Kirklees Light Railway

On a misty day in April I visited the Kirklees Light Railway a 15 inch gauge line in West Yorkshire. It was a quiet, mid week timetable and the rostered loco was ‘Hawk’ a very elegant 0-4-0+0-4-0T Kitson Meyer. The main station is Clayton West and I arrived to find Hawk being turned on the turntable.

The KLR runs on an old standard line, built by the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway in 1879 and closed to passengers in 1983. The line was reopened as a 15 inch gauge line in 1991, and grew in stages until it reached its present length in 1997. The driving force behind the creation of this miniature railway was Brian Taylor. He must have been quite a guy. Not only did he get a light railway order and construct the line but he built four steam locomotives that are still used on the KLR. Hawk is one of these locos and was inspired by a 2’5″ gauge Kitson Meyer built by Andrew Barclay Sons for export to Chile.

A nice view of the cab.

A close up of one of the ‘bogies’.

Clayton West is a very well appointed station. Here’s the shed and the turntable.

Sitting patiently in the station was Jay, a 0-4-0 diesel.

The line runs for approximately 3.5 miles to the other terminus at Shelley. It’s a great ride, along the wide ex-standard gauge trackbed, under the original bridges and through the 467 m long Shelley Woodhouse Tunnel. I’m told this is the the longest tunnel on any 15 in gauge line in Britain, and that wouldn’t surprise me!

On arrival at Shelley, Hawk uncoupled from the train and was turned on the turntable.

A nice bit of steam, probably enhanced by the misty day!

Note the buffers on turntable.

I liked the simple, but functional water cranes on the KLR. The rust is crying out to be modelled 🙂

The KLR has some very elegant closed coaches.

There are even cushions – luxury for a 15 inch gauge line.

I like the conversion to a guards van.

..and the guards compartment.

It is often the little things that make a visit to a railway extra special. At the KLR your ticket is valid all day and you can travel as much as you like. I did two round trips, pausing only for an excellent saugage and onion bap in the Buffer Stop Cafe at Clayton West. In the Cafe they were playing a nice mix of Motown music, including the marvellous Tears of a Clown by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles.

I would have liked a book on the KLR but, strangely, the shop didn’t have one. Instead I brought a book on the Fairbourne Railway (!).

I had a good day on the Kirklees Light Railway and I’m very tempted to return for their Steam and Diesel Gala in September.



Spot-On Models and Games, Swindon

My work took me to Swindon this week. I arrived early so that I had time to visit Spot-On Models and Games. It’s very nice to visit a well stocked model shop, it would be great to have a shop like this near to me.

I brought some primer, paint, brushes and a couple of files. Plus, I couldn’t resist this very nice 1:43 scale Morris LD150 van. I love the colour. Now, this has to find it’s way onto a layout……

It’s Always Sunny on The Bure Valley Railway

On Saturday I joined the Norfolk and Suffolk Narrow Gauge Railway Modellers on an outing to the Bure Valley Railway. I left Cambridge on a grey, drizzly day and arrived in Aylsham to sunshine, blue sky and warm air, very uncharacteristic of November.

We were due to get the 11am train. As it was the 11th November the BVR held a two minute silence at 11 am, which I though was very respectful. Afterwards, everyone got onto the train and it left a few minutes late, but nobody minded. The N&SNGRM are a very friendly bunch and myself and several other guests had a very socialable ride down to Wroxham and back. The photo at the beginning of the blog shows Mark Timothy receiving some oil at Wroxham.

Back at Aylsham, after a very tasty sausage and chips in the railway’s cafe, we were given a tour of the workshops and yard by Andrew Barnes, the MD of the BVR. The reserve engine for the day was Blicking Hall. She was holding about 100lb of steam in case she was needed. I do like the Great Eastern Railway blue livery of this loco.

The BVR are relaying a lot of track again this winter, including extending the passing loop at Brampton to allow it to take longer trains. There was a very interesting Permanent Way train waiting in the station.

There are definitely some prototypes worth modelling there!

Afterward the tour we went to a meeting room, the N&SNGRM team set up their test track and various layouts and we ‘played trains’.

I particularly liked Graham and Caroline Watlings venture into Gn15. “Longstone Maintenance Shed” is a test piece so Graham could get used to new materials and Caroline could practice large scale scenery. Graham called it a ‘working diorama’ but with two points and lots of operating potential many people would call it a micro layout.

It is very nicely modelled. (It doesn’t slope like that in reality, it’s the photograph!)

The BVR has an excellent second hand bookshop at Wroxham (featuring all genres, not just railway books!) and a very well stocked model shop at Aylsham. Naturally, I succumbed..

It was a great day out. Many thanks to Richard Doe who organised the trip and Andrew Barnes for being an excellent host.

Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad

This summer, as a special treat to celebrate our 21st wedding anniversary, we went on holiday to California. Our holiday was planned around tourism and family things but, by sheer coincidence, one of the places we stayed was two miles from the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad. Honestly, it really was a coincidence!

I arrived on a brilliantly sunny morning, and collected my ticket from the ticket office.

In the early 20th Century the original railroad was constructed by the Madera Sugar Pine Lumber Company. At one point it had seven locomotives, over 100 log cars, and 140 miles of track through these mountains. The company operated by clear cutting, the removal of every tree in a parcel of land. As a result the track was laid into an area, all the trees were felled and the track was removed and relaid in a new area. They had a sawmill a couple of miles from the present railroad and they transported the lumber 54 miles to Madera county using a flume, a man made water channel. Unfortunately, the depression and a lack of trees caused the logging operation and the railroad to close in 1931. It is said that if all the trees that were removed from this area were laid end to end they would stretch three times around the equator.

Fortunately, the trackbed, gradients and rights of way remained in existance and the current railroad was established in 1961.

My train didn’t depart for some time so I could look around the depot. The train was headed by this Shay…

Number 10 is a 3 foot gauge Shay built by the Lima Locomotive Works in Ohio in 1928 . She is a huge locomotive. she weighs 81 tons and I was told she is the largest narrow gauge Shay ever built. Originally owned by the Pickering Lumber Company she worked for the West Side Lumber Company from 1934, until being purchased by the YMSPRR in 1961.

Number 10 is oil fired with three pivoting trucks (one under the tender) and drive to all 12 wheels. Here’s the front truck and part of the drive mechanism. The large cylinder is for the Westinghouse air brakes.

Here’s a close up of the bevel gears used to drive each axle.

Here is one of the longitudinal drive shafts. You can see the square sliding prismatic joints to allow the drive shaft to contract or expand to accommodate the rotation of the swiveling trucks.

Here’s one of the universal joints and part of the reverser shaft.

A close up of where the three cylinders connect to the drive shaft, and more of the reverser shaft.

On the other side of the loco is the pump for the air brakes.

Ephraim Shay was a schoolteacher and a civil servant before becoming a logger and a railway engineer. Also, he was a shrewd business man. He obtained several patents to cover this unique loco design. No 10 has a plate listing some of the patents, presumably to remind anyone that it might not be a good idea to copy the design.

After inspecting the Shay I looked at the passenger cars, some were covered…

…and others were open air log cars.

I walked down the depot past No. 402, a centre cab diesel.

This is the engine shed. Inside on the left is the line’s other Shay locomotive, No 15, built in 1913 and acquired by the YMSPRR in 1988 after she had been on static display for a number of years. On the right is one of the lines Jenny Railcars, Ford Model A automobiles converted for rail use. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find anyone to ask for permission to enter the shed and take some photos.

Outside the shed was every railroad modeller’s favourite accessory – a classic American pick up.

I boarded the train. With a lovely, deep whistle and the sound of the bell  ringing we headed off into the forest. The Shay has a very different exhaust note from the English engines I am used to. The whistle, bell and exhaust sounded fantastic and for the first time I understood why some modellers want to use DCC sound.

The first part of the line is downhill. The engineer told me he applies light braking downhill, this stretch out the cars slightly to give him more control. The locos use local water which is full of minerals. To stop the pipe work becoming blocked they blow out pipes once every journey. It’s an impressive sight. The steam is released at 450 psi and over 300 degrees F.

About half way round the tour we made a 10 minute stopover at Lewis Creek Canyon. The tender took on water…

…and I got the opportunity to talk to the engineer. (He’s the one on the left in case you were wondering 🙂 )

The return journey was mostly uphill. You could feel the power of the Shay and the sound of the engine was great.

After our hour long journey we arrived back at the main depot. I visited the Thornberry Logging Museum. They had this steam donkey engine that was used to pull logs to the railway or to the sawmill.

This gas (petrol) powered dragsaw was used to cut logs to size. These were the forerunners of the modern chainsaw.

Finally, I took a walk down the line and found some of the other stock. Firstly, this impressive snow plow (plough).

I’m told that is was the West Side Lumber Company’s plow No. 2 and it is rare to see a narrow gauge snowplow.

I think it would make a super model.

There was this enormous bogie tank wagon. Look at the aged wooden frame.

A simple bogie, flat wagon.

Finally, I was surprised to find No. 5, a two axle diesel switch engine built in 1935.

No. 5 didn’t seemed to have moved for a while and I was told she’s not operational at the moment.

Visiting the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad was an unexpected surprise, and a great pleasure.

Yes, I can say ‘I’ve been there, and I got the T shirt’.





Beds ‘n’ Buck at Leighton Buzzard Railway

The boys from the Beds and Buck Narrow Gauge Modellers put on an exhibition at the Leighton Buzzard Railway today. Pages Park station was a great venue, there were lots of layouts and the visitors (young and old) were really interested in the displays.

Pride of place, right opposite the enterance, with a welcoming smile went to John Rees and his Old Oak layout. Everytime I see his layout John has done more work on it. John has added grass and sheep. All good layouts have sheep on them!

David Gander brought Green End which featured the ‘Narrow Gauge is Fun’ sign you see at the beginning of the blog. David mentioned this was the last time Green End will be exhibited. I think I’ve heard that before, but I was worried it might be true so I asked if I could operate. David kindly let me. It’s a nice layout to operate, simple controls that are easy to understand, and everything works well. Even I didn’t manage to crash anything!

Everyone likes a ‘landie’….

Danny Figg specialises in small or unusual layouts and he brought an interesting selection. Here’s Newnes Street Bridge a layout built for a competition at Expo Narrow Gauge.

This is the Owoh Nine Wells Watercress Farm. This working layout is built in a box file and measures approximately 34 x 24.5 cm.

Danny is creating a 1:32 scale loco from an inexpensive plastic toy.

Also, Danny brought “Emmenthal Incline”, a working incline layout built by Dawn Figg. It makes eveyone smile.

Brian Key exhibited Ilfracombe East. It represents a fictional extension of the Lynton and Barnstable Railway. It is really well modelled and the stock is lovely.

A Kerr Stuart in Southern Green…?

Brian’s layout even features the competitors every narrow gauge railway fears – charabangs!

All of the locos, stock and buildings on the layout are scratch- or kit-built, although Brian has recently invested in a Heljan loco. The detailing on the loco is excellent. Brian tells me he ran it for over an hour on his test track yesterday and he is very chuffed how well it runs.

Late in the day I spotted this very nice railcar, but I didn’t manage to get any details about it from Brian.

Tony Clarke’s Mirkwood is a narrow gauge railway serving a small slate quarry and village in Wales.

I’ve seen the layout a couple of times and everytime I see it I’m struck by how well modelled it is. Look at these gardens.

The buildings are kits or scratch-built by Tony.

I like the village store.

The quarry is very atmospheric. I believe Tony used real Welsh slate.

Exhibiting layouts at a narrow gauge railway was something new for the Beds and Buck group and was very enjoyable. I spent four hours there, and the models and conversation were so good, I didn’t even look at a real locomotive!

A Sunny Day at Leighton Buzzard

On the hottest day in April I visited the Leighton Buzzard Railway. At Page’s Park Station a train, headed by this charming O&K loco, was waiting to depart. She had a fine head of steam and the safety valves were venting off the excess.

These’s something attractive about polished brass plates.

The train was an eccelectic mix of carriages, in all shapes, styles and sizes.

I hopped aboard and we headed off.

The 2 foot gauge Leighton Buzzard Light Railway (LBLR) was opened in 1919 to serve sand quarries and brickworks and connect them to the standard gauge just south of Leighton Buzzard. Originally the line was very rural but the town developed and now the first part of the line runs through housing estates. This was fascinating. The line runs over ungated road crossings and the guards stop the road traffic with red flags to allow the train to pass. The train weaves past gardens, shops and even a school, then out into open countryside and past a sand quarry, to arrive at Stonehenge Works Station.

Stonehenge is the base for the railway’s internal combustion loco collection. The first loco I saw was this Baguley-Drewry, built in 1973.

I was struck by the simple, clean lines of the loco. Quite easy to model.

Nice ‘wasp stripes’ (or should I say ‘Shunter Chevrons’…).

The railway has a fine collection of Simplex locos. These were built by the Motor Rail & Tram Car Company, which set up its factory in 1916 in Bedford, around 20 miles from the LBLR. The original 20hp Simplexes were used to construct the line, and haul trains on the quarry branches. In 1921 the 40hp version replaced steam on the ‘main line’ of the LBLR. There are lots of examples to see at Stonehenge, here’s one being repaired.

There’s a fine collection of skip wagons.

This Ruston Hornsby was built for the West Kent Main Sewage Board in 1932. Apparently, it is the second oldest Ruston Hornsby locomotive in existence. Rather ugly, but strangely attractive at the same time!

Back in the station I found ‘Peter Wood’ a Hunslet built in 1994. I do like the ‘curved’ effect of the axle boxes.

The journey back to Page’s Park.

The railway has an impressive collection of steam locos. In the engine shed at Page’s Park there was another O&K loco.

And this very elegant Andrew Barclay 0-6-0 originally built in 1919.

Outside in the yard this very beautiful Baldwin Class D loco, built in 1917 for the War Department. After the war it worked in a sugar mill in India until the 1980s, before being restored and returned to service in 2007.

I love the unlined, black livery. Simple and elegant.

Finally, the oldest loco on the line, a lovely vertical boilered De Winton originally built in 1877.

Too small to haul regular passeger trains, she is steamed on gala days.

The Leighton Buzzard Narrow Gauge Railway Society have done a great job of keeping the line open and assembling a large, diverse collection of locomotives. It’s well worth a visit.


Three Narrow Gauge Lines in One Day

At Easter we visited Bressingham Steam and Gardens in Norfolk. I got the chance to ride on three narrow gauge railways, each one a different gauge, on the same day. If you like lovely gardens and railways I recommend a visit.

We started with the 10¼ inch gauge garden railway. Our loco was built at Bressingham and is modeled on a Hunslet quarry loco. She is named after the founder of the gardens, Alan Bloom.

The Garden Railway is around two thirds of a mile long (1.25 km) and runs around the beautifully landscaped garden with trees, flowers and the ‘island beds’ pioneered by Alan Bloom. The loco can pull up to 60 passengers in three coaches, and she made very light work of this when we visited.

After a walk around the gardens, we went to the 2 foot gauge Nursery Railway that runs for 2½ miles (4km) around the old plant nursery. This time we met a genuine Hunslet, Gwynedd, the first ‘Port’ class locomotive supplied to Penrhyn Quarries in North Wales in 1883. She worked the quarries there until 1954, and has recently been fully restored by the Bressingham Steam Society. She reentered service in 2016. She looks fantastic…

…and runs well too…

The second loco running on the 2 foot gauge was George Sholto another Hunslet loco that operated at Penrhyn. Built in 1909, she has been reboilered and overhauled and reentered service in 2011.

In the engine shed I found Bevan, a loco built at Bressingham in 2010 and based on the Kerr Stuart Wren design. I don’t think the originals had tenders and, to my eyes, it makes Bevan look more like a miniature railway loco that a 2 foot gauge one.

Just to show I can appreciate the subtle beauty of a diesel loco, here’s a diesel Hunslet built in 1980 (works number 8911).

I like the asymetrical bonnet…

.. and the very simple cab.

The Nursery Railway runs alongside the 15 inch gauge Waveney Valley Railway in a couple of places and it is great fun to see the two trains running so close together. Here’s a view of the 15 inch gauge from our 2 foot gauge carriage.

Obviously, we had to visit the Waveney Valley Railway. St Christopher is the main loco on the WVR. She was constructed by the Exmoor Steam Railway in 2001 and moved to Bressingham in 2011. She’s a good looking 2-6-2, well proportioned and sturdy, with outside frames and Walschaert’s gear.

Here’s the makers plate.

It’s interesting to compare the modern style of this plate with the Hunslet makers plate from 1909 on George Sholto – how styles have changed!

I was very pleased when I saw the carriages on the 15 inch line.

These very elegant carriages were built in 1937 for use in an exhibition in Dusseldorf, Germany. I first saw one in the engine shed on the Bure Valley Railway (see these photos) and I was so impressed I wanted to ride in it. Today, I was going to get the chance 🙂

Here’s the makers plate. The Waggonfabrik Uerdingen AG was founded in 1898, merged with the Düsseldorfer Waggonfabrik in 1935, and is owned by Siemens now. Interestingly, the carriage I saw on the Bure Valley Railway was Fabrik-Nr 11811…

The Waveney Valley Railway have this ‘brake’ coach, that combines passenger seating, a guard’s compartment and (what I assume) is a luggage space. I wonder if this is original or a later modification. I’d love to know a little more about the history and design of these coaches.

In the yard there was this bogie.

Perhaps it’s one of the original bogies for the Dusseldorf carriages.

At Bressingham there are two 4-6-2 pacifics built by Krupps of Essen in 1937. These were the locos that hauled the passenger coaches in the Dusseldorf exhibition park. Amazingly, both locos survived the war and, although Rosenkavalier was overhauled she was placed in storage and never used.

Alan Bloom purchased both locos, and several coaches, in 1972. He paid £10,000 (plus £1,750 transport costs) for the lot. Having acquired them, he built the 15 inch gauge line at Bressingham. It was completed in 1974.

These are large, imposing locos and it must have been an impressive sight to see them in steam. Sadly, both locos are out of service and will need to be overhauled before they can run again.

A third loco was built by Krupp to the same design, and this was purchased by the Romney, Hythe
& Dymchurch Railway in 1976 and is now known as ‘Black Prince’.  Additionaly, the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway are currently restoring a very similar locomotive and there’s an interesting history here.

It’s good to look around for little details that are worth modelling. For example, these two point levers. One is boarded over to protect the point rodding…

… in the other the pull rod just disappears into the ground.

There is a standard gauge line at Bressingham too. I didn’t examine it in detail, but two things caught my eye. Look at this lovely, weathered coach.

And this diesel shunter made me smile. Do the side skirts hide a Kato 103 chassis…?

There is more to Bressingham than railways. We rode on the Gallopers, had a great time on the 1950’s Dodgems with Rock and Rock background music, and tried our luck on the penny slots.

Plus, best of all, we got to meet one of our heros… Peppa Pig…