A view of the Coombe Glen Garden Railway to whet your appetite
I have been building garden railways now for over 20 years - initially in 'OO' gauge - at 4mm to the foot scale - but more recently in 32mm gauge - at 16mm scale narrow gauge. This equates roughly to a track gauge of 2 feet - as found in many of the Welsh narrow gauge railways. I am a member of the 'National Association of 16mm modellers' and also a member of the 'Severn Mendip' local area group. You are very welcome to visit our website http://www.severnmendip.webs.com/ If you live in our area, then you may be interested in joining our group. Details are on the website.
This is my second attempt at 16mm modelling, a move of house forcing the new build. As mentioned above, the old 'Fromeside Garden Railway' (FGR) may still be visited on-line at www.freewebs.com/fromesidegardenrailway The two railways are very different, and neither has been based on a particular prototype. The new railway is on an extremely difficult site, and quite different in style, though certain elements are common to both, as I wanted to reuse as much of the old materials as possible.
When we moved in early September 2007 to the new house in Fishponds, the ‘garden’ (and I use the word in its very loosest horticultural sense - as it contained absolutely no flower beds and only a very small number of neglected trees and shrubs mostly in tubs/pots) was on several different levels, and the levels on the right hand side of the garden didn’t even match those on the left.
Firstly there was a quite large patio, with a precipitous drop of nearly four feet to the garden proper. On the left there were 2 sections both enclosed by massive concrete walls (a foot thick at their base) – a ‘lawn’ (again I use the word in its very loosest interpretation), then a drop of about 2 feet to an ‘orchard’, containing 2 almost dead apple trees. On the right there were 3 different levels. Firstly a huge ‘Wendy House’, then a drop of about 18” to a large wooden shed – both on massive concrete bases – then another drop of about 18” to a large expanse of decking. Before making any attempt to even beginning to plan the new railway, the two large sheds needed to be relocated.
The deeds showed that we owned all the land right down to the waters edge of the Coombe Brook. The previous owners had fenced in a much smaller area than most of the neighbours, so I decided to utilise rather more of the land.
Relocating the sheds involved major heavy constuction work, as the site was on a 45 degree slope immediately beyond the decking. Clearing the whole of the remaining site would have been too much work at this stage. I reclaimed a further 15' of garden, but the bottom 30 feet still remains unused.
At last I could begin to think about how a railway might fit in. Looking at the levels, there was a drop of about 8 feet! from the patio, to where the sheds had been relocated. There was absolutely no way of running all the way down that height, so the upper level would be the old base of the Wendy House and the lower level would be - at least initially - the decking – a more manageable 3’ drop. I reckoned that a dog-bone layout with some spiralling and meandering in between might just work, with some extra added bits to give a couple of plain ovals with little or no gradients.
It all sounded very simple on paper, but the practice has proved much different! A great deal of hard work and heavy landscaping has been necessary. A number of very thick concrete walls have had to be demolished, new walls built, cuttings made, steps relocated, new paths made, tons of soil and rubble moved – not to mention all the sand cement and chippings carried down to the garden – there is no rear or side entrance and everything has to be taken through the house and down via the basement.
Unlike the previous effort (the ‘FGR’) I wanted small creeping plants and moss to ‘invade’ and grow out over the railway, so this time I used the ‘Rowlands mix’ (cement mortar with added peat) for much of the track bed, laid over fine compacted gravel. ‘Rowlands mix’ is nowhere near as hard as normal cement mortar, but the peat should in time encourage plant growth – at least that is the theory.
Revamping the garden was literally the ‘cart before the horse’ i.e. I had to be sure where the railway was going, before I could re-landscape the garden.
So, the ‘Coombe Glen Garden Railway’ (‘CGGR’) is now born - all the landscaping has been done – together with a great deal of planting, and the track-work is in place. Varied running is now possible – there is even the luxury of ‘steam up area’ at waist height! Though some gradients are a little steeper than I would have liked, and some curves are a bit sharper than I intended, it has all worked out – just!
A garden railway is never finished, and I am constantly making changes and additions to improve the running and appearance. Rather than describe the construction and changes in great detail here, if you are interested, simply click on the heading 'construction of the railway' where this is described, accompanied by lots of pics.
Sadly, due to a serious progressive illness, the layout has had to be dismantled, but I have left the website up and running, as many have expressed that it might still be available to gain inspiration from. My memories are more of perspiration than inspiration during its building!