Front Garden Railway Rob

This page last updated: 6 January 2018

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engines of the Rhymney Valley line, with the flat-topped tanks, as seen in the Rhymney Valley line books, were all withdrawn by the mid 1950s so the engines that would have been running on that line in 1964 would be ex-GWR 0-6-2T 56xx series engines, in BR colours, with slanted-top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.

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.

Brake van kit completed
Removable roof

The model was painted as follows:

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:
Covered in weed
Trackside hut
                painted, human's eye view
Trackside hut
                painted, bird's eye view

Gauge One AGM
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:
Water towerInside water towerTrackside hut

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 to build.
Brake van kit
            ton grey steel wagon
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.


27 August 2017

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.

Before clearing
After clearing

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.

Slope under

Things I Did While Waiting
27 August 2017

While I've been waiting for the engine I began a plan using WinRail 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).

Plan, version 1

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):

Station sign

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