The Sidings‎ > ‎

The South Buckinghamshire Light Railway

by Martin Owen

The back story

There's no reason why a garden railway should have a fictitious history.  However, I find that it puts things into my own mental context and gives me a reason for doing the eccentric things I do.

The SBLR came about after the Light Railway Act of 1896.  The main line railways had spread out across the land and the GWR had forged a path down the Thames Valley.  The LSWR had done similarly, and both brought trippers (tourist in today's terms) into the Thames Valley.  The Chiltern Hills between Windsor and High Wycombe we're not so well served, so a plan was developed to build a narrow gauge line between Datchet on the LSWR Windsor branch, to Beaconsfield and Gerrards Cross, via Burnham Beeches (GWR main line, later Burnham).  The line called at Cippenham, Farnham Common, East Burnham, Stoke Poges and a good number of farms.

Later the line served Slough Trading Estate (after the First World War) and connected with the Estates standard gauge network.  Following the completion of the Great Central/Great Western joint line at Beaconsfield and Gerrards Cross, the SBLR was able to move goods traffic between the main line railways, local farms and rural industries, and Slough Trading Estate as well as tourists between the Thames, and the Chilterns.

The line was built, unusually for England, as a 3' gauge railway.  However this was fortuitous as it enabled the line to buy surplus equipment from other 3' lines and to re-gauge other stock.

The line was, equally unusually, reasonably profitable (all those tourists and a mix of rural and light industry!) and even built some of its own locos and stock.

In this dimension, nationalisation of the UK railways didn't happen.  So, we're somewhere in the 50’s or maybe even 60's.  Steam is in charge, but diesel power is 'useful'.  Tourists are happy, goods traffic is reasonable, and all is well with the world.

Time to grab a beer and sit back to watch the trains.

What's really going on here....

My father introduced me to railways ( don't they all?) by taking me to the WR main line, in my pram, to watch the trains go by.  My (almost) first words were ' Tannia Puffer', apparently referencing some of the few WR based Britannia pacifics I saw.  He also bought me a few pieces of Hornby 3 rail track and a few pieces of Triang stock.  This was the lead up to him building an OO layout  for me (really?  I think it was for him) which stayed around into my late teens.  The REALLY exciting thing though, was his oval of hand built O gauge track and some late 20’s/early 30's clockwork trains which we'd lay out in the garden.  Why, oh why, was I allowed to trade this in at Beattie's of Holborn in the late 60's to buy a K's pannier tank kit?

A garden railway wannabe was born.

I fiddled around with Airfix kits, Scalextric, volunteering with the Great Western Society at Taplow etc, and then discovered Cars and Girls (not possibly in that order) and the career, marriage and kids interfered.

Skip to the early 2000s.  Skip the marriage and a couple of relationships. Met and married an American Flight Attendant.  We had homes in both Lincolnshire and Florida, and commuted between the two.  Then I managed to get sick. The recovery involved a fair amount of not sleeping, so in order to bore myself to sleep I devised some incredibly detailed stories (which would be so mind numbingly detailed and nerdish to try the patience of a saint) around two railway scenarios. One a mainline railway from Wokingham to Princes Risborough, that would give the back story to an OO layout if we stayed in the UK, the other a narrow gauge railway that could become a garden railway if we moved to Florida. Both of course, assuming I survived the health threat!

As things transpired, we moved to Florida (and I recovered!). Lady wife, being indulgent allowed me to take over the 'yard' and the SBLR was born in 2007.