Monday, February 01, 2021

Introduction to the blog

Introduction


This blog describes ongoing progress in the development of a G gauge Garden Railway from its inception to the present day.

NEW - Loco No.1 gets sound

When I became interested in building my own garden railway I spent a considerable amount of time (and money) on books, videos, DVDs and scouring the internet for information, ideas and inspiration. When I eventually started construction I used some of the ideas I had discovered, but also experimented with my own approaches. This blog outlines how I have gone about constructing my own garden railway. My aim is to provide the sort of information I was looking for when I was getting started and also to share what I've learned (or 'borrowed' from others). I've tried to include a few 'How I ........' postings interspersed with occasional 'Progress Reports'. I do not profess to be any kind of expert - what I offer here is an opportunity for you to metaphorically look over my shoulder to see how I have gone (and am going) about this fascinating hobby.

As this is a blog, the various posts are presented in reverse chronological order (ie the most recent first). To see a categorised list of contents go to the Blog Contents Page.


If you are thinking about building your own garden railway then why not join the 16mm Association or the G Scale Society - you'll get plenty more advice and opportunities to visit other peoples' garden railways
. Alternatively, browse through the G Scale Central website - there's plenty more guidance here and an opportunity to sound out the views of others through the G Scale Central discussion forum.


The Blog


The advantages of blogging are that it is immediate and uncomplicated when creating and uploading information. The other, of course, is that with Blogger it is free. The major disadvantage is that I have minimal control over how the postings are presented. The blogging system adds the most recent information to the start of the blog, hence the postings appear in reverse chronological order (most recent first, oldest last). Whilst there is a list of postings on the right hand side, it's not particularly easy to see what is there. This introduction is an attempt to provide you with a contents list of the postings organised into categories so, hopefully, you see if what you are looking for is presented in this blog. To ensure that it always appears at the start of the blog, I update its content and set its presentation date into the future each time I add a new posting.

Powered by WebRing.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Progress Report 78

I have decided (call it a New Year's Resolution), that this year I am going to try posting Progress Reports more frequently. They tend to be quarterly unless I feel I have a number of developments to report but this means I often end up writing quite lengthy reports which I am sure most of you loyal followers will be reluctant to read. So, I'll try shorter, sweeter and more frequent updates to see if that is easier for you to digest (assuming anyone actually does bother to read them.... 😏 ).

My last Progress Report was in October (ie three months ago) which seems to have reported quite a few developments - mainly because the previous report had been 7 months earlier. This is not the best time of year for garden railway modelling, but there do seem to have been a few developments to report.
  • The track behind the workshop has been relaid and partly landscaped
  • I have written-up how I constructed the Snailbeach hopper wagons
  • I have started painting the figures mentioned in the last progress report
  • I am working on a Bluetooth version of the 2.4gHz transmitter
  • The workshop has now been completed and used for various projects
  • I have had another couple of articles published in Garden Rail

Permanent Way

The trackbed behind the old sheds has never been a high priority and so, over the past fifteen years, has been allowed to slowly deteriorate. Despite that, it was never sufficiently neglected that it caused derailments, presumably if it had I would have attended to it sooner. However, the blocks in the middle of the section had sunk over the years and so what should have been perfectly level had developed a couple of undulations.

 Furthermore, the new workshop which replaced the sheds (see How I constructed the Workshop) was lower than its predecessors and so the track was now mounted on top of an embankment which, over time, would probably have led to further deterioration of the trackbed.

The old track was removed, a new retaining wall was constructed from bricks and the blocks replaced. The track was then reinstated.

The erection of the workshop also resulted in the six foot high hedge of conifers being reduced to around two feet. There was no longer a need for the rickety sheds to be hidden and the hedge prevented me having a view from the workshop of my railway and the rest of the garden. It also reduced the amount of light entering the window. With the removal of the hedge, one section of the railway now became more visible, the area around the junction of the copper mine branch (shown above).

This area was landscaped and will eventually be planted with suitable shade-loving foliage.

This area will no doubt feature in future videos and photos of the line in action. For more information see How I improved the trackbed behind the workshop

Rolling stock

 Snailbeach hoppers

As mentioned in the previous progress report, the Snailbeach hopper wagons have entered service and have now all been fitted out with brake gear and weathered. The process has been written up in detail (see How I constructed a rake of Snailbeach-like hopper wagons).

It was interesting to see how I could integrate the additional traffic movements to and from the sand quarry into my usual operating sessions which aim to represent a typical day's running on the railway. I've not perfected it yet, but have decided that, whereas the copper mine usually has three trains Up and Down the line each day (because the spoil is transported as well as the ore), the sand quarry will only require one train in each direction per day. See from 4m 54s onwards....

Infrastructure

 Figures

The figures purchased at the Llanfair Show mentioned in the previous Progress Report are now in the process of being painted, together with others which I have acquired over the past year.

It takes me quite a while to paint figures. I tend to do this job at intervals. I find it very time consuming, particularly as I have had 30 figures to paint. I tend to mix one blend of colours - for example blue and/or black and then paint all the bits of figures which need colours. On another occasion, I might focus on flesh colour, and so on.

Finally, I will add the fine details to the figures such as hair, facial features and shoes.


Operation

 Operating sessions

Interestingly, I have had very few full operating sessions this year. This is partly because when some of the spells of fine weather occurred I was not available and partly because I have been focusing on sorting out the Arduino control systems which has proven to be very time consuming (see How I control locos with Arduino and a phone app). However, a few part-sessions have been run and various individual trains have been run at intervals.
Manning Wardle loco No. 6 departs Beeston Market with the Down pickup goods
No 6 shunting the pickup goods at Bickerton
No. 6 approaching Peckforton with the Up afternoon mixed

Arduino based control systems

As was mentioned in the previous two Progress Reports, I have been investigating Bluetooth phone app and 2.4gHz based radio control systems (see How I control locos with Arduino and a phone app).   I have gained a great deal of satisfaction in getting to grips with Arduino programming and understanding the basics of interconnecting Arduino modules, I have been disappointed with the level of control which the approaches have given. I suppose I have been spoiled by using the Deltang system which is very reliable, easy to use and provides a very good level of control, especially at slow speeds. However, I am generally quite persistent and so am continuing to explore various options to see if I can overcome some of the limitations of Arduino which I have identified so far.

My next line of enquiry is to explore using a Bluetooth module in place of the phone app as a transmitter. I am hoping that the more positive features of Bluetooth can be combined with the advantages of having a handheld transmitter with a knob and switches. It's early days yet, but I will let you know of progress in my next report.

Other

Workshop

I am now beginning to settle into my new workshop and am in the process of making it more homely and have started reorganising the storage. In the past, I have tended to throw things willynilly into drawers and storage boxes, but have now started partitioning the various containers to make life easier when trying to find things.



I have now installed a couple of security measures, the details of which I will not share here for obvious reasons. Needless to say, it is handy having a knowledge of basic electronics and radio control .....

I am now considering installing a sink, using the rainwater supply from the roof as my primary use of water is for watering-down acrylic paints and cleaning paint brushes.

Magazine articles

I have had another couple of magazine articles published in Garden Rail since my last progress report.




Since starting my blog fifteen years ago, I have not sought monetary reward when sharing my thoughts and experiences, so it is now quite gratifying to receive a modest fee for my scribblings which, of course, I will plough into further developments on the railway.

Future plans

There is always plenty to do on the railway but, as always, I have to prioritise jobs. The most immediate are:

  • Finishing painting the figures and allocating the railway personnel to particular station related roles;
  • Experimenting with Bluetooth modules to make a more reliable handheld Arduino based transmitter;
  • Titivating Bulkeley and Bickerton stations
  • Applying weathering to the locos and coaching stock;
  • Enhancing the detailing on some of the more basically finished wagons.
There are clearly plenty of jobs which need to be done, but these are probably the most urgent.

As mentioned earlier, this is the quietest time in terms of running sessions. However, it is probably the busiest in terms of construction and maintenance. I am looking forward to an improvement in the weather and am already planning my next video productions. 

As they say, watch this space!

Tuesday, January 07, 2020

How I laid the track and landscaped behind the workshop

In this post I describe in a nutshell how I create my trackbed, lay my track, ballast it and landscape the garden around it. It also demonstrates that the approach I use to creating my trackbed is durable and also readily adaptable, should changes need to be made. I'm not saying my approaches are the best or only way of doing things, but I for one am always interested in seeing how others go about the garden railway modelling process. So, I hope you might find it of interest.

As you can see from the plan of the railway, part of the line passes behind the sheds (top left corner).

This section of the railway has become neglected over the past fifteen years since the track was laid. After all, it's out of sight and so out of mind. After dismantling the sheds and replacing them with a brand, spanking new bespoke workshop (see How I constructed the workshop), I turned my attention to the track behind it. Over the years, the trackbed had sunk by a few centimetres in the middle as the blocks settled .......

...... and so I decided it was time this part of the railway received some attention.

The first job was to lift the track. This was easily accomplished as it was held down at intervals by screws screwed into plastic rawlplugs. Some of the screws had corroded and so the holes in the sleepers into which they were inserted were enlarged to allow the heads to pass through.

The blocks were then lifted. As they were not concreted in place, this was a relatively easy process. A shallow trench (approx 8" (20cm) deep, was dug along the line of the edge of the trackbed.......

...... and garden canes tapped into place at around three foot (one metre) intervals to show the height of the new trackbed. A long builders' spirit level was used to ensure each cane was level with its neighbour and with the existing trackbed at either end.

A six inch (15cm) foundation layer of  'crush and run' (aka crusher run, quarry process (QP) or dense grade aggregate (DGA) ie pulverized stone and stone dust) was then put into the trench and pummelled flat (with the heel of my boot).

A layer of concrete (three parts sand to one part cement) was then trowelled on top of the crusher run and a course of bricks laid on top, to within a breeze-block's width (4" or 10cm) of the top of the canes - plus another 10mm for the thickness of a layer of mortar.

At the leftmost end of the section, where the copper mine branch diverges, two course of bricks were laid as the ground sloped away slightly more.

 The concrete was left for around five days to set and then the breeze blocks were laid on top on a 10mm (ish) layer of concrete. Soil was then in-filled behind the blocks to bring the garden back up to its original level (the workshop was slightly lower as the ground slopes away from the rear to the front).

Rather than concreting the blocks together, a dry mix of sand and cement was brushed into the gaps between them to discourage weed growth. The trackbed was left for three days .......

...... and then the track was relaid. Plastic rawlplugs were inserted into holes drilled in the blocks at roughly 3' (1m) intervals and the track fixed down with stainless steel screws (I'm learning from prior experience). Expansion gaps of approx 5mm were left between the lengths of rail as the temperature when the track was laid was only around 5C.

Paving slabs were laid on sand (for ease of levelling) beside the new trackbed as this area can become muddy during wet weather.

As the leftmost section had now become more visible owing to reducing the height of the hedge which formerly hid the ramshackle sheds from view, I decided to landscape it. Chunks of local sandstone were selected and dug in beside the breeze blocks to act as the sides of cuttings.

Soil was then loosely piled up behind them.

The sandstone blocks were then fixed into place with concrete (forced in between the blocks with a trowel and rubber-gloved hands). The track was then ballasted with a 3:1 mix of horticultural potting grit and cement, brushed into place while dry and then watered with the rose of a watering can.

When the concrete had set, more soil was dug in behind the sandstone blocks to bring it up the the height of the surrounding landscape.

Once the soil has settled, it will be planted with shade-loving plants as this area does not see a lot of sunlight. As you can see, moss grows freely on the rocks in my garden and so before long it will be difficult to see where the new joins the old.

Although this is only a small section of the complete layout, I am pleased that I have been able to expose and landscape what was a hidden and somewhat neglected corner of the garden.

In time, I hope I will be able to use this part of the garden for photos and video clips, though I will have to position the camera carefully to avoid the adjacent fence, workshop and from this angle, the house in the distance.

 Other related posts you might find of interest:




Monday, January 06, 2020

A rationale for the Peckforton Light Railway

In reality, there are two rationales for the Peckforton Light Railway - the real one and the imaginary one. The real rationale explains why I set about building a railway in my garden and the imaginary rationale gives an account for why a narrow gauge railway might have been constructed in the Cheshire countryside at the turn of the 20th century to serve the local community.

The Real Rationale

Preamble

I can't remember how or why I became interested in railways - I just am. My first proper model railway was constructed by me when I was eleven years old using Triang 00 track and rolling stock bought from pocket, birthday and Christmas money. I then progressed to 00n3 narrow gauge, 009 narrow gauge and then back to 00 mainline model railways.

Right from the start, I was fascinated by goods traffic handling. All my model railway layouts had one thing in common - they involved freight handling with varying degrees of sophistication; from simple dice rolling to, ultimately, a semi-randomised computer freight management program determining which wagons were moved and where.
One of my 00 layouts with punched cards and dice for managing freight movements
 So, when I eventually moved out into the garden, it was inevitable that there would be a focus on freight traffic and it also provided me with an opportunity to satisfy a long held desire to construct a complete narrow gauge railway system.

The layout

My overarching rationale for the the layout was the need for:
  1. a continuous run, to allow me to have something running while entertaining guests or doing the gardening or just for those occasions when I wanted to sit in a deck chair and watch at train trundling round;
  2. some sort of end-to-end or out-and-back running, for when I wanted to run it like a real railway;
  3. at least two stations, so I could run passengers trains and marshal freight to go to and from somewhere;
  4. future expansion, so the railway could be extended in phases as finances and time permitted.
My initial design was for a terminus with a return loop and a continuous run with one intermediate station. My thinking was that I could run trains out of the terminus around the main circuit a few times and then, via the return loop back into the station where they would be run round and shunted. The rest of the railway system would be imaginary.


However, I tired of this very quickly. There was very little additional operating potential beyond what I had had in the house with a terminus and fiddle yard.

So, I added another two intermediate stations - one which became Beeston Castle Station .......

...... and another which became Peckforton Station.

This added more operating opportunities as wagons could be transported to and from a wider range of origins and destinations.

However, the limitations of freight handling at the terminus very soon became apparent. The two sidings available simply weren't enough with my rapidly increasing amount of goods rolling stock. I therefore decided to extend the railway down the side of the garden to another (larger) terminus (See How I extended the railway)

This also provided me with an opportunity to add quarry/mine sidings with a 'hidden' link to the main terminus thereby enabling empty wagons to be exchanged for loaded ones - a cunning ploy which I had evolved on one of my 00 layouts.
The copper mine sidings with the 'hidden' connection to Beeston Market Station
So, this meets all my criteria with the added bonus that (apart from the storage roads at each end of the line), the whole railway system is visible - nothing is hidden (apart from the link to the mine sidings).

I kept the layout of each station fairly simple. The main terminus has plenty of goods sidings plus an engine shed. It is assumed that carriages are stored on the platform roads overnight. The three intermediate stations each have a passing loop and at least one siding, though these have grown in number over the years.
The original siding at Bulkeley

Although not planned, all the original sidings were facing the Down direction of the line, which meant that shunting operations at the intermediate stations were best done as goods trains travelled Up the line. I have since learned that this was common practice on branch lines. Now I have added more sidings facing the Up direction, there is scope for shunting to be conducted in either direction.
New Up facing siding at Bulkeley

Goods traffic

Simultaneously with the expansion to the second terminus, I hit upon the idea of setting my railway in a real location. Whilst on a walk along the Sandstone Trail through the Peckforton Hills, it dawned on me that the area would be ideal for a narrow gauge railway, to link the now redundant copper mines with the mainline railway station at Beeston Market. Not only would there be opportunities for mine traffic, the area has a couple of castles, natural springs and pleasant scenery - just the sort of attractions which would appeal to tourists from nearby Chester, Crewe, Liverpool and Manchester. (see The railway gains an identity)
The site of the PLR's Beeston Market Station
I did some research into goods traffic and rolling stock on various narrow gauge railways across the country (see What sorts of rolling stock did narrow gauge railways have?), and arrived at the unsurprising conclusion that the type of stock was dependent on the traffic which was carried and the number of each type of wagon was dependent on the volume of traffic.

I then set about deciding on the sorts of traffic which the line might have been expected to carry and bought, converted or constructed goods rolling stock to meet the projected traffic needs.
A pick-up goods train from the early days of the PLR
 As a consequence (see Stock List), the PLR now has 77 items of freight rolling stock. The number of wagons has grown steadily over the years as more sidings, more lineside industries and hence the demand for goods traffic has expanded.

When I first built my railway, I opted for 45mm gauge and off-the-shelf 'G Scale' models as I was in demanding full time employment and so needed something I could get up and running with the minimum of effort and time. At that time, Accucraft had not started production of their UK outline 16mm scale models and so I had to either make do with kits or modify non UK ready-to-run (RTR) models, or construct my own. It was apparent that open wagons were the mainstay of most railway rolling stock rosters and so, after constructing a couple from plasticard, I felt that casting the main components from resin would be a lot more cost- and time-effective (see How I made resin cast open wagons).
The first rake of resin cast open wagons behind the line's only loco at the time
I created a few closed vans by bashing LGB RTR models and using Garden Railway Specialists (GRS) conversion kits (see How I bashed an LGB closed van and A closed van and open wagon from a GRS combi-kit).
An LGB US style boxcar converted to a UK style closed van
 A couple of rakes of LGB tipplers were slowly acquired through eBay and weathered to serve the needs of the copper mine (see How I weathered some LGB skips).
The rake of skip wagons behind my first scratchbuilt loco
Some cattle wagons were scratch built (see How I made a couple of cattle wagons) and some timber wagons adapted from LGB stake wagons (see How I created wagon loads). Further wagons have been added over the years (eg flat wagons and a gunpowder van) until I have now reached the stage where I feel the line is fully equipped to meet the demands of its goods traffic. However, there is room for future expansion as further lineside industries are added (eg a Bone Works or a Brickworks - see Real Rationale below).


Locomotives

One advantage of of creating a hypothetical railway is that I have carte blanche when it comes to motive power. However, I have decided to set my railway in the early 1930s which restricts the range of locos to those which predate that period. I opted for early 1930s as I wanted an excuse for ex-Southwold locos to be running on my line (the SR closed in 1929). Other locos have been added to the roster as fancy takes me - though I have tried to ensure there is a plausible reason for each to have been acquired by the railway (see Real Rationale below).
Ex Southwold Sharp Stewart loco in PLR livery

As with the rolling stock, when I started out in the garden the range of off the shelf UK based locos was restricted primarily to live steamers and maybe a couple of diesel outline locos - all of which seemed horrendously expensive for my meagre budget. Fortunately, GRS produced a small range of kits which enabled me to get started. However, after building a couple of their kits on LGB 0-4-0 ToyTrain motor blocks I reckoned I could have a go at making a loco from scratch - provided I used another LGB ToyTrain motor block as my success with making my own mechanisms was mediocre.
My first scratchbuilt loco - my interpretation of what a 3' gauge Fowler DM loco might have been like
 After constructing a diesel outline loco, I moved on to making a steam outline loco - and then another until I now have eighteen locomotives which are all battery powered and radio controlled, and have been kitbuilt (x7), converted from RTR models (x3), scratchbuilt (x5) or kitbuilt by others (x3). See Loco roster (as of Summer 2015)
Loco No.1 (Peckett) and loco No.2 (Barclay) on shed (in its early position at Beeston Market


Power

Initially, the railway was track-powered using a couple of DC transformer controllers. Despite moving over to a radio controller system, I found trying to run even three locos independently to be quite complicated as the LGB pointwork I was using wasn't self-isolating. This meant, for example, I couldn't have one train crossing another on a passing loop without having to install switched isolated track sections on each loop. So, I bit the bullet and invested in LGB's MultiTrain DCC system (See Digital Developments). This solved the problems of running more than one loco independently on the same tracks but didn't solve the another problem of unreliable and hesitant running associated with trying to draw power through the track.
My DCC set-up as of Summer 2008
While installing power buffers in the locos (see How I installed power buffers in DCC equipped locos) alleviated the problems to a certain extent, I was still less than happy with the limitations of track-powered locos and so I started exploring the potential of battery power and radio control.
The only place I could find room for batteries in one of my smaller locos
 I think the fact that I sold my DCC equipment and now have all fifteen locos equipped with battery power and radio control speaks for itself. I have not regretted the move for one second!

Operation

But why go to all this trouble, you might ask? Quite simply because, as indicated above, freight handling and hence shunting are what gives me the greatest satisfaction when running my railway.
The Down pickup goods about to depart Beeston Market in 2012
For me, the locos and stock are the means to an end, and not the end in themselves. Whilst I do derive great satisfaction from watching a train meandering slowly at a scale speed of ten miles per hour through the miniature landscape, I gain even more enjoyment from figuring out the logistics of shunting wagons at each station as the daily pickup goods wends its way Down and Up the line whilst at the same time ensuring that the passenger services run more or less to schedule, interwoven with the passage of regular ore trains to and from the copper mine and, more recently, trains of sand hopper wagons to and from the sand quarry.

 Now I have converted all my locos to battery power, I can focus on their slow and realistic movement through the pointwork at each station in the confident knowledge that I have absolute and precise control. I'm not saying that I have eliminated occasional derailments or mistakes when I turn the knob on the handheld controller the wrong way, but I do find that I can while away a good two or three hours of total concentrated effort in running my railway in what I consider to be a reasonably realistic way.

It takes me around two full days to run through one day's operations on the railway. It can take a good couple of hours to set up the railway at the start of a session and an hour to clear everything away at the end.
A rare occasion when I ran my railway two-handed. Andy came all the way from New Zealand to shunt the pickup goods!
Whereas, it takes only fifteen minutes for a passenger train to travel from one end of the line to the other, including stopping time at each station, I am usually running two, three and sometimes trains at the same time. I am only human and so, rather than trying to run all the trains simultaneously, I end up running them sequentially. Hence, I'll send a passenger train on its way and follow it to the next station, I might then return to the main station and shunt the pickup goods to assemble its train. I'll then turn my attention back to the passenger train and take it on to the next station. I might then focus on the loaded ore train and take it from the copper mine to Bulkeley. Then take the goods train to the first station and do some shunting. The move the passenger on two more stations, before going back to the ore train ........ and so on. In reality, those trains would have been moving simultaneously rather than taking turns. Hence, a hypothetical day's operation can easily stretch out to two real days. This means I have to find a couple of consecutive days of fine weather so I can leave the stock outside overnight to enable me to resume operations the following morning.


Infrastructure

One of the problems of constructing a complete railway system is that there is a lot of infrastructure which has to be built. Landscaping the garden and laying the track is only the first part of the process. Building the infrastructure surrounding the railway is a major undertaking - particularly as in my case most of the buildings have been scratchbuilt, though the majority of station buildings were kitbuilt.
A recent addition to the line - a brewery at Beeston Castle station - made from PVC foamboard
 It has taken me just over fifteen years to reach the present state of the railway. I suppose, if I hadn't constructed fifteen locomotives and the majority of the 77 wagons, six coaches and three brake vans, I could have spent that time constructing a few more buildings and lineside structures. However, imagination is an extremely valuable tool in the modeller's kit of equipment. For eleven years, I have imagined there was a sawmill adjacent to the sidings at Peckforton. Similarly, the mill siding was in situ for nine years before an actual water mill building appeared. A plank took the railway over the entrance to the patio for twelve years before a viaduct took shape beneath it. I like running trains and I enjoy shunting wagons, and so the infrastructure has been allowed to evolve over time. I was too busy doing other things.
The plank bridge before.......
..... and after.

Don't get me wrong. I do think the infrastructure contributes to the overall ambience of the railway, but for me it's the last thing on the agenda. A good, non railway enthusiastic, friend of mine said on seeing the railway for the first time in its early stages - "There is a railway in your garden, rather than a garden in your railway." And I suppose that has always been my rationale. I wanted the railway to be integrated into the garden rather than take it over. I don't want to construct another Bekonscot. I like a bit of infrastructure around each station, but the gaps in between are there for the garden to take precedence. For the trains to become lost in the flora and reappear on occasions as the track emerges between bushes and small trees.


The garden

I am not a serious gardener. My mum and dad were. My mum looked after the flowers while my dad concentrated on the vegetables. I picked up a modicum of their expertise, but only in passing. My garden has evolved on Darwinian principles. If a plant is in the right place it will survive and if it doesn't it's clearly not in the right place!

After landscaping the garden to accommodate the railway, I sought inspiration from other people's gardens and one which really took my fancy was planted out primarily with heathers and dwarf conifers. In the early stages, the garden was thus planted out.

Over the past fifteen years I have experimented with all manner of plants placing them wherever there seemed to be a space. My guiding principles have always been to choose plants which I think will not look out of place beside a 1:19 scale model train. As a consequence, I now have:
  • Lonicera bushes which have been crudely trimmed to look like trees;
  • Dwarf conifers which have survived from the first phase of planting;
  • Hebe bushes which resemble miniature trees;
  • Areas of groundcover, primarily Mind Your Own Business;
  • Rocks covered in moss - which flourishes naturally in my north facing shady garden;
  • A few miniature rhododendrons, which look like miniature flowering trees;
  • A few alpines such as Herb Robert and Saxifrage which are a bit bush-like and have only very small flowers;
  • Ferns which thrive in the shady corners;
  • Ivy, which would take over the entire garden if not trimmed back periodically.
As can be seen, I have deliberately focused on non-flowering plants which means that the trains pass through scenery which is primarily green. A few bulbs such as miniature daffodils emerge in the spring but these are relatively short-lived.


The Imaginary Rationale

Preamble

The Peckforton Light Railway is situated in the Cheshire countryside and runs between Beeston Market station where there is an interchange connection with the main Crewe to Chester Railway, and Bickerton at the foot of the Peckforton Hills.

The line was constructed in 1896 as a three foot gauge Light Railway, principally to carry ore from the copper mines at Bickerton to mainline railway interchange sidings at Beeston and Tarporley Station. Spoil is also carried from the mines and loaded into canal boats at Beeston Castle Wharf on the Shropshire Union Canal.

When the line opened it had three steam locomotives - a Hunslet 0-4-0, a Pecket 0-4-0 and a Barclay 2-4-0. A Fowler diesel mechanical locomotive was acquired in 1926 to handle the increasing traffic from the copper mine when another rich seam was discovered. In 1930, two former Southwold Railway locomotives joined the line following the closure of the Southwold Railway.
Early view of Beeston Castle with Barclay and Fowler locos on duty
When a livestock market was opened at Beeston, the station changed its name to Beeston Market to differentiate it from Beeston Castle Station further down the line. The railway acquired some cattle wagons and increased the number of closed vans in anticipation of an increase in livestock traffic.

Soon after the railway's construction, it was recognised that there was considerable potential for tourism especially when an enterprising local businessman opened a hotel and spa at Bulkeley where natural springs had been providing water for the local populace since Roman times. Excursion trains from Crewe, Chester, Liverpool and Manchester were organised to enable visitors to sample the delights of the countryside, to walk the footpaths in the Peckforton Hills, to visit the ruins of Beeston Castle and to take the waters at the hotel.
Contemporary postcard showing Beeston Lodge, the entrance to Beeston Castle

The line flourished, even through the depression, and thanks to the patronage of Lord Tollemache, resident in Peckforton Castle, it acquired several more locomotives and stock as other narrow gauge railways sadly closed down.

The line was forced to close during the Second World War and rapidly fell into decline, particularly as its once loyal passengers and local tradesmen turned to road transport.

The last train ran in December 1945 and the track was lifted shortly afterwards.
Nature reclaiming the track after closure
 The locomotives were scrapped though some of the rolling stock has survived to become sheds, hen houses and outbuildings on local farms and small holdings.
Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/61090099@N04/26102523402
 Some of the trackbed is still extant, though most has now been subsumed into farmland. The wooden station buildings very quickly deteriorated and none now survive, though the concrete foundations of Beeston Castle Station form part of the visitor car park for Beeston Castle.

It was once rumoured that a preservation society might be formed to try and re-open a small part of the line but this has not been confirmed/

For more information see - A Short History of the Peckforton Light Railway