Somewhat to my embarrassment, it was October 2004 that I first put some pictures up on the site, a month after moving in to the new house - picked, it must be said, mainly on the grounds that it had an ideal garden for a railway and plenty of outbuildings - outlining my vision for the railway that was due to appear.
In the intervening 18 months, I've lost count of how many times I've answered the phone to a voice at the other end which starts out with "how's the railway coming on then...". I think just about everybody who's visited the house in that period has been shown a three ton stack of rail, waiting patiently for a trackbed, which to date has been about the sum total of progress.
However, the time for action is upon us. As you may have read on the March news page, I now have competition (in actual fact I've got competition from two fronts, in addition to one man recreating the Forth Bridge on his estate in Scotland I have another friend just starting out on laying an ambitious line in an idyllic setting not twenty miles away from home). Determined not to be the last man to have a train set in his garden, this year will see the first stage completed (or I'm going to look a bit silly...).
8th June - The tunnel (nearly) complete
Just a roof needed to finish it.
The finished tunnel
5th June - Progress on the tunnel
The tunnel is becoming one of those projects that gets more ambitious the more you do...
Progress to date
18th May - Making a start on the tunnel and a diversion...
Having planned the tunnel we found we had four tons of blocks and bricks to get down to the site and only a wheelbarrow to help... Time for some instant tracklaying.
Rounding the first corner
4th May - Platforms finished
After much cutting and compacting, I've now got a platform I'm assured I can park a lorry on.
27th April - Building the platforms
Lots of sand and setts.
Building the platforms
24th April - The turntable
Digging a hole in the ground and putting some bricks round the edge. If the project never gets any further, we get a nice decorative fishpond...
Building a turntable
4th April - More stone, levelling and a turntable pit
In which we have another thirty tons of stone delivered, a disaster with the gate post, a ton of gravel boards arrive and Mrs P gets her long-desired raised beds...
The trackbed so far
31st March - End of phase 1 digging
Getting the line to the halt next to the magnolia tree is almost exactly 100 yards - this has been rather grandly deemed "Phase 1". When we started digging two weeks ago, I had planned on only going about half this distance but, once we got started the decision was made to endure the mess once and dig on to the end of the section.
End of digging - for now...
29th March - First load of stone
A big lorry arrived yesterday morning and deposited twelve tons of stone on the drive. The digger and skip loader worked overtime to run it round to the station yard.
26th March - Earthworks for the station yard
We've got a digger and skip loader in this week, which made short work of taking out twenty tons of earth today to level the trackbed from engine shed round to the end of the vegetable garden. Dal works the digger, which is a clever job, I drive the dumper, which isn't.
Gardening made easy...
24th March - Moving the greenhouse
We've got a digger and skip loader in next week to level out the station yard, the greenhouse needed to move pronto. Taking advantage of the fact that Mrs P was spending the day in London, Sam and I took all the glass out in a morning, Jack pressure-washed the frame then the three of us moved it to its new site at the other corner of the vegetable garden. It turned cold and drizzly in the afternoon, so the two hours it took to wash all the glass and put it back in the frame seemed twice as long.
A drizzly Saturday afternoon
March 2007 - the engine shed
The engine shed has occupied me greatly. It was built as a pigsty when Victoria was on the throne and we owned most of the world. It's ten feet long inside by eight feet wide (they bred big pigs in them days) with a small, pig-shaped door at one end. Which happens to be the same size as a Tinkerbell.
My thoughts were to install a traverser inside - there's no room for pointwork within the shed - and have two traversers mounted on rails. Each would be moved into place to accept an incoming engine, then moved to one side to allow the other in or out. It would work, we've even got the I-beams in stock to build it from. However, it never seemed quite right. Partly because it's hardly prototypical, partly because I would have had to drop the floor a foot which would have led to all sorts of water-type problems and partly because sooner or later, if small boys are involved, an engine was going to be run into the shed where the traverser wasn't.
The pigsty becomes... an engine shed
This all led to a bit of an impasse until I mentioned it to Dal, our genius builder. "No problem", says he. "Why don't I take the front wall out and put a wider door in". And that he's done. Day 1, everything is demolished (although no power tools - just a hammer and chisel. "I want to be able to jump out the way quick" he says, eyeing the stone above his head rather suspiciously). Day 2 (after I tell him that whilst a concrete lintel might be strong and cost-effective, I want a brick arch like it used to be) it all goes back again. And looks just like an engine shed from Ivor the Engine.
February 2007 - planning
Having done a bit of digging a year ago (and even done a survey at the time, aided by my £20 B&Q laser level and long tape measure), I've decided it's now time to firm up the ideas. So, some plans:
January - December 2006
We rebuilt the cottage at the end of the drive and moved into our new premises on the industrial estate (which also involved refurbishing the two next door so that they were fit for somebody else to move into). Net work on the railway - nil.
January 2005 - digging
The project started with us digging out the area around the vegetable garden - this clears a way from the pig sty (which is to be re-modelled into an engine shed) round towards a run-round loop which, one day, should mark the halfway point along the line.
September 2004 - the beginning
The initial survey
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