Garden Railways

Steam Locomotives

on Parade at Bicester

L to R:

WHR 2-6-2T 'Russell'

WHR 0-4-2T 'Gelert'

L&B 2-6-2T 'Exe'

Freelance 0-4-0T 'Dinas'


July 2004


Photo:   David Cooke

Until fairly recently Garden Railways were only available to those who were comparitively well off. This is now a thing of the past however, as many more companies are producing locomotives and rolling stock either ready to run, in kit form or just as component parts for those who wish to build from scratch, at prices to suit most pockets.

Garden Railways are available in two main gauges and scales. The most popular being SM32 which means a scale of 16mm to the foot (1:19) running on 32mm (1.1/4") gauge track. This covers most Narrow Gauge Railways with a gauge of around 610mm (2 foot) such as the Lynton & Barnstaple Railway, Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways. Alternatively there is 'G Scale' which has a scale of 1:22 running on 45mm (1.3/4") gauge track and represents 915mm (3 foot) gauge used in Ireland and Isle of Man or metre gauge as used on the Continent.

Some Garden Railways are electrically operated (similar to indor 00 gauge) but many are run

with locomotives which have their own power source, either battery or steam. The former are obviously cheaper and easier to operate but the latter have a much more realistic feel (and smell) to them. Steam locomotives are available in three basic types, the simplest being 'pot

boilers' which are usually fired by meths (methylated spirits), but these are being replaced by locomotives which are internally fired by a gas (butane) burner. the main advantage of the latter type is the control of the burner and being able to run in windy conditions. However, there is a third option, namely coal firing, just like the real thing but as you might expect these locomotives are very expensive and are not very user friendly (but do smell good).

My own experience with garden railways started in 1995 when my eldest son decided he wanted a 'Mamod' steam locomotive for his 15th Birthday. The were originally sold as a 'toy' and

assuch had to conform to various safety standards such as being fired by solid fuel tablets which were difficult to light and trnded to run out just as steam was raised. However, with a few simple modifications (Mamod Mods) it was possible to convert even the most sluggish Mamod into a working model even if it only had two speeds (go fast & stop). The example shown below cost around £60 (second hand) and has been fitted with a meths burner, regulator, lubricator and improved safety valve all of which cost another £40 but the improvement in performance

and control made it worthwhile.

In the past few years I have managed to build four working steam locomotives from scratch starting with a 'Dacre' 0-4-0T (Dinas) designed by Peter Jones, a Lynton & Barnstaple Manning,

Wardle 2-6-2T (Exe) with parts supplied by Roundhouse Engineering, Welsh Highland Railway

Hunslet 2-6-2T (Russell) and Bagnall 0-4-2T (Gelert), the first being a meths fired pot boiler with slip eccentric valve gear and the other three being internally gas fired with simplified walschaerts valve gear. Upon retirement I purchased a 'ready to run' model of L&B 2-4-2T 'Lyn' built bu Accucraft, which is internally gas fired but also has the advantage of being radio controlled so (in theory) I could sit in my garden chair and drive the locomotive with complete control. Apart from a number of Mamod wagons purchased 'off the shelf' all rolling stock has been built by me (coaches) and my son Richard (wagons & vans) based on Lynton & Barnstaple or Welsh Highland Railway designs.

During the same period a railway was constructed in our back garden in the form of a continuous circuit (approximately 30M - 120 feet long) at ground level with a station loop and adjacent two road engine shed plus a working turntable. A second passing loop at one third distance and a lattice girder bridge over a pond at two thirds distance. The track used was mainly Peco SM32 with a number of point kits supplied by Tenmille. This railway had to be dismantled in 2007 when we moved house, but has since been rebuilt in the garden of our new property but without the turntable, engine shed or bridge (but which now has a 1M - 3 foot tunnel and double track passing loop with sidings).



Right: Modified Mamod and scratch built coaches

at speed in Bicester


July 1996


Photo:   David Cooke