Light Railways were designed to be built cheaply?

A railway from charity shop items.


This blog is to show that model railways can be fun and relatively inexpensive – and maybe contribute to something good.

It started when, while volunteering at a charity shop, a large box of assorted OO gauge railway items arrived. Having been a ‘modeller’ of less than average capabilities for (coughs discretely) years, I took the box home, with permission, cleaned the track, cleaned the wheels and gave the locos a quick ‘A exam’ (repair if necessary, clean the wheels, test on a still to be completed layout).

The public reacted very well: the shop sold all the track, wagons (including some of my surplus), and all locos except one. I liked the mechanism, so I bought it. Here he is.


Photo – when testing the locos before placing them for sale, ‘Stepney’ (a former LBSCR A1x ‘Terrier’), posed with a much earlier (long, long ago) charity shop purchase of a certain tank engine, also based on a LBSCR loco (Southern Railway E2). Please don’t look too closely at my wiring – it’s a work in progress.

Only then did I have the slightly mad idea: I had two fruit boxes, and having seen a micro layout in one of the railway modelling magazines, I reasoned that a small layout could be made from the items that we sold.

That was the initial challenge: “Can you build a fun, cheap, quick railway layout from items acquired in charity shops (and maybe car boot sales, as I acquired a Hornby Railroad 37/4)?”

And then the sun shone, the dog loved being outdoors all of the time, the days lengthened, the garden flourished and I had some OO gauge track from a previous layout suitable for outdoors work. The loco I ‘rescued’ from the shop was a Terrier 0-6-0. The micro OO layout could wait for the autumn.

Could I create a ‘light railway’ style outdoors railway mainly from charity shop items?


Photo – to test the idea, on a dry, warm Saturday, here is a temporary length of about 8m of Peco made n/s track in the garden, and had ‘Stepney’, ‘Thomas’ and my long possessed ancient Triang Hymek, on shuttle runs with a very old Triang compartment brake. Next will be making the line a little more permanent, and then designing a station complex.

This blog is mainly aimed at friends and also colleagues at various charity shops, but for those of you who aren’t railway enthusiasts you’re welcome to read and see that it is possible to have fun with model railways. We’ll aim to keep it simple, safe, and not too serious.


Fifty years on …

Very briefly, before the month closes, fifty years ago in August 1967, the Railway Modeller published an article by Bert Groves, about the “experimental 9mm-gauge layout in his garden” (Railway Modeller, Peco Publications and Publicity Ltd, August 1967, page 232 to 236).

August ‘RMs’ were associated with garden railways, and back in 1967 it was no different, with the Reverend Denny’s narrow gauge outline to 10mm scale, N F W Dyckhoff’s EM (18mm) gauge – where he cut OO gauge nickel silver railed track through each sleeper and widened it – as well as adverts for Cromar White ride-on garden railway equipment.

The Groves article also mentions that there would be a further discussion on the September 1967 RM – we may have one in our collection, but that’s for another day.

Remember, Bert Groves ran N-gauge in his garden over 50 years ago. So far all Recreational Railways has done was show that track could survive, and the over-centre springs in points will work if coated in petroleum jelly. What we haven’t done is create anything yet.

Similarly there is little on the charity shop model railway front either.


1216 More limited progress


December again saw little progress on any of our railways, but there are a few charity shop related railway items to report.


The British Heart Foundation ebay shop had some terrific model railway items in the past few weeks: some Hornby Dublo, a Bachmann class 108 (and we thought about bidding for it), as well as a few interesting job lots of associated OO items. Of interest, there was one lot of G scale items, and two separate n gauge lots – a Farish Pullman and a Farish suburban set with a Prairie and two maroon mk 1 compartment coaches.


Lima 9006, Airfix 2D, Hornby and Lima 2A/B/C coaches. Our knowledge does not include an explanation of the destination for reporting number 1G09.

The charity shop where we work had a donation of some of our surplus. There was a Lima Deltic, four Mk2 coaches, a Hornby TRUB and a small number of Hornby wagons. We also finally placed Lizzie out for sale, and as the Deltic and the wagons and the Mk2s sold within days, the wagons eventually went, so Lizzie ended up with the TRUB, all alone … .

We couldn’t leave her there. We bought Lizzie. She’s ELMLR now.


Nearest to the camera – recently purchased Lone Star OOO, with some of our previously acquired Lone Star at the back. Notice the condition, as in the station roofs.

Elsewhere we found some Lone Star OOO, which to be fair, had seen better days. We acquired the lot with the idea of cleaning and repainting some of the items as they will inhabit our Irish n gauge ‘museum’ – there is a 2-6-4 that although a BR Standard, will represent a UT ‘Jeep’, another Jinty (as there were Jinty style locos on the NCC and we already have one) and a class 08 style shunter. CIE had a small fleet of Mirrlees-engined 0-6-0 shunters, all of which were scrapped long ago. They will all be static exhibits, and some of the Lone Star platforms will be cleaned, primed and repainted to serve on the railway.


One local charity shop had some O gauge. It appeared to be hand-built.


We finally attacked our Thomas the Tank engine and fitted a replacement front buffer-beam. We removed some of the platform with the idea of converting the station into a through station in the Great Central style, but then we ran out of energy.


No progress. The track outside seems to be in reasonable condition, but the timber platform and baseboard although in reasonable condition, show that some form of timber treatment is required. It survived another frost.


We also finished the written part of the companion site, the tribute to the former Little Melton Light Railway.



Big Big Hymek. The track is plastic.

To remind ourselves of the greater size and presence of O gauge, we placed some track and ran the car boot sale acquired Triang ‘Big Big’ Hymek out for a run on Christmas Day. It is battery powered and only 6 volts. Our running session was brief. Like us, ran out of energy.


And so, we suggest, there is plenty of charity shop model railway items around, if you can find out where to look, are patient and lucky.

The ELMLR and company blog will take a rest over the rest of the winter. Hopefully we might have something running by Easter and will report on it.


Here are some pictures of other items sold this year.

DCC fitted Hornby Jinty, sold much earlier in 2016.
Set of Bachmann wagons, sold in late Spring 2016.
Original Omnibus – we had a few of these and similar this year.
A reminder of the summer and how we started. Stepney arrives at the stops with part of a B set.

1116 Letting nature takes its course

Report from N gauge Ireland.

From last time, we left the two boards outside with all three point springs covered in petroleum jelly. After a month, there had been some heavy rain, frosts and a mixture of dry and wet atmosphere. The petroleum jelly remained intact, the track had lost its shine and thus would need treatment from the PCB cleaner, but the wood of the board and of the platform looked too damp. These will need wood treatment before we build anything substantial.

After ten days. Frost and animal debris.

Furthermore the wooden board did not dry quickly enough, remaining moist. We suspected this; we now need to test whether a treated board would possess greater resilience to rain and how quickly it would dry, such as if we would need to mop up any water or if it would drain naturally, even with a moist atmosphere.

Light frost on points and on the petroleum jelly covering.

We recognise that we need to cover those areas of any layout that possess points. Longer stretches of plain track could remain uncovered. We could use old roofing felt as a cover for the timber, and track laid on top. The disadvantage of that is how it looks and if it has small flakes of stone: from experience these can interfere with OO gauge, let alone N gauge mechanisms.

Glue a hard plastic block underneath two sleepers and then pin the middle of it.

We also need a better means of fixing track – Peco N gauge sleepers are quite narrow, but the Peco track pin looks to be too thin and probably steel, and might not endure outdoors. Examples of other manufacturers’ track in our possession have slightly overscale width sleepers which can take a wider steel – or even brass – nail. We haven’t checked the width of Peco ‘crazy’ track yet, as we don’t have any. Our idea is to glue plastic between two sleepers and fix the nail into the plastic.

We think we know what track layout to pursue, but now it’s deciding now to wire it, finding the wood and testing means of point operation. We ought to make a class 80 unit first, and the repository of model railway magazines here located a splendid series making one in OO  gauge, and the internet found some N gauge Ireland too.

Charity Shop OO gauge.

There’s been next to no progress. We monitored the web auction sites for OO items, and there has been some interesting stuff, but we haven’t bid yet. There have been plenty of small light railway style steam locos, other Lizzie examples, and in one job lot a loco which would not be out of place in Scotland, a class 25. There was another class 29, but ideally we’d like some N gauge.

We still have not repaired Stepney’s buffer. We have some useful tubing from lollies that we had for our SU2C fundraising, so they should help with providing a shank. Neither have we made a normal smokebox door for the loco. We also have not amended the 06’s buffers to ovals, we have not tried our 155 again to see why it ‘sat down’ in September.

Our shop did extremely well for SU2C. Next to no credit due to this blogger, though.

We also sold an ‘EFE’ lorry. I had my eyes on it, but thankfully someone else bought it first. We’ve had two good railway books donated recently, with some photographs of local interest: one of those books sold the next day.

Winter weather and other work commitments makes garden railway work less likely, but we may write something around Christmas. Please have a look at the Little Melton site if you can, as ‘Recreational Railways’ placed a priority on completing that work, and there’s a Christmas based recollection on there from 10th December.


Our picture this week is to show what we’d do with a spare class 25: we converted a Hornby class 25 to a class 24/1 by inserting a cut out along the cantrail, and by filing down the warning horns alongside the headcode box, and then adding some filler inside. It’s yet to be re-numbered, but we also performed surgery to simulate the cabside recess to hold a token catcher. Here it is alongside our 33 to 26 conversion, with two freight trains. These are simulating near simultaneous departures of Scotland to the south goods trains, with short wheel base Hornby wagons. Most of these we donated to the charity shop to sell. There will be another release of such wagons to the shop in time for Christmas.


Similarly such a conversion can regress a Hornby class 25 to a class 25/0 as well. Yes, I know the 24 has an express passenger reporting number.

1016 Something different?




  1. Inertia
  2. Criticism
  3. Let’s be different
  4. Charity shop railway news
  5. Archive corner


October was a doing very little month: observant readers will note from previous blog entries that the class 06 was missing a buffer underneath the cab. We drilled out the old buffer, and replaced it (oh yes, we note that it ought to have oval buffers, and we might oblige, but it’s not a priority). We also added a BR logo. Next is to improve Stepney, except here we need a buffer and a shank.


But the critic will not only point to the inertia, but say that the layout so far isn’t a charity shop one, that as an outdoor line, it’s not really an outdoor line, and there’s nothing here that is different from the output of most ‘average’ modellers or enthusiasts.

Let’s be different

Thus we decide to do something different: eleven years ago in November, we bought two Peco yard long ‘n’ gauge tracks from a local charity shop. This led to dabbling in ‘n’ gauge, with the baseboards of the OO layout you see now hosting a small ‘n’ gauge layout based on Swanage. Realistically it was a standard branch terminus of single platform with run round, a short bay road and a headshunt. There was also a section of tramway which acted as another headshunt and as a quay side for Peco blue spot fish wagons to inhabit. Only then did ‘Swanage’ become ‘Ullapool’, and a class 33 became a class 26. This was 5ft by 6 inches, and then a 2ft by 6 inches section was added for a longer fiddle yard.

Those two yards of 9mm gauge track (and most of the other track purchased secondhand) are Peco n/s, and can be used outside. A brief internet search shows that there are a few ‘n’ gauge garden railways, thus it is possible, and we at recreational railways know about Bert Groves’ work from the 1960s (the quote I recall is “People ask me if I’m a watchmaker, and I say no, I’m a civil servant”)***[see addendum at foot of page]. I know where to find articles about Mr Groves’ work, and will report more next month. [I found those articles, and you can read a little bit more at the foot of this blog entry.]

The blank canvas.

Additionally, a while back I adapted some ‘n’ gauge rolling stock to represent CIE/IR and NIR items. The models are not brilliant, for example the Hunslet is a scale eight feet too long, and the 121 is at least ten feet too long. What we hope is that it captures the look of the original, and I’m not sure about the GM. Perhaps, just perhaps, we will have one of the few ‘n’ gauge garden railways that attempt to model the railways of Ireland. Currently I would suggest that it’s inspired by Larne, but that might mean having to build a boat.

Hunslet (class 52 bodyshell as the basis), mk1 (Farish BG) generator, two Lima mk1s (1:160 scale), our overlong 121 (much amended Mehano built American outline loco).

Admittedly it’s a work in progress, to prove the concept. It will be left outside for a week or two, the over centre springs on the points covered with petroleum jelly: this worked on the previous OO gauge outside line and should keep them intact. Already we’ve discovered that ‘n’ gauge sleepers can be more brittle and are narrower, which creates problems to drill holes for the much smaller ‘n’ gauge track nails. The track should be capable of being outside, but will the secondhand points survive rain and frost? The wood is fairly well seasoned, but would always benefit from a little timber preservative.

Outside storage to test durability.

And yes, I can run British outline ‘n’ gauge items on it too, as I haven’t tried to model the broad gauge aspect. Let’s see how far we can develop the 2mm scale part, and as it started with two yards of charity shop items, we can count it as a charity shop layout – if only I could remember which two lengths they were. There’s also a few short wheelbase coaches that we can use, and a bodyshell bought in the shop which can assist in making one of the IR or NIR GMs. We won’t neglect the OO layout either.

Charity shop news

This month past was a big month for our shop, collecting for SU2C (so you know who we are now). One of the town’s other charity shops had a Hornby Dublo breakdown crane, looking immaculate in their window. We already have a breakdown crane in OO, so we wouldn’t consider the purchase. The online auction shop of another charity continues to sell Hornby, Triang and Lima items: highlights include a lot including a Triang TT (1:100 scale) class 31, a job lot including a Lima class 52 (hooray! We can run ours with our Warships now), Hornby GWR Prairie tank, lots of wagons, 0-4-0 and 0-6-0 steam locos, a VXC Hornby HST and at least two lots including Triang class 37s. There was also a Hornby construction sector class 47 but we already have lots of Brush type 4s from three manufacturers. We are searching for ‘n’ gauge items by similar methods.

The shop volunteers found a one old penny bus ticket in some donated books. We think it might be from the early 1950s at the very latest, maybe from the 1930s. A friend also bought us an enamel badge with a Terrier loco (like our Stepney) which we can wear as part of ELMLR activity.

Archive time

We’ve neglected this in the last blog. Here’s our year 2000 attempt at the railway in the West Country in the early 2000s. It’s an approximation of St Erth, where we see the class 117 unit for the coast meeting the London to Penzance train with my not brilliant paint job Mk2 air con set behind a Merlin liveried Lima 47.


We also include a 2012 view of amending a Farish 52 bodyshell to make a Hunslet, and an attempt at amending a Farish 33 to become a C class in NIR livery, or ‘MV’ as the books suggest. At the back is part of the late 1980s Metro Publishing stock list for both IR and NIR. This was invaluable in the research work.


Recreational railways has spent more time on writing the last few entries for the Little Melton Light Railway tribute site. These will be published on the companion site over the next two months.

ADDENDUM – mis-remembered quotes.

It was mis-remembering another garden railway article in the Railway Modeller which led to my use of the Hymek as test loco. The curse of a jackdaw memory strikes again, but at least I remembered where the Bert Groves articles were.

The Groves’ family work is recorded in three issues of the mid 1970s publication ‘History of Model and Miniature Railways’, New English Library / Times Mirror. In issues 13, 14 and 21 you will find reference to the Groves family, of H H Groves early work with motors and N gauge scratchbuilding, of Bert Groves South African inspired N gauge garden railway, and in C J Freezer’s article on garden railways.

Freezer tells us that Bert Groves “has operated an N gauge layout in the garden for some eight years with only the minimum of maintenance.” (issue 21, pg 417)

In issue 13, Stewart Hine describes  H H Groves work in engineering, and work in the late 1950s in 2mm scale (this is long before N gauge became commercial), building a chassis to fit a Lone Star (and thus unmotorised) Jinty.

Farish charity shop unmotorised General purpose tank, 20T brake van, Lone Star Jinty.

There are also hints on use of electrical pick-ups to use, as well as that the 2mm layout Rydes Hill was exhibited in 1961 and 1962.

At the end of the article is the quote I mis-remembered: ‘The general public’s most frequent questions was “Are you a watchmaker by trade?” “No” smiles Bert (who is actually a Post Office engineer) “I put up telegraph poles”.’

Issue 14, p265 to p268, describes Bert Groves South African inspired outdoor layout. It gives length, number of points, that plastic building seem to do alright outside, that there’s minimal maintenance and track cleaning is sandpaper or letting locos ‘slip’ around the run to clear the track. We’ll stick to the more modern PCB cleaner, and dusting away the crumbs afterwards. It does tell us that the overcentre springs rust, as they are steel. We will find a solution, either a different metal or a physical point lever to hold the blades in place, and effective electrical bonding.

Issue 14 is encouraging. I found links to other N gauge garden railway articles, and will try to find them and report, as well as my own experiences.

0916 The ELMLR by gaslight

Harvest moon, just after close of play.

This month

  • After dusk
  • What else is out there online?


The weather in early September was so good, that one evening, the ELMLR once again laid some temporary track and the existing portable work-in-progress, and had a short running session, using a gas light and some tea light candle lanterns bought from the shop.

We also used our already owned items that were nearly identical to items spotted on the online charity shop sites: a Triang Hornby B12 in LNER green and a Hornby class 29, although ours was blue, not the green one seen online (although we have one, and a friend bought me another blue one). We also found our green Triang pannier tank, and ‘Thomas’, ‘Stepney’, Lizzie and my nephew’s 06 (we just like the 06 and it was ‘donated’ to the railway) also came out to play.

06 in BR blue arrives, passing the B12

Coaching stock was Lima mk1s in maroon (same colour as the Airfix 12 wheel diner we sold) and some Triang Thompsons (once I saw a boxed Hornby Gresley coach for sale in a charity shop, and the Thompsons are of similar construction to Triang mk1s).

The mainline shuttle was our class 142, as the class 153 ‘sat down’ on us. We can’t really adhere to our charity shop trains on the mainline, as there’s just enough room for a multiple unit train, and we’ve yet to see one for sale, although with a 37, 47 and two mk2Ds appearing online, we might create a top-n-tail multiple unit substitute, as there are between Norwich and Yarmouth.

The 06 has been repainted into 1970s BR blue, but is as yet un-numbered, and yet to have the wasp stripes added to the cab. We will probably paint these, so it will take ages, although we could buy transfers. (The 05 is a work in progress, the acrylic rail blue over yellow plastic became faded green, and we like it.)

Stepney awaits permission to back away, 142 idles in the mainline platform. Lit by a gas powered camping light.

We had two hours running in daylight, then we lit our candles and lamp (the former gave a dim glow, the latter was as if the sun turned up adjacent to the station). ‘Stepney’ and the pannier tank re-enacted a chapter from a book.

Although the evening wasn’t as much fun as the August running session, at least we found additional faults with the existing layout and certain locos, and also the tea light candle holders don’t emit enough light. All of these can be resolved.

Tea lights in lanterns – not as good as we hoped.

We packed up at 8pm, with the harvest moon rising in the east. The next day, it rained heavily, as if to say playtime is over.

But we have the pictures for the poorer weather!


This month past, among the items seen, included a Triang shunter (the 08 without outside cranks), Triang Hall (as Lord Westwood) with three mk1s, a Lima class 60 with ten Hornby MGR wagons (HAA), a Thomas set and four steel / SAA type / bolster wagons. There were also sets including a red Triang ‘Nelly’ 0-4-0 tank loco, and a fairly early Hornby class 37 on a passenger and mail working set.

This means that October should have an interesting gala! We no longer have any big coal wagons, but the 60 on a two coach train will look interesting … we have all of the above, and although the 08 is inaccurate, there is at least one 0-6-0 diesel shunter that could be modelled from it.


It’s fine the ELMLR talking about what’s out there, but we ought to buy something. We commit to acquiring a charity shop item of rolling stock within twelve months: it must comply with the idea of a light railway, and be something that we don’t have.

We also noted that some preservation societies have online shops and charitable status. This leads to a dilemma about whether the idea of our layout is to support general charities, or to include specific railway charities. The initial idea was for items that you might find in a charity shop, and so, with apologies to preservationists, we will continue this policy.

Left: Stepney and our green Triang pannier approach the station. Right: the black Triang open cab pannier sold by the shop earlier this year, one of the coaches is a Graham Farish B set coach also sold in the spring.

We were also given a few items of OO gauge accessories that the shop couldn’t sell (a few bits of assorted and incomplete plastic kits and a buffer stop), for which we made a donation. They will be useful on the winter project. Some second hand modelling magazines came our way, with some excellent work within, so we have hints from those who’ve already completed splendid working micro layouts. We have two fruit boxes, some track, rolling stock – if only we had the energy. This means we have two projects: the temporary outdoor OO and the winter project indoor micro-layout and maybe a third quick project … .

0816 Summer Saturday services

Why isn’t the concourse packed?

August news –

  • Increasing the ‘legal’ rolling stock (as in the initial premise)
  • Summer Saturday Service – running session – can model trains be fun? YES!
  • The car packed with 5” gauge track
  • Photos
  • Archive spot


The big news this month was the running session on Saturday 27th, when a friend came along to help run a shuttle service using the existing terminus layout that you’ve seen on previous blog entries, and some track laid loosely on fencing boards. We had three hours of sending short trains out behind a variety of rolling stock, found what needs changing and what’s good, but answered the question: can model railways be fun? YES!

We also found on-line selling from charity shops, and will look occasionally to see what’s for sale. If we already have it, or similar, we can use our version on the ELMLR, but if not … perhaps we might buy it, even though we’re supposed to be  giving up. We’ve had no model railway equipment in the shop recently, but Princess Elizabeth had a good run during the running session, and passed as working well for it’s age.

Leaving work one night, we spotted a car in our area with some 5” gauge track in it. We had a chat with the owner, and he has a 45mm gauge garden railway on a much more permanent base than the ELMLR.

There are photos of the running day in the text of the account of a really enjoyable time, as well as an archive garden railway shot with a comparable archive view.

That’s the summary, the rest of the blog has pictures and more detail. We hope it conveys the fun of playing trains, but if you can’t spare the time, scroll through the text and enjoy the pictures. Thanks for reading!

Increasing the ‘legal’ (as in ‘can you build a railway using charity shop items’)

It came to our attention that some charities have official on-line shops selling items, both new and donated. We had a quick play, and to our delight, found one that had a Hornby B12 (we have a green one and a wartime black one), three GWR coaches (1920s style, that we don’t but we have similar), Hornby 1980s train set goods wagons (similar to ones we sold in the shop as well has still have at home), and a Hornby green class 29 (we have two – blue and green).

Our class 26 from Saturday.

The 29 is useful because they served in Scotland, and that means we could operate the light railway using our converted 26 (because I want to show off my skill at doing things 30 years too late – 33 to 26 conversions were necessary in the 1980s as there was no 26 available), my nephew’s 06 (needs to be painted rail blue and detailed) and short trains. However, someone reminded me that the 29s were West Highland and the 26s were Far North lines, so meeting was unlikely unless around Glasgow.

(Feb 2017 – I need not have worried – a blue class 06 appeared on the British Heart ebay shop site.)


But it would be good fun running the two classes together – or perhaps make the 27 from a 33!

Summer Saturday Service

Recreational Railways noticed that despite the warm, dry summer, the temporary garden railway had made no progress. The visit of a friend rather prompted a morning’s timber-work endeavour with saw and hand-drill, and although there’s not much permanent, we had the railway out in the garden, had a really good running session and spotted the problems that need to be overcome.

06 on a service, 150 on the shuttle, 37 awaiting to back on to the next departure.

This picture shows the idea: we use the work-in-progress portable layout as the terminus.

Instead of using the central road as the entry exit, we used the outer lines as the mainline and the preserved line, the central line being used as a loco spur and headshunt.



Some Peco n/s track was laid loosely for about 5 metres, used like a siding but as the route to another station where we could change locos, coaches and wagons. The mainline was not extended, and the Dapol class 150, as in the picture above, ‘acted as’ a shuttle service from another part of the main network. The picture on the right shows the rough alignment of the fencing planks to form a bed for our temporary track. The plan is to fix battens to the base of the panels, and then fix the track to the top.



As is convention, the first train was our Hymek, with an engineers’ train carrying rail joiners for the temporary extension. Other trains were mainly items bought in charity shops, existing items similar or identical to charity shop items, but then we threw out the rules and ran what we wanted.


Coaching stock was absolutely representative of charity stock items – two mk1s in blue grey livery (although ours were Lima rather than Mainline), a Triang mk1 in ersatz Great Western, and a Dapol (rather than the Farish one we sold) part of a B set, and two ancient and too light Triang compartment coaches.

Stepney powers by on the exhibition goods train. ‘The good Doctor’ was at the throttle and he thinks freight should move quickly.

We operated a goods train using short wheel base wagons similar to those we sold earlier this year, but with a fairly recently made Hornby brake van bought at a car boot sale. The ‘toad’ was Triang rather than the Mainline one we sold.


Charity shop locos in action were Stepney, Thomas, Princess Elizabeth (which ran faultlessly, but perhaps a little underpowered) with similar loco being a Warship (Lima). We threw out the rule book and ran a class 31 (Airfix, so a similar mechanism to Mainline, as ‘Recreational Railways’ had a ride behind one on the only diesel gala sampled this year), Hornby Railroad class 37 (car boot), our conversions (33 to 26 and 25 to 24), a nephew’s 06 (given to me as he didn’t use it anymore – and see the note earlier in this blog post), and there were other items – such as two class 47s.

‘Lizzie’ waits departure having ‘backed’ (OK, we cheated), on to 37 414’s arrival.

A train left the main terminus and ran to the end of the track, where it ‘completed its journey’. The loco was removed and another one (or maybe two) added to the former rear, now the front, and took the train back. Occasionally we changed rolling stock at either end of the line.

Back at the main terminal, in most cases the incoming train had the loco isolated electrically, and the loco in the central road backed on to the now outgoing service. We cheated often, as passengers would probably want a variety of traction, and maybe steam. We also ‘assumed’ we had a turntable at each end, so Princess Elizabeth (missing a front coupling) could haul trains in both directions.

End of the line – the ‘sky hook’ (hand) acted as fiddle yard. Heljan 47 806 arrives and parks next to ‘brother’ 47 721/761 (Lima – we gave this repaint a different number on each side)

That was the detail, and the detail can be part of the enjoyment, but did we achieve our objective of having fun?

‘Lizzie’ passes with two Lima mk1s in tow.

Might have … three hours’ worth until it was home time. The weather treated us well, most of the locos worked immaculately (except the R1, Jinty and Triang A3, all need some work). Princess Elizabeth ran well, surprisingly considering age and probable lack of maintenance – this shows the importance of clean wheels and clean track. This now means that after a little more ‘tlc’ we’ll have to sell it.

Double heading for the Southern fans (Terrier and E2) – 06 waits in the headshunt.

Locos that had very little use recently ran without much intervention, and it was part of the joy to see which loco the dispatcher at either end of the railway kicked out on a train: we had a 26 and 06 double header, an 09 (needs work on its electrical pick-up), and 05 and 06 (all shunters), Thomas hauled a goods train with Stepney ‘banking’, and those ‘Okehampton boys’ sent the class 150 on an excursion on the preserved line.

Okehampton influence. 150/2 on the light railway. 47 761 and D814 await coaches.

We found problems with clearance (rolling stock to platform), the track layout and wiring at the terminus (so we’ll build a new one), and that we must avoid sudden changes in height. In principle, the former fence panel planks on the one inch by quarter inch battens form a useful base, as it’s quick to build and isn’t designed to last forever – and it’s cheap and immediately available, as we have old fence panels to hand.

Stationmaster Mr Dog watches our class 05 shunter out for a jaunt.

Finally, the dog liked watching the trains, but didn’t want to wear his Station Master hat. You can see him trainspotting here. We’d like him to become the ELMLR ‘Tama’, or ‘Nitama’, as Japan Railway Journal on NHK World told of the tale of a local railway in Japan that increased it’s ridership by effective marketing; one method was adopting a cat and making her the station master. ‘Tama’, was a cat, so it’s no wonder why our dog doesn’t want to be ‘tama’.

It’s on days like these when you know that it worked, and a bit more effort will make it easier to repeat it.

The car with the 5” gauge track

It was splendid to meet another enthusiast, and when the ELMLR team realised that we read his website (which was why the ELMLR couldn’t have its original name, so good job we checked online first), we were thrilled. The other railway is a proper light railway on narrow gauge terms, using 45mm track and looks fun. There’s more building of rolling stock and infrastructure (buildings), but at least we know that railway continues, even if infrequently.


Here are a few more that didn’t fit the text from the Summer Saturday session. We include a picture from the ‘Spa Valley Railway’ which suggested we run the class 31 despite it not being a charity shop machine.

Hymek on the goods, Stepney waits to take the return. 150 pretending to be somewhere else on a shuttle service.
Mid 1970s designed Airfix – late 1950s designed English Electric


Exhibition goods train – shows how banking locos provided a push up hill.
The ‘end of the line’. RES liveried 47 (repaint) awaits departure.

Archive spot

As we had class 47s in our news section, here are two views. One is of our Heljan 47 (here renumbered as 47 854 ‘WRVS’) on a cross country service on our previous garden railway (c2000-2002), the other is of 47 814 Totnes Castle at Dawlish in September 2001.


The previous railway was on piers about 3′ above the ground, with battens covered in scrap roofing felt. The line was a single track which had a continuous run, but with a spur to ‘Penzance’ and sidings to receive trains returning north.

Next month – who knows? However there were some lanterns that took candles in the shop over the past few months, so we might might just have some evening running, weather permitting.

If you have enjoyed this blog, please consider making a donation to charity or perhaps bid on some railway items on one of the official charity on-line shops.


0716 Little Progress


Things are quiet on the ELMLR front this month. Instead we’ve been working and making a few visits, and developing the companion blog about the Little Melton Light Railway. This latter item is a labour of love, paying tribute to a now long closed miniature railway. Please visit the site, and see what fun can be had with a proper light railway, with proper miniature trains and lots of people.

Since the last blog entry, we visited a local G scale garden railway. This opens just once a year, and had a good turnout of people. The G scale trains had sound units, and were American outline, but also required clean track for electrical contact.

We were reminded of two things from that visit: we need ballast for our track if we want to make it look right, and also of the importance of clean track. Electrical conductivity is vital for an OO gauge outdoors layout, but the G scale track cleaner looks much more robust than the PCB cleaners we used on previous outdoor layouts. This is no recommendation, as we haven’t tried one yet.

Little Orchard Railway open day

We were fortunate to visit the open day of the ‘Little Orchard Railway’. This 7¼” line in a garden came about after the closure of another garden line, the ‘Willow Wood Light Railway’. Sadly our visit was on the final open day, but it was a delight to see Rex and his volunteers. We wish Rex and family well with their new endeavours.

We also travelled to visit the Mid Hants Railway and also the National Tramway Museum at Crich.  Our Crich visit suggests the tempting idea to have an overhead power supply, even if only cosmetic, for the ELMLR. It’s a pipe-dream, as it would be an additional cost and hindrance for a temporary line. On our other travels we also caught sight of HS1, the Channel Tunnel rail link, but only saw glimpses of the roofs of Javelins and Electrostars.

ELMLR notes:

Currently we are maintaining a late 1960s vintage Triang Princess Elizabeth – this was the only loco from the donations to the charity shop which needed a bit more tlc. When we compare it to the more modern Hornby Princess Coronation we sold, we can see how Hornby models developed between the 1960s and 1980s. ‘Queen Mary’ sold within a day or so of being put out for sale, but before we could display it, it required a full service of the motor. Hopefully someone will love ‘Lizzie’ too.

wheel cleaning

‘Lizzie’ required the PCB (printed circuit board cleaner) ‘sponge’ to remove the grime from the wheels. Applying a little power allowed the wheels to turn a fraction, so that every part of the wheels that collect power form the track could be cleaned. Only then did we allow ‘Lizzie’ a short up and down on the existing layout. There is no front tension lock coupling, as Princess Royals would rarely require to haul loads running tender first. If we added a replacement, it would be a simple loop without the hook, as the original model coupling would be the overscale Triang tension lock.

Princess Elizabeth – Triang, 1960s.

For a prototype note, ‘Lizzie’ came first, whereas ‘Mary’ was a slightly later development of the Princess Royal class, a Princess Coronation, and both locos were London Midland and Scottish Railway company machines, both built at Crewe works, both designed by William Stanier. You can find out much more detail from the internet, but our shop had a copy of O S Nock’s A History of the LMS, volume 2, “The Record Breaking ‘Thirties”, with a cover picture of one of the streamliners departing Euston. This book included pictures of the real Mary and Lizzie.

Queen Mary, Hornby, late 1980s

The shop also received a few model road vehicles that would just about, or would be fine, on OO gauge layouts. The ELMLR has enough buses and other vehicles at the moment.

As the ELMLR work is under-developed this month, here are two archive pictures: the upper picture is from the spring of this year, showing our Hymek testing the job lot of Triang coaches, Hornby track and Triang wagons that the shop received, with our own Dapol class 150 to give a modern contrast. In contrast, the lower one is from our first garden railway in the 1980s, with a Hornby class 25 (still got that one) with a short ‘liner train between the fictional towns of Dolpston and Ipstoft.

Our Hymek, our 150, our class 25.

For some reason, and probably long before we saw ‘Monty Python’, this class 25 was given the name ‘Gumby’. We think it might be a mis-remembering of  the name of the tank loco ‘Gunby’ at the Stour Valley Railway, and some vague recollection of a clip of Python long, long before we were old enough to see the programme.