Once upon a time, so legend has it, local members of the 16mm Association built a live steam layout. It was called the Middleforth Light Railway, and was operated in the engine shed of the West Lancashire Light Railway. Some photos are here.

Over the years it has faded away, until only the name board remains. Fortunately it was not forgotten, and when in 2014 another old layout was discovered in a preserved goods van, a scheme was hatched to use it as a basis for a new Middleforth. This layout had heavy baseboards not really suitable for the portable layout envisaged, so they were replaced with new lightweight plywood versions.

As a change from the circular trackwork on the Railway’s other layout (Hundred End) it was decided to use an end-to-end design, with manually-operated turntables to rotate the stock at each end. These are based on industrial-strength ‘Lazy-Susan’ units a foot in diameter. The track ends on each turntable are supported on friction pads, which slide on two circular rails.

The new Middleforth is a fictional narrow-gauge railway that once formed part of an extensive network in and around the Kent coalfield. With the closure of the four collieries the line found itself orphaned, but it still just about survives as a mainly tourist railway. The layout models two of the main features of the line, Middleforth village itself and its sole industry, Scrapper Sid’s railway repair and recycling yard.

The scenery is inspired by the southern end of the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway. A particular feature of the design is that  all the buildings are  provided by Mike Lowe of Pendle Valley Workshop, purveyor of high-quality building kits to the garden railway gentry.

In case you were wondering, West Lancs is a 2ft gauge railway at Hesketh Bank, between Southport and Preston. It features four operational steam locos, with three more under restoration, and numerous small industrial diesels.

New Middleforth is taken to exhibitions and shows, as well as operating it on gala days at the Railway. It acts both as a means of promoting the Railway and as a showcase for Pendle Valley's products.

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