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The Itinerant Railway

by Bradypus (Nick)

At the moment I am here under false pretences. I admit it, I haven't got a garden railway. I do, however have a big train set which appears in the garden occasionally. When the weather is inclement, like the travelling funfair, it packs up and goes into hiding, or wanders the highways and byways looking for a venue to set up and give a display.

In the beginning:

The old 32mm line had had it. 20 years at ground level, entombed in concrete and flooded every winter had given the sleepers the consistency of toffee. The frost heave had produced immovable twists and the weeds had infiltrated every crack.

The old 32mm line shortly before lifting.
The plants are already anxious to be off!

Planning to move house resulted in little incentive to undertake major rebuilding and, anyway, I had finally seen the light and decided to go to 45mm gauge. Having no idea how long it would take to find a property and no idea what the garden would look like, I needed a temporary layout which could give me a quick fix of steam now and again.

I have helped to build and exhibit many small scale exhibition layouts with fellow members of the Barnsley MRC, even managing a portable 32/45mm layout. Unfortunately, after adding the scenery it became a major operation to transport and impossible to store without taking up a large chunk of the clubrooms. So, decision one for my own layout was to limit the baseboards to the width of the trackbed. The scenery would be the garden.

Decision two was to make the boards modular to fit any space available. Construction is conventional as for most small-scale model railways: 1/2in Water-and-Boil-Proof ply on 2in x 1in crossmembers.The boards are 180mm wide. Sides were added form 6mm or 3mm ply 75mm deep.  Everything was glued with waterproof PVA and screwed with self-tappers. All the wood was painted with 2 coats of Cuprinol preserver and 2 coats of heavy-build grey primer. Even so, I would only consider it "showerproof" rather than "all weather".

I made the end connections as two M10 bolts in 13mm clearance holes. By making a drill jig  which fitted between the rails, the bolts are always located relative to the track height and centre. Thus I can connect Peco to LGB to Aristocraft etc. at will, simply by using the appropriate railjoiners. The board surfaces don't line up but the bolts and rail heads always do.

Board end connection and drill jig. The inset is the drill jig inverted
to show the locating tab which fits between the rails.
The upper holes in the jig are not required,
they happened to be in the offcut of aluminium angle when I aquired it!

All the straight boards were built either 915mm(3ft) or 1225 (4ft) long to give flexibility in overall size and one point/siding  board was built1225mm long by 430mm wide, giving 250mm track centres. I originally tried Using Peco 2ft radius Setrack curves on 90 degree boards but these were rather too tight for what I had in mind as a permanent layout. However, taking a 1 yard length of Peco flexible track as 1/8 of a circle gave a more respectable 1140mm radius on a 915mm long board and gave me this 'proof of concept' layout. Venue number 1: The garden of the old house:

Adding a few more points and an embryo station brings us to venue number 2: A small corner of the factory where I work:

I had the opportunity to try the whole layout at Barnsley exhibition in 2007 (Venue number 3). Some of the straights were transferred to the ends at 90 degrees to make a 'short, fat' layout. As some of the plants had been lifted pending a transfer to the new house, the were added as token scenery:

I managed to find a house in 2008 and moved in February 2009. 2 months later I was able to hold an Easter steamup using part of the layout raised on old bricks kindly(!) left by the builder. A simple oval at venue number 4:

The position is roughly where one end of the permanent layout will go, once the groundworks are finished. I was fortunate to find a house with a relatively large garden with a gentle slope, so in June all the boards were laid out to give the neighbours a taste of what was coming:

Straights were added into the large radius curved boards at 45 degrees and 135 degrees to make a parallelogram-oval and the 2ft radius, 90 degree boards were used to form the branch.

Newly aquired (secondhand) Locomotion railcar with van 'tail traffic'

Lil' Critter waits in the branch headshunt. The brick columns mark
the position of the piers for the viaduct into the great unknown!

Of course, most of the time the layout sits on shelves in the garage:

Just imagine the space I will have when it is all set up permanently!

A fellow BMRC club member decided to buy an Edrig chassis to bash (Not that I had any influence of course...) so I had to organise a 'test track' in September 2009, using the trapezoidal oval from the previous layout. By then I had given the board sides a coat of darker grey to tone them down a little and added a suggestion of undergrowth alongside the rails with a mist of green and buff spray paint. New ponds are in place, made from a cut down storage tank, but not banked up with topsoil and stones yet. The hosepipe is connected to the garage downpipe and is waiting for rain...

A view of the station, with Peter's Edrig.
The station building is a cut-and-shut conversion from two 'Sylvanian Families' cottages.

My Edrig with the return working(!)
The loco shed is plywood covered with doll's house brickpaper
and is mainly to give shelter from the wind when lighting up.

Since September 2009 the layout has appeared at Barnsley exhibition again (venue number 6) and at Stoneleigh (number 7). Number 8 will be Warley in November 2010. However, I have started to build the walls for the raised flowerbed so it will soon be coming home to rest for good. Watch this space...