Sunday January 11th 2009, a blustery, damp and relatively chilly day...So I headed out to play with the garden railway! The trouble with the winter weather is that the 00 Gauge gets even dirtier than normal! So, the first job is of course to clean the track. The next job is to test the track. This is done using our small 0-4-0 diesel locomotive D2785 which looks a little worn these days as it is also used for P-Way work and all general dirty work! Once the track is tested then it is time to set out the buildings in the fashion that is normal. We have 4 stations and a full circuit of single line which twists & turns around one side of the garden completely. The line also includes a spur to a large turntable, a passing loop capable of storing 6-coach trains and a 2-road engine yard & shed. Even though trains can just go around and around, we often run end-to-end like real preserved railways. Our main station, Sutherland, is the starting point for trains. (In the pic above, 0-6-2 GWR 56XX Taffe Tank No6600, a new arrival, and long-term resident 2-6-2 45XX No4560 prepare to leave Sutherland with a freight). Trains then make their way to Chilvers, the end of the line, via the small halts of Grantham & Ashford. Over the last few weeks we've had 3 new locomotives arrive. These include the 56XX Tank, metioned above, an J94 0-6-0 Saddle Tank and a quaint kit-built GWR City Class 4-4-0 (pictured above at Ashford Jnc). The 56XX is a lovely model by Bachmann whilst the J94 is a 1999 Hornby model, still unused when we bought her! We have no real info on the 4-4-0 but I know it was kit-built and has had alot of detail added too. This detail includes footplatemen, fireirons, coal, headlamps etc. The engine was displayed at Ashford throughout today's running but, after a bit of tweaking, should be in perfect running condition and hauling trains soon. Today I was running 6 steam locomotives. These included 45XX No4560, 56XX No6600, 57XX No5775, J94 No68075, 43XX No5328 & a small 0-4-0 Saddle Tank. I also used our LNER, BR & LMS coach rakes during the day as well as the full freight train rake. This course a small part of our collection which includes over 25 locomotives and a large amount of coaches and wagons too! Still growing I might add!The J94 is pictured above at Sutherland in the failing light. Behind her is our 4-coach BR Mk1 rake as well as our Autocoach, in Maroon livery, at the back of the train. The signal shows that the locomotive has the road as far as Ashford Junction where a 2nd set of signals determines whether the line is clear to Chilvers. At this point, the signals at Ashford were set at "Danger" as 4560 & 5775 were both in the platform at Chilvers, on the main line. Once the train had been shunted into the passing loop, 68075 was allowed to pass Ashford Jnc safely. Once in the loop, 68075 was "locked in" to allow 5775 and the LMS Rake, with 4560 on the rear, to depart for Sutherland into the gloom. 68075 then ran round and performed the final passenger run of the day from Chilvers, at around 5pm and in complete darkness! I think 00 Gauge Garden Railway's are severely underestimated as they are both cheaper to built and more compact that other gauges, such as "O" or "Gauge 1". Aside from the large amount of track cleaning that has to be carried out before each running session, my railway, since its full completion in August 2006, has ran perfectly well with only minimal replacements of track, power clips etc. I've always been a firm believer in the suggestion that garden railway's offer their operators a full sense of real railway operation. For example, you have to maintain the track & locomotives, you have to overcome differing weather conditions, you have to overcome gradients and curves across potentially difficult terrain etc. My railway includes some pretty substantial which, even with simply 4-coach loads, causes some locomotives to put in the odd slip here & there: Just like the real thing!
Following a full day working differing locomotives betwen Sutherland & Chilvers with differing train formations, I decided to have a little play at the end of the day. 6600 was dispatched from Sutherland and worked to Ashford. The engine is then seen standing in the small country station with 47 844 (stabled in the spur) standing dormant behind. This was taken around 5:10pm and the whole railway was in complete darkness. It is only in the light of my camera flash that the station was even illuminated! Behind 6600, the line curves right on a 180 degree sharp bend towards Chilvers. You can see from the image that she is standing on Ashford Bank, the railway's sharpest and longest climb. Trains calling at the station need to "find there own way up the bank" if they leave in the Sutherland direction from a standing start up the sharp graident. After packing away I retired to the house for a cup of tea and a mince pie as the garden hides the railway from view.Almost as if it wasn't there. If you would like to view the video, taken at the railway today, go to http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=djFOsYfPbuM and click "Watch in High Quality" for the best results.Good evening all.