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Wild West Norfolk Route

Formerly the Wild West Sussex Railroad - now lifted

My first foray into garden railroading was when we lived in Midhurst, Sussex, and this first chapter covers that time.  The railway was lifted and taken with us when we moved to Norfolk.

Well, it's like this, do you want a railway in your garden, or a garden in your railway?  Some people build a train set outdoors, others concentrate on detail to the point that it is difficult to distinguish a photo of the model and the real thing.  A third option is the impressionist railway, trying to blend a 1:20 railway into the 1:1 scenery of the garden.  I also try to bear in mind that the garden has to be maintained somehow.
Having planned a line that meandered between the garden shrubs, wherever it could, I then had to deal with the question of a 2 ft drop in the 30 ft length of the garden.  My good wife suggested that as real trains ran on sleepers...........  So that's how it was built; a happy outcome being that the raised sleepers also seem to frame the garden in some way, thus giving the garden some focus that was lacking. 
Here's the track base awaiting the delivery of track from Aristocraft (well Sandy Taylor at Scottish Garden Railways actually).
There's no signalling, one passing loop and a short spur, and about 180 ft of track which, when you're standing in the garden, is impossible to see all at once from any vantage point, or even from the bedroom window, as the shot above shows.
I suppose that some words about the ethos of the railway would be in order. I am an inveterate 'tail chaser' and I think the reason is this. Some of my earliest recollections of railways, apart from taking the SR EMU up to Waterloo, are from the rare occasions when my father managed to borrow a car from work for a Saturday afternoon. As we drove out through the countryside (we lived in the suburbs) I would occasionally glimpse a railway line across the fields, and on some of those occasions, I'd catch sight of a train. The train would be running through the countryside from somewhere to somewhere else, but that didn't matter; the spark of interest was just to see the train running. And that's about what happens on the Wild West Sussex Railroad - trains just run, through the landscape of our small garden, from somewhere to somehwere else; and I just watch them with, perhaps, a glass of something in my hand.
And so I have, at last, managed to figure out some sort of prototype on which to base the railroad. The Carson & Colorado was described as a railroad that went from nowhere to nowhere; it was also described as the best example of how not to run a railroad. That sounds just right for me, on both counts.
Therefore, somwhere in the south would be in the Sussex mountains, a fictitious location called Hanging Rock (attracts picnic parties, or so I'm led to believe). While in the north, the end of the line is a place called Eldorado, where the folks have given up looking for gold, and have settled for logging - hence the last of the mining gear featuring as a load on one of the flats.
Live steam Shay and home made plow struggling with the 'wrong sort of snow'. (Too wet and dense - presented the equivalant of a solid wall)
A few days later, a lighter fall of good dry snow was easily handled by the battery diesel (now re-geared with a home made simple gearbox) and the plow.
Following a couple of birthday acquisitions, this is the first complete 1:20.3 consist.  Three of the wagons were purchased second hand, including the brass caboose.  the gon has been lightly weathered with acrylic washes because, when new, it looked impossibly bright and rather brash.  I'm not too certain about weathering any other of these fairly costly wagons though.
Four of the wagons are lettered for the Denver & Rio Grande - it's a bit like modelling 00 in the '60s; GWR or nothing.  Ideally, they should be re-lettered, as I have a hankering to re-locate the impression of the railroad to somewhere in the South American continent, but again, I don't fancy making a mess of expensive stock.
Having started the railroad with 1:22.5 stock, I have been able to develop some Fn3 stock, and am aiming to be able to either run two trains in 1:22.5, or two trains in 1:20.3 at any one time.
Some more things spring to mind.  This 1:22.5 loco is based around a Bachmann Big Hauler body, one of the early battery powered versions with plastic wheels, and has a scratch built chassis that uses the Roundhouse chassis spacers, a wopping Buhler 7-pole motor, and ABC gearbox.  The highlight of the body modifications being daylight under the boiler.
And I even found some photos of the chassis under construction.
OK, so the real 'purpose' of the railroad is logging, and I'm trying to find pictures of the various locos hauling the logs. (Constant voltage circuit for the headlight courtesy of Neil Robinson.  The headlamp is Accucraft USA and cost me more than I paid for the loco & tender in the first place)

Ah, here's a good 'un, the mining mogul hauling logs! 


And another of my favourites, the caboose convention.


And just to lighten the mood, this is the boxcar where the hobos play music as the train rumbles round the garden - songs like 'Orange Blossom Special', 'Hey Porter!', and 'Blue Train'. (There's an MP3 player inside!!)
The LGB 2-4-0 shorty that can just be seen in the photo above has been sold on (can't remember where).
Here's one of the more recent 1:20.3 projects.  The Bachmann Connie cannot take the bridge in a clockwise direction, as the pilot hangs out too far on the approach curve and smacks the bridge.  On the one hand, I could widen the bridge.  On the other, i could build a loco with a narrower front end.  A Bachmann Annie (with Walschaerts) could do the trick, with a wider cab & running boards; then what to do for the tender? 
The Connie cab, with new roof, to go on to the Annie.  I've extended the width of the rear running boards to suit, while the front ones and pilot will stay at the original width and thus the loco will be able to approach the bridge OK.  The front bogie has been shortened, to bring the rear wheel forward by about 10 mm, and now I'm playing with some Brandbright uninsualted plain disc wheelsets - trying to cut them up for a split axle set-up.  The front bogie mods are just an attempt to disguise the Bug Mauler origins.
So this is what it looks like after the mods, but before the cab has been fitted.

I've got to de-'bling' it, like get rid of the 'white wall' tyres and the white lines on the cow catcher and footplate which will now go under the cab.  I don't think I've got the patience to dismantle the Walschaerts gear and blacken that lot.  At least it's lost a bit of the 'Big Hauler' look; you can't see the new foot plates/running boards in this shot.
 Some more progress - the tender's next.  I'm planning a whaleback;  we'll have to see how it goes.
And now a start on the whaleback tender.
OK, Neil did ask, but this is not for the squeamish - these are dark arts.
Here (below) the second end has just been fitted, and the last third of the base sheet is still in place.  But this angle of shot shows the running boards which were built on to add dome reinforcement to the very slender edges of the 'hole' after removal of the unwanted area of base sheet.
Next we can see the inside, after removal of the last section of base, leaving a slightly wider end than at the other (to suit the tender chassis - I'm using the unmodified Annie tender chassis).
The lamins are starting to be solvent welded to the inside of the arch.
They look a but grey because there's some muck in my solvent weld - had to buy some more clean stuff today!
In the next bay, you can see the inner sheet that for this model has been bonded with resin.  For the roof of the cab I just used solvent, to give a clean finish.  Inside here isn't going to matter.
More lamins added.
The beauty of this method is that you are you adding strength to the arch with each process, without forcing the nice original curve out of shape.  When the final lining sheet of 0.010" or 0.020" styrene is added, it will only curve to the existing, it won't be fighting it and trying to push the existing curve out of shape.
And, most importantly, it hasn't distorted in any way, and still sits flat on a sheet of plywod.
It's a simple man's way of doing it - Engineers can look away now !!
 The handrails were bent to a drawn profile, in pairs for consistency, and then soldered to the downward legs of the brass angles (hole drilled through the horizontal leg. Then each of the three frames was fixed in hacksawed slots on the top of the tank.  Boarded with the obligatory coffee stirrers.  Tank fillers are boat parts from ebay.
OK, finished it - including some extra pickups on the tender bogies.
And evidence that it does clear the bridge !
A bit of finishing off of projects due to inclement weather.
And a re-positioning of the turnout at the water tower end of the loop.  It affords more room in the loops for longer trains, improves the appearance, and makes the tracks more accessible.
And then I moved it a bit further east !!
Converting a Bachmann Spectrum Fn3 flat to a low side gon
Still developing the second Fn3 consist.  It looks like I'll have to build a combine, but here's the latest acquisition.
West Sussex tribute to the The Slim Princess
The weathered gon - lettered for the Dismal Swamp Railroad.  OK, I know that there never was an operating company of that name, but it's just too good to miss!
And a bit more loggin'
Now we're back into battery power in a big way.  Firstly, a little light relief with the VW speeder.  it runs on 4.8v rechargeable supermarket batteries, has the speed toned down with the aid of a circuit from Neil R, has working headlights and flashing rooflights, and is driven by an escaped meerkat !! 
And then a bit more serious. The Bachmann 45 tonner is powered by 14.4v LSD AA cells, has a TraxControls soundcard powered by a separate 12v AAA cell pack set up, has a Brian Jone MAC5 speed controller, directional headlights and working cab light.  Then a huge amount of wiring to be packed in underneath those bonnets and false floor.  R/C is a Saturn (cheapest on the market) 2.4 GHz combo.  The sound is perfectly adequate for my needs, and the driving experience is quite addictive.


I'm slowly moving towards 1:20.3 entirely, and will, rather sadly, thin out my 1:22.5 stock.  There are some very good reasons for doing this.  Firstly the larger and more correctly scaled stock has the proper overhang that typifies a narrow gauge railway.  Also, it means that I can have real consistency with all of the motive power, track powered, battery and steam, and thus can run anything at any time to suit my mood or the weather's mood!

So some developments, the scratch built Combine (the subject of an article in Garden Rail March 2017) and a new boxcar - bought from some of the sale proceeds. ...............and the Slim Princess heads off. 

While, at the same time, the other operating train of the day was the Shay, clearing the last of the kit from the mine (yet again !).

I have now sold quite a bit of my 1:22.5 stock, and only have one loco and perhaps a boxcar to go.  The last few
 wagons will be kept for nostalgia (whoever she is).  Loco No 6 - pictured further up the page - is currently undergoing a re-build to bring it up to 1:20 ish size, the cab has been widened, and a new tender body shell has been purchased.

Widening the cab and the finished cab with its new number

Now for the tender

More about No 6 later.  In the meantime I have been stretching a point with the little tank wagon that was seen behind the Shay.  It is, in reality, a barrier wagon having a knuckle coupler one end and link and pin the other.  It started life as an Aristo 4 -wheeler, the sprung chassis being removed and fitted to the Bachmann bobber, and converted to run on LGB diamond frame bogies.  Now it's been stretched, handrails added (posts from the SP Flat from Funandtrains).  Here's the wagon.

And here is the new consist, with the Accucraft flat sporting its 6 stanchions each side. And it was cold - end of March, but only 4 degrees C, but I just had to run the train.

So why did I take the mine train off one flat wagon, and refix it to another one?  Well.................... it's like this.............one of the attractions of the narrow gauge is the idea of rolling stock that is the same only different. Mainline trains tend to have rakes of stock, all looking the same, but narrow gauge has its quirks.  Thus, for the 1:20.3 log train, I wanted a couple of stake wagons that were almost identical, and the Accucraft flat has six stake pockets each side, whereas teh bachmann models only have four.  As I couldn't get hold of an Accy flat, I bought a Bachmann one (lettered for the SP) and transferred the mine train, leaving one Bachmann flat and one Accy flat for the log train.   I have one set of disconnects (not shown in this pic) and can't make up my mind about the gon - just that I felt that the train shouldn't be too short. 

OK, back to No 6, that was being widened to Fn3 proportions.  Here it is running, without any coal in the tender and without a fireman, but it does look a much more impressive loco, and in keeping with the Fn3 stock.

And now this is the first season of entirely Fn3 running, as I've now sold my last 1:22.5 loco.  I'd realised that I'd not had a chance to run the new SP flat with the mine train load, so I made up for that omission, and having prepared some logs the previous weekend, it was the first time in many a moon that the Yellow Lumber Connie was hauling a log train.

A new chapter has begun .....

The Wild West Norfolk Route

Well, there's no railroad yet, and there's not likely to be one for a few months, until I get some more trees chopped down..... but I have been preparing things.  The WWSR was originally laid for 1:22.5 stock, and this provided some clearance issues, not least when approaching the bridge in a clockwise direction which was on the curve.  I developed a couple of locos at 1:20.3 scale with narrow front ends.  The new railroad will be set out for 1:20.3 , and so there is no need for narrow front ends.  I ordered a couple of K27 pilots from Andrew at Cheltenham (GRC) a switching pilot for No 6, and a road pilot for the 10-wheeler.  

Here's no 6 duly fattened up.

The buckeye is for possible double heading, and is operated by the uncoupling lever (because I had to shorten the pin at the bottom end!)

Observe new bench in new garden shed !!

And now the second pilot on the 10-wheeler, again with working buckeye - double heading for the use of.

There is great appeal in battery power - simply drop on the track and go, and my roster of battery powered locos was increased by the kit of the Banta crewcab, which I mounted onto the Essel Engineering chassis (replacement for the Bachmann Davenport chassis).  Speed control is by Micro Viper, and power is from 12v AA rated at 2600 MAh.  The loco has been weathered to show a hard life - I just need to weather the ore cars now.
I also arranged for the link and pin couplers to be able to use a Bachmann buckeye for normal rolling stock.

A little whimsy a few days ago, and I decided to be a bit more Yukonesque with the name - so it is now the Wild West Norfolk Route.

Construction has begun !! 
I also purchased some 50 metres of LGB flexitrack secondhand from a GSC member - the quantity was a bit of a guess, I took all that was on offer, so it remains to be seen how far it goes.............?

And quietly in the background, while I've been waiting for construction to commence, I have been able to add to the rolling stock.

Three more boxcars, and a low sided gondola................oh, and a Jackson Sharpe coach that I bought in Canada and got away with 'carry on' baggage on the flight home!

More progress.  This is the run down through the 'forest' from the summit, with the fruit growing area behind.

Track laying up towards summit.

Clearly the boss has arrived to inspect in his Chevy Coupe, but he's nowhere to be seen - perhaps he's gone fishing !

Track is now laid about three quarters of the way around the garden - only the final frontier to cross, and that's a bit of a challenge!

So now we've cleared the builder's yard, and constructed a small shanty town for the three passing loops.  A few buildings - probably only one more required, a motor repair shop / garage of some sort - when I can find an appropriate, affordable building.

The first revenue earning train was battery powered, hauled by big Bertha

And the first track powered train was double-headed by the original Connie, and the latest addition to the fleet, another Connie, Deadwood Central No 5, here piloting the train around the loop behind Crossways Mission

And here, storming the grade of Toad's Ridge up to Horseshoe Curve.  Toad's Ridge is so named because after I'd built the ridge, a couple of the timbers on the lawn side bowed slightly outwards as they swelled with the rain.  When I went to do the repairs, I found a toad living in the narrow gap!  We get quite a few toads in the garden, as the area of lawn in this shot had been a pond at one time; dried up, sludged up, and very tired by the time we moved in, so the old liner was removed, the stones re-positioned, and it was filled in and levelled.  This is the steepest section of grade on the line, and is part of the reason for double heading - the other reason being that it's also good fun.

Green River shanty town is now finished, and it seems to be a busy place for a sleepy backwater !!

Well, it's a while since the railroad was built, and there have been some additions, mainly in the motive power department.
A loco that I have long hankered after, the MDC Critter, which needed a bit of beefing up to bring it up to Fn3 scale.  An Essel Engineering chassis allows for a battery pack of 4/5 AA NiMh batteries under the bonnet.

............... and the railroad has sneakily purchased some 4w rolling stock (Accucraft ore cars).

A chance squint on eBay gave rise to the purchase of a Bachmann C-19 at a bargain basement price; it was purchased plain black but has since  been lettered and numbered in the style of a couple that were leased to the C&S.

After accepting a lift to Peterborough show from a good friend, he twisted my arm to buy a non-running wreck of a Bachmann Centennial.  The 4-4-0 wheel arrangement wouldn't have been my first choice, but the challenge of a non-runner was much too great.  It had suffered under the hands of previous owners, with a 'tar and feather' job of weathering, and a chassis that had been incorrectly re-assembled resulting in a number of short circuits.  Livery again, in the style of the era, but no particular prototype.  The name 'Memphis' adorns the tender - as this was one of the few appropriate names that could be spelled with the remaining letters on a used sheet of transfers!  It is seen here with a train consist that is typical of the period on short lines and smaller narrow gauge concerns.