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Reasons to be Cheerful; July Digest
Topic Started: 1 Jul 2008, 08:10 PM (8,779 Views)
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Reasons to be Cheerful

Colin Peake


The short-notice announcement that Hills Miniature Railway in Cheshire was to close on the 22nd June came as something as a shock to many in the miniature railway community, especially when coupled to the recent (hopefully temporary) closure of the railway at Bridgemere Garden World.

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The penultimate day of service at the Hills Miniature Railway, 21st June 2008 (Peter Bryant)

So in an effort to spread some summer cheer, here is the Miniature Railway World Digest’s look ahead at what we have to look forward to over to the summer months.

We start in the heart of the New Forest, at the magnificent Exbury Gardens Railway. Here the Rothschild family have re-written the minimum gauge 'rulebook' with the addition of the largest loco to ever leave the workshops of the Exmoor Steam Railway, 'Mariloo', a 2-6-2 tender locomotive of immense proportions for 12 ¼" gauge. Measuring up at 4' 3.5" wide and over 21 feet long, with a height of 6' 2" this would be a large loco even in 15" gauge. Weighing in at 6.5 tonnes Mariloo has managed to make even other Exmoor owners jealous!

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Mariloo at Exbury, one one of her first days in public service (Peter Nicholson)

With a shroud of secrecy around the design of this loco it certainly created a buzz of anticipation before the unveiling and first steaming. With a low key naming by HM The Queen this loco soon made the national newspapers and raised the profile of miniature railways in general, and Exbury in particular.

Another much anticipated 'first' steaming is that of the beautifully restored 'Count Louis'. It must be over 20 years since I last saw the last of the Bassett-Lowke Class 30 atlantics, sat in the shop at Fairbourne with sale goods all around. It is even longer since a fire was lit and steam produced for the true purpose of the loco, the entertainment of the public. The return to steam of this much missed machine will be perhaps the highlight of the miniature railway summer. Alongside Jim Shackell's much admired restoration of Barnes atlantic 'John', some of the best of Henry Greenly's thinking on miniature designs will be seen in action.

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Two of the finest restorations in many years John and Count Louis together at Evesham (Mark Hewitt)

More of Greenly's influence will be found at the private Eaton Hall Railway on the 9th August when the Ravenglass based Class 30 'Synolda' and Windmill Farm’s Class 10 'Red Dragon' will be visiting for an enthusiasts day. No doubt the temptation will be there to recreate the trials of Bassett-Lowke and Greenly's Little Giant back in 1905 and the later trials of the pacific 'John Anthony'. The railway’s resident replica Heywood locomotive 'Katie' will also be in steam.

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Whilst the original Eaton Hall Railway was perhaps the archetypical estate railway of the Victorian era, the next generation of estate lines was perhaps led by the Stapleford Miniature Railway near Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire. Here the Gretton family created an extensive system, featuring at various times main line services, car park shuttle trains, boat trains and cruise liner trips on the lake. Sadly the line closed to the public with the associated stately home in the early 1980s following the death of the then Lord Gretton. The line slumbered for many years before re-opening on a limited basis in 1995. Developments since then have included a new locomotive shed, rebuilt station, and now a new station building which further enhances the railway atmosphere. The only remaining chance you will get to visit the railway in 2008 is the open weekend on Bank Holiday Sunday 24th and Monday 25th Aug 2008.

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US style superpower seen in action at Stapleford (David Colley)

Another private line in the East Midlands with public open days over the summer is the Kirkby Green Light Railway in South Lincolnshire. This charming line circles extensive grounds of a private house and was even moved lock, stock and barrel from the other side of the village when the owner moved house! Open days this summer are Sunday 27th July and Monday 25th August. The adventurous could try Stapleford and Kirkby Green in a day!

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The KGLR's three historic steam locos lined up ready for duty (Kelvin Scully)

To many the summer brings holidays, and those heading to Devon in the latter part of August can look forward to an event filled week at Pecorama in Beer, near Seaton. On Sunday 24th and Monday 25th August the 7 1/4" gauge Beer Heights Light Railway hosts a Bank Holiday weekend of special attractions, including a live steam miniature traction engine display, guest locomotive on the Beer Heights Light Railway, live music and entertainment for the non-railway folk in the family along with circus skills workshops. The remainder of the week, Tuesday 26th to Friday 29th August is the PECO Loco Week, an annual event with the entire fleet of steam, diesel and battery powered locomotives in operation on the BHLR, assisted by guest locos running an intensive train service. There are also regular trips on the tram shuttle along the Beer Mine branch.

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Double-headed action at Pecorama Mr P and Claudine, both built by the railway (Caroline Nation)

Further east the mixed gauge Eastleigh Lakeside Railway has a busy summer schedule, the Summer Steam Gala takes place over the weekend of 12th and 13th July, followed by a Double Headed Weekend on the 9th and 10th August. Something a little different for the family is provided by "Days Out with Underground Ernie", which has summer dates of 23rd, 24th and 25th August. The Eastleigh line has gone to great efforts to build authentic character trains for these events, and is the first line of any gauge to run Ernie events.

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Ernie 1 at Eastleigh ready for family days out (ELSR)

Another new family event is the "Lost Engines Weekend" at the Cleethorpes Coast Light Railway over the weekend of Saturday 5th and Sunday 6th July. This event is based around the history of locomotives 'Sutton Belle' and 'Sutton Flyer', both of which spent 40 years 'lost' in storage between running at Sutton and revival at Cleethorpes. Children's games and activities will take place in the Griffin Hall building at Lakeside Station and Punch and Judy are due to make an appearance. The CCLR has had various links over the years with a railway on the opposite coast, that at Fairbourne in Wales, where the weekend of Saturday 26th and Sunday 27th July sees the Steam Engines in Action event at the Fairbourne Railway. There will be miniature models, traction engines and the railway’s own locomotives with a theme of "Little to Large, everything in steam."

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Cleethorpes' 'lost engines' Sutton Belle and Sutton Flyer will star in their own weekend (Colin Peake)

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Fairbourne's Yeo and Sherpa will feature at their enthusiasts gala (Peter Bryant)

Perhaps the ultimate in miniature railway enthusiast days out can be sampled on Saturday 30th August 2008, with the combination of two complementary events in Gloucestershire. The Alan Keef works at Ross on Wye hold their now annual open day where it is hoped that this year 'Lydia', the new 15" 2-6-2 bound for the Perrygrove Railway will be in light steam. Alan Keef will also be signing copies of his new book 'A tale of many railways' newly published by Lightmoor Press. In the afternoon a short trip to Coleford will allow the delights of the Perrygrove Railway itself to be sampled at their Enthusiasts' Afternoon. This event features vintage trains, behind-the-scenes tours, and a relaxing "garden party" atmosphere.

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A scene at a past Alan Keef open day, a 0-6-0DH for a private customer (Steve Bennett)

To conclude our look at some of the Summer's events, proof that there is still life in the garden centres of the North West will be found at the Dragon Miniature Railway on the 30th and 31st August at the Little Engines Gala, where resident locomotives, Jack, Goliath and Marcus will be in use all weekend, with the possibility of some other visiting engines.

My thanks to Peter Bryant for his contribution to this month's Digest, to Craig Gluyas and Kelvin Scully for their help with research and Caroline Nation, Steve Bennett, David Colley, Peter Nicholson, Mark Hewitt and the Eastleigh Lakeside Steam Railway for allowing us to use their photographs.

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Colin Peake

December 1992 saw Robin Butterell writing about visiting locomotives at Ravenglass and Romney. Nothing unusual there, except for the fact that the loco in question, 'Sequoia' had travelled all the way from California's Redwood Valley Railway for the pleasure! She wasn't the first overseas visitor to both lines, as sister loco 'Fern' had also visited a few years previously. Sadly there have been few other international loco exchanges into the UK, only the Tasmanian Garrett springs to mind, a loco that eventually came and settled in the UK at the Perrygrove Railway. Heading the other way Ravenglass sent locomotives to Dresden, we can dream as Robin did about a Dresden pacific returning the favour!

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Robin's other main trip had been to see Lord Braybrooke at Audley End, his first visit there since returning from many years working abroad. He found an extended line with an expanded motive power stud, largely from the hands of David Curwen. David's work has of course recently been the subject of a special issue of the Narrow Gauge Railway Society's 'The Narrow Gauge' where at long last many strands of the story of his locomotives have been pulled together and recorded to posterity.


What events are you looking forward to this summer on our miniaure railways? Miniature Railway World Forum members can reply to this topic. All postings will be checked by a moderator for content.




Edited by MRW Digest, 1 Jul 2008, 08:27 PM.
Miniature Railway World Digest
Edited by Colin Peake
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Callum Darraugh
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another outstanding piece of work colin! its even better with me in it!!!underground ernie events look erm interseting.

Callum
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www.ogdenlocomotiveworks.webs.com, Ashton-Under-Lyne's Finest!
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glastonrail
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Well hit me with your rythym stick :P , better get organising getting about to these galas and evets!! :lol

Another great Digest, Colin. We (Ben and I) had a visitor to Lakeside sheds taking photos on Wednesday evening who came from Dresden; he spoke fondly of the Ratty visitors and we had quite an intersting discussion, coming away with an info-pakced leaflet and a postcard each.

Cheers,

Dom Greenop
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Edited by glastonrail, 1 Jul 2008, 11:56 PM.
"There's no such thing as sanity, and that's the sanest fact" M. Knopfler, 1985
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Nick Tozer
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And there was I thinking it were all doom and gloom!

Thanks for another most enjoyable Digest Colin.

Nick

Edited: to add the comment that I find it sad when railways as enjoyable as the CCLR fail to maintain their websites in an age where increasing numbers look to the web for inspiration/information ... this is the CCLR Events Diary which also doubles as the place to find what service is running :(
Edited by Nick Tozer, 2 Jul 2008, 12:08 AM.
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DevilDrummer
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nicktuk
1 Jul 2008, 11:46 PM
Edited: to add the comment that I find it sad when railways as enjoyable as the CCLR fail to maintain their websites in an age where increasing numbers look to the web for inspiration/information ... this is the CCLR Events Diary which also doubles as the place to find what service is running :(
Keep watching the CCLR website, its undergoing a fantastic transformation with Ben at the helm( :O ) and as a result the website will not be done by a 3rd party anymore.
"Humans are so smart, they dont even need a meteorite to destroy themselves, like the stupid dinosaurs did!"

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davidgwr
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The article is a most enjoyable read
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davidward
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Very interesting article once again Colin- well done!
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Jeffo
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a great artical :D

adam
FULL STEAM AHEAD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :)
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Timbo
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Great stuff - very topical! Usual standards maintained, Mr Peake...
Tim Dunn
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