
Given the apparent fill rate it doesn't look like there will be
any problem with water supply.
15 April 2023
At last, almost 10 years after I began, training day: I picked up
the bits of the 0-6-2T tank engine from Roger Melton at the
Peterborough Garden Rail show (the annual show of the 16 mm society).
There is slightly more bodywork assembly required than I had
anticipated, so I didn't hand the lot over to Fosworks after
all. The main point is that the boiler has been tested, the
motive mechanical parts all work and, critically, there is no
flange on the centre wheel, which should allow me to run on the
unrealistic radii I have to use.
The main missing part is the mechanism through which the boiler is
fired, the gas vessel. But first things first: I need to
find out the size of the fitting at the front of the engine, the
one feeding the cylinders, then I can drive it from a compressor
to demonstrate that (a) it works and (b) it travels around the
Nearly But Not Quite
12 March 2023
Today was meant to be training day, when Roger was going to hand
the engine to me at the Warwick Garden Rail show. However,
he had thought we'd agreed the handover to be at the Peterborough
Garden Rail show. Ah well, one more month (15th April)
doesn't matter and, in fact, Fosworks,
who I will ask to fit the remote control, will be at the
Peterborough, show so I can hopefully pass the engine from Roger
to them, saving me a trip to Lancashire.
As a consolation prize, I spotted that Malcs Models had a Mamod
Brunel vertical boiler engine which runs on Gauge One track,
so I bought one of those and spent the afternoon fitting and
staining the boiler cladding in a somewhat rustic fashion.
This is also something to practice my gas-loading technique on.
It is a really good example of the most simple steam engine:
On the right of the engine is a gas vessel with a small inlet
valve built into its top surface.
Mamod supply an adapter to a fit a perfectly normal butane gas
canister, as one might use when camping, which one shoves into
this valve to fill the small vessel with gas. The outlet
valve can be opened by hand to let the gas flow into...
...a gas burner underneath the engine, just like you might find on
a gas hob, which can be lit through a slot opened in the side of
the chassis. The gas heats the water in the vessel that is
in the middle of the engine, the boiler, which you will already
have filled with water:
The outlet valve can be opened to release the water, as steam,
into a piston which drives the wheels.
So a bit like a kettle on a gas hob with a pipe going from the
spout to a piston.
12 February 2023
Things are about to get exciting: Roger hasn't been able to get
the engine painted (even after the fourth engine-finishing guy
took over) but we've decided that he'll just deliver it to me
as-is and I'll do the rest; I will pick it up on 12 March.
Time to get arse into gear so, as a demonstration of arse'dness,
today the yew tree was halved in size.
Lets hope it survives the amputation.
I Made A Hole
9 January 2022
2021 wasn't engine year after all (Roger is now quite positive
about 2022, having found his third engine-finishing guy) but I
didn't want to waste my exercising and so I made inroads into the
river system [assuming you can make a road into a river]: there
needs to be a river/brook/dribble running down the middle of the
layout, I had decided, and hence I ordered a 500 litre
square/flat water tank from Ecosure,
designed to be buried (I have an identical one buried in the back
garden) and, on the hottest day of the year (13th June), I
dug most of the hole in the front garden to put it in and then
followed up on the August bank holiday weekend with the remaining
depth (until I reached the chalk) to fit the tank in nicely.
I bought one of those automatically-levelling laser levels, which
came with an L bracket onto which it was a [tripod]
screw-fit. The L bracket had magnets on the back so I could
drive a length of angle-iron I happened to have lying around into
the ground as a mount. I set the level to be just below the
paving at the rear of the garden area.
I purchased a plastic washing up bowl, which included a handy
drain-hole in the bottom, and cut the sides of the bowl so that I
could slide it into position on top of the drain under the
down-pipes visible in the rear of the picture above. Then I
3D printed [in ASA for ultra-violet
hardness] a part to sit underneath the drain with a nozzle to lead
the captured water into a length of 19 mm inside-diameter hose.
I purchased two float switches, a
12 V latching changeover relay with mains-rated 50 Amp
contacts, a small 240 V/12 V transformer, a bridge
rectifier, some 100 uF capacitors/10 kOhm resistors, one
mains plus two 12 V indicator lamps and two momentary action
push-button switches to make myself a circuit that would switch on
and off a 450 l/hour pond pump (the kind designed for small water
features) [later in the year this was updated to a 1000 l/hour
pump] depending on the water level in the tank. The mains
supply to the contacts of the latching relay, and hence the pond
pump, was from a mains timer unit so that it could be set to come
on only during the day or on weekends etc. I bought a box to
put it all in and spent the time between Christmas and new year
putting it together.
I thought that it would be best to sort out the river bed as a
free-standing thing, so that I could test it and ensure
good/leak-free circulation before surrounding it with earth; to
make this I bought myself a MIG welder and, as welding practice, I
bought some lengths of stainless steel to construct a frame, 500
mm high, that could be lowered into the neck of the tank to hold
the float switches and the pump. The float switches were
held on daisy-chained cable ties so that I could adjust their
Next: the river bed itself.
4 December 2020
You may have noticed that there has not been a great deal of
progress. I didn't want to begin construction until I had the
engine, 'cos I wanted to be sure I would build something it can
run on. In the intervening time I've purchased a 3D printer,
designed and constructed a Class 116 DMU
(since serialised in the Gauge One journal) intended to act as a
loading gauge, which was quite the project in itself. But I
still wanted the engine before I started digging.
Roger tells me (told me a few years ago actually) that the engine
chassis is done, and has even been run at a show, but it has not
yet been finished (painted, lined, etc.); finding someone to do
that job properly is what is taking the time.
Anyway, he believes it should be done next year so it is time to
prepare the ground. And by that I mean me: I have to be in the
right shape for construction, so Alice has helped me set out the
exercise regime below for the winter. I will complete the
columns to show progress (if any) over time.
Number In Set or Duration
Number of sets
Target number in set
Stand with your legs shoulder-width apart
then, while keeping your heels on the ground, bend your
legs as if you were going to sit down, onto your ankles;
keep your back straight (not upright) and stick bum/arms
out for balance.
6 to 15
Stand straight then slip one leg behind
you with toes on the ground; raise that leg, straight, as
high as you can behind you while keeping your hips and the
other leg straight, before returning your toes to the
(with each leg)
6 to 15
6 to 15
Lie underneath something that you can use
to pull yourself up (e.g. a broom handle between two
chairs); with your arms at waist height, pull your body
6 to 15
Rob's version of a plank: a press-up but
held at "half mast"; hold for at least 20 seconds,
increasing up to 90 seconds.
before starting, warm up somehow to get the blood pumping,
do the exercises to music,
try to increase the depth/length/whatever each time as well
as the number in the set,
pause between each set for long enough to recover,
when finished do some stretches.
Let's hope this makes a difference.
20 Ton BR Brake Van
6 January 2018
Over Christmas and the new year I have completed the Northern
Finescale BR 20 ton brake van kit. I'd guess it took
about 15 to 20 evenings to complete. I made the roof
removable with a few magnets to hold it in place so that I could
mount the battery box for the rear LED light inside (affixed with
velcro pads), running the wires underneath the model. The
weathering part was much more pleasurable than I expected: just
spend your time idly dabbing with this and that colour until the
model looks "used". Since I've painted the vehicle bauxite
and labelled it XP I also bought and attached vacuum brakes so as
not to be drummed out of the G1MRA scale accuracy club.
The model was painted as follows:
wooden body (the "bauxite" bits): two coats of
Humbrol 133 satin and then dry brushing with some
splodges of Humbrol dark grey wash and Humbrol rust wash,
wooden flooring: as wooden body, then a rethink to
Humbrol 26 matt followed by dry brushing with Humbrol
dark grey wash where mucky boots would fall,
roof: Humbrol 32 matt then dry brushing with some
splodges of Humbrol dark grey wash and Humbrol rust wash,
vents on roof: Humbrol 32 matt then a good coat of
Humbrol dark grey wash followed by dry brushing with some
splodges of Humbrol rust wash,
chimney: Humbrol 32 matt then a rethink to Humbrol 64
matt followed by spots of Humbrol 21 gloss and dry
brushing with splodges of LifeColor UA722 Roof Dirt,
concrete slabs: Humbrol 64 matt then a good coating of
Humbrol dark grey wash,
chassis: Humbrol 21 gloss then a fair coating of
Humbrol rust wash,
lamp hooks: Humbrol 04 gloss and then a spot of dry
brushing with some splodges of Humbrol rust wash,
handrails: Humbrol 04 gloss, painted while off the
model (after a test fitting) and then touched up after
fitting, plus some spots of Humbrol rust wash.
Ready For The Winter
17 December 2017
The front garden is now covered in weed fabric and lying fallow
for the winter. However, I have made a small amount of
progress in that I have constructed and painted the track-side hut
kit. I cut out the window panes with a small Dremel jig saw,
used the kind of resin you put on glass fibre to glue it all
together and then painted it as follows:
two coats of white car spray primer all over,
wood: two coats of Humbrol 70 matt then several
dry/patchy coats of LifeColor UA721 Sleeper Grime,
brick: one coat of Humbrol 83 matt to get a nice
yellow brick (though I didn't shake the tin well and hence it
came out gloss, which looked rather good, so I would use gloss
chimney pot: one coat of Humbrol 73 then dry brushing
with LifeColor UA722 Roof Dirt,
flashing on the chimney: LifeColor UA722 Roof Dirt
roof: gloss black then dry brushing with
LifeColor UA722 Roof Dirt,
window/door: gloss white (with gloss black for hinges and
door catch) then dry brushing with LifeColor UA722 Roof
14 October 2017
Since it was being held just up the road from me in Huntingdon, I
decided to visit the Gauge One society AGM; not to go to the AGM
itself, of course, but to meet useful people in the show on the
same site. Here are the useful things I did:
Met with Roger Melton in the flesh for the first
time. We confirmed that I would like my loco to be gas
fired and that I would like him to add 2.4 GHz remote control.
Met with Cliff
Barker who makes true scale Gauge One track. Since
I have such a small amount of track and it is "on display" I
think I will dump the Peco track and use his stuff instead.
Met with Rail Real Estate (Murray Johnston and his wife)
who make very good trackside buildings at a very reasonable
price. I bought two:
The water tower will allow me to actually refill my engine from
it (fitting a plastic hose between the filler pipe and the
up-pipe and running a hose from the up-pipe at the base to a
supply tank); the trackside hut will be a nice simple first kit
Met with Brunel
Models who happen to be building a bespoke halt-type
station for someone at the moment which would fit perfectly in
my layout. They are also able to make facias for
viaducts to your measurements, which could come in handy.
Purchased a 16 ton grey steel coal wagon (by Accucraft) from Fine Scale Brass;
again the kind of thing I would see long trains of running to
and from Penallta and other collieries on the Rhymney Valley
line, though this one needs some rust added to it:
While talking with Cliff Barker about the track
I asked about remote control of points and he talked of a design
they had in mind but which was too time consuming to
produce. It sounded really cool and so he pointed me at
the Model Electronic Railway
Group. Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year,
MERG is a UK-based model engineering group focussed on the
electronics and computing side of railway modelling. How
excellent - I joined immediately. What a productive day.
24 September 2017
After a few hours each over a few weekends spent with pick-axe
and fork, and as many trips to the dump, the front garden is
cleared. The large stones were saved to one side and five frogs,
one toad, one bumble bee and a newt were rehoused.
Fortunately there is good soil right down to pavement level,
which gives me lots of room to get imaginative with a river I
have in mind. Now I will leave it over winter, covered to
avoid any unwelcome growth.
As I've been waiting for the engine for a little while, the
front garden has become somewhat overgrown. So I've begun
by clearing it; excuse the statement of political allegiance, I
took the "before" photo in the run-up to a general election.
One thing is evident: I will need a cutting at the back and a
viaduct of some form at the front if I'm going to have a dead
level playing field. As you can see, I've trimmed the yew
tree to give me room to run underneath it.
I Did While Waiting
27 August 2017
While I've been waiting for the engine I began a plan
X2. This is just a rough idea, laid out using Peco
G45 track (which I have also bought), and doesn't take into
account the position of the yew tree. The inner oval is
not part of the implementation, it is simply a standard oval of
Peco G45 track for visual reference (since I can set such an
oval up in the loft).
Also, while visiting a model railway show in Bishops
Stortford, I came across a chap who made station signs; I had
one made (we live on Victoria Avenue):