Friday, March 28, 2014

Peckforton Light Railway - a guided tour

I've realised that it's a while since I provided readers with a guided tour of the railway and, given the number of posts on the blog, it's probably about time I provided a new overview. I will continue to update this post to reflect new developments as and when they occur.

The setting for the railway

 The hypothetical setting for the railway is beside the Peckforton Hills in Cheshire. Over the years, copper has been extracted from mines along these hills, though never in sufficient quantities to make it financially viable. In my imagined history of the area, a rich seam of copper was struck which spawned the need for a light railway. (see also Copper Mining at Bickerton and A brief history of the railway and its locality).
Tipper wagons being loaded from the minimum gauge railway at the copper mine

The route for the railway

 The railway supposedly runs from the (now closed) station at Beeston & Tarporley on the Chester to Crewe Railway, past Beeston Castle, through the villages of Beeston, Peckforton and Bulkeley to the village of Bickerton. A branch between Peckforton and Bickerton leads to the copper mines at the foot of the Peckforton Hills. (see The hypothetical line and A trip along the railway).
Aerial view of the supposed route of the railway as it runs below Beeston Castle

Traffic on the railway

The period in which the railway has been modelled is 1932 - a difficult time for minor railways in the UK. In my imagined history of the railway, it has continued to survive whilst others perished because there was a continuing need for its services. In addition to daily trains of copper ore and spoil, there was a demand for the transportation of agricultural commodities such as feed, machinery, and livestock to the thriving cattle market at Beeston.
0-6-2T Manning Wardle Loco No.4 Bulkeley departs Beeston market with the Down pick-up goods
 In addition there was the export of fruit, cheese and milk. There was also a need to transport domestic supplies such as coal, fuel oil, groceries and building materials. The local estate also had a thriving trade in the production of pit props for the mining industry and sand and high quality red sandstone from local quarries.
Loaded copper ore train about to depart the mine sidings
 Owing to its proximity to Liverpool, Manchester and Chester, the railway also benefited from tourist excursions to Beeston Castle and the Peckforton Hills where visitors could sample and bathe in the spa waters. And, of course, there was a very supportive local community whose affection for their railway provided a steady income during the winter months. See  A Typical Operating Session
Hunslet 0-4-0ST loco No. 3, Bickerton on the Down afternoon mixed leaving Peckforton station

Rolling stock

The rolling stock on the railway has a variety of origins. Much of the goods stock is freelance, though based loosely on prototypes from the Southwold Railway and the Welshpool and Llanfair Railways. It is assumed that as other railways closed or sold off surplus stock, this railway would have acquired additional stock at bargain prices. (See Railway Stock List)

The locomotives are originally freelance designs and built from kits. These were originally based loosely on various prototypes (ie Andrew Barclay, Hunslet, Peckett and Fowler), but more recently, I have been constructing my own semi-scratchbuilt models based on Southwold Railway originals - namely a 2-4-2T Sharp Stewart and an 0-6-2T Manning Wardle.
The expanding fleet of radio controlled battery powered locomotives
 I have also constructed a couple of battery powered freelance diesel outline locos from kits (see Building an IP Engineering Jessie and Building an IP Engineering Lollypop Railcar) and a semi-scratchbuilt railbus inspired by the Ford Railmotor.
The former Southwold Railway 2-4-2T emerging from the railway's paintshop.

In the past year or so I have migrated from DCC track power to radio controlled battery power (see Getting Started in battery power and an Evaluation of the Deltang Radio Control System)


Although there are times when will take a train out and simply run it around the main circuit just to see something running, I try to ensure that I run a full, timetabled operating session a few times during the running season (which is usually from late Spring to Early Autumn). (see A Typical Operating Session).
The railbus trundles past the River Gowy on the last Down passenger service of the day
 One of the things I really enjoy is simulating fairly realistic freight operations on the railway. As my model depicts a complete light railway system from terminus to terminus with intermediate stations, I have devised a computer program which generates freight movements for a day's operation (an Up and Down pick-up goods service plus a mixed train in the afternoon). (see Freight Operations on the Railway).
The Up pick-up goods arriving at Peckforton, crossing the Down afternoon passenger train
In addition loaded and empty copper ore trains run throughout the day between the timetabled passenger services. From time to time I also include special Market Day Specials and Bank Holiday Excursion Trains to transport excited tourists up the line to the various attractions. In this way, my train operations are kept realistic but with some variation to maintain interest.
0-4-0T Peckett locomotive No.1 Peckforton on a Market Day Sepcial
 Recently, the railway has had signalling installed to control basic train operations up and down the line. Whilst most Narrow Gauge Light Railways did not employ signalling, I felt that the density and complexity of traffic on my railway would require the installation of semaphore signals to help ensure passenger safety (see How I constructed a set of signals). At present these are manually operated but I am exploring how these might become remotely controlled.
2-4-0T Loco No 2 Beeston awaits the all clear on the approach to Bulkeley station

Future developments

A garden railway is seldom 'finished'. There is always an ongoing catalogue of jobs with varying degrees of urgency on the To-do list. For me, the priorities at this moment are to: