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Sunnyfield Railway


For my 10th birthday a Mamod stationary engine ignited the fire for live steam. Somehow the 00 train set just didn’t seem fulfilling and besides, I wanted to work on the locos and stock whereas in the small scales more time was spent on buildings and scenery - not my interest.

The first live steam loco was acquired in 1969 when at the age of 19 a derelict Bowman loco came within reach. For three quid it came with no burner, no tender and was generally in very poor condition - but it was a place to start.

By November ‘69 I had it running and as the decade changed, the garden became the natural choice to run live steam. Once the joys of overtime rates illustrated what could be achieved, a Bassett Lowke mogul sat proudly in my bedroom. A friend and I started building an 0 gauge railway at the bottom of his mum’s garden but as the distractions of the discos and of course the smell of the barmaid’s apron bore down on us the railway languished until, without  consultation, his mother removed it and dumped it! Months of work and 60+ yards of hand laid track gone - without warning. On top of that the Mogul never worked properly and was therefore sold.

A change of house provided a garage workshop but that coincided with a fancy for 5” gauge so no further moves were made in the garden until emigration to New Zealand in 1982. At last, we owned a home with space to build a garden and this brought about the birth of the Sunnyfield Railway.

In my imagination the purpose of the line was a rural feeder, connecting farms in the Vale of York with the market town of, maybe, Pocklington or even Market Weighton but this gave me carte blanche to name the locos after local farming areas close to where we were brought up near Wilberfoss, taking the idea from the Isle of Wight naming regime. As we lived in Sunnyfield Crescent at that time that name also seemed quite appropriate for a railway of such ilk.

A long held ambition comes to fruition

The newly built house had nowhere to build a railway except for an area of about 10 x 5 metres in front of the house. This was unfenced grass facing the street so eventually a solid 6ft high fence bordered a private area and 18 months later was furnished with raised planting beds up to a common level and, as soon as it could be done, a 32mm gauge track. In passing, 1984 was the year I discovered the Association of 16mm NGM and when I joined, Derek Tuckey informed me that I was THE  New Zealand Branch.

The Bowman bearing some crude alterations to, sort of, NG it a bit. 
There is also a crude four-poster cab not shown. 

Time for a ‘proper’ locomotive

The Bowman was the only loco and was rather difficult to control so a Ruston kit was purchased. The bodywork of this kit called for Plasticard but instead, to practice silver soldering, the cab was made from steel. It was very strong and added much needed weight.  A short rake of Kestrel tippers gave ‘Kexby’ something to haul.

Kexby with the tippers running in Havelock North.

The strength of the silver soldered and rivetted cab construction proved fortunate. 
A bed leg was accidentally dropped onto the loco - the bed was still attached!

Back into Steam
The next attempt for motive power on a limited budget was the early Mamod. This was also unsuccessful awing to tight curves, inaccessible areas and insufficient rolling stock to slow it down. So many modifications were needed to make this reliable that it was a false economy.  

The days of GI Joe figures and demanding lighting in the time of film.
I include this shot as it shows an early attempt at posing a natural scene.

Early attempts at RC sort of worked but it was to be the straw that broke the camel’s back and prompted a never regretted and worthwhile purchase of a Roundhouse Lady Anne. The enjoyment and control it brought far outweighed the cost, in 1989 - £465 if I recall correctly.

Needless to say the loco saw plenty of use but before it was steamed I took a photo and sent a letter (remember those?) to Roundhouse with the message that it had arrived safely. Imagine my surprise and pride to see this in their catalogue for some years later ...

Tinkering with the Mamod continued for some considerable time but a house move put it in a box for a while.
The RC did help but the L.A. was an oh-so-much easier and enjoyable option.

Stripped to its underwear, the Mamod looks a bit crowded at the rear.

The linkage to the RC servo shows a method that did work but tended 
to be jerky. Interesting to observe that I still hadn’t discovered Brandbright
when this photo was taken. The coupling on the Tenmille coach was
merely a brass hook.

This original version of the Sunnyfield Railway was featured in SMT50 in the old black and white days.

To be continued ...