28th April 2014

A spring steam-up

The first official function of the Sutton & Segrave Light Railway was held recently, the initial Bacon Butty Day of the season.

Ben organised the event, including the all-important pork burgers, whilst club members ran engines in the gauge of their choice, free of any need to carry out grounds maintenance or to give rides to the public.

The railway's name by the way combines commemoration of Southport's founder Charles Sutton with the land speed record breaker Henry Segrave, who used Southport sands as his race track.

23rd April 2014

An ongoing saga

A garden railway is never finished, it just develops at different speeds.

This one is fully operational, as can be seen in the other galleries, having been delivered on time and within budget, thanks to a lot of work by many people.

However maintenance continues and there are plans for further expansion.

Watch this space...

16th April 2014

Passenger services are go

The moment we have all been waiting for, inauguration of rail traffic on the Sutton and Segrave Light Railway.

Perhaps we should have had a grand opening, or an official naming ceremony, but truth to tell we just got on with running trains.

And finishing off numerous small jobs, not to mention the large job of Sutton village.

9th April 2014

The gardener at work

To make a garden railway, you have to get down and dirty with the foliage.

And that is just what Frank has been doing, creating a rockery around the bridge and planting what he hopes will be perennials in other strategic areas.

2nd April 2014

Making big steps

It was obvious from the start that a continuous track plan would require means of access from outside to inside and vice-versa.

Steps were the obvious answer, so three sets have been laid roughly equidistant around the circuit.

A no-frills design was adopted, the only concession to style being blue-painted risers.

26th March 2014

Route learning commences

Driver training cannot start too early, even on a relatively simple track layout like ours.

As soon as a decent length of track was laid the diesels were out, surveying the route, learning the (almost non-existent) gradients and identifying the (likewise very rare) dog-legs requiring rectification.

19th March 2014

The ballasting begins

I could pretend this was the highlight of the build, looked forward to with eager anticipation.

The reality is that it is fiddly, awkward, messy and never-ending.

In short a chore, but a necessary one to hide the plastic top and create a more realistic trackbed.

For the technicals amongst you, it is a form of Rowland's mixture: sand, cement and peat (or to be exact dried and sieved compost).

And to encourage the development of diverse biological flora, yoghurt was spread liberally over the dried surface.

12th March 2014

....and the steam-up sidings

Integral with the design of the front passing loops is a pair of steam-up sidings.

So they were built next, from plastic edging with drainpipe sections as spacers.

5th March 2014

The passing loops appear....

An unexpected release of secondary funding has allowed expansion plans to be brought forward.

The (entirely sensible) reasoning was that it would be much easier to modify the grassy banks before they fully bedded-in rather than some time after.

So three three passing loops will be installed at this stage, instead of just one.

A wise decision by the committee, which has the added bonus of creating more interesting operability right from the start.

26th February 2014

Minding the gap

Every garden railway needs at least one bridge, even if it needs some creative terraforming to demonstrate the requirement.

The Sutton & Segrave needs no such excuse, the grass in the central reservation clearly needs to be cut periodically.

And that means a removable bridge to allow lawnmower access.

A girder construction was chosen for both aesthetic and practical reasons, and was built up from rivetted aluminium angle and plastic sheet for the decking.

19th February 2014

Advancing the head of steel

This week saw the start of what it is all about, laying track.

After all the preparation work, the process is remarkably speedy.

Straights can just be laid straight down, curves are judged by eye and the rail cut to length.

A few quick bursts with the drill and the power driver and it's done.

And if it's not perfectly in line, it's just more prototypical that way.

9th February 2014

Overcoming the elements

Despite much dampness and windiness we are now about 85% complete on the banking, although running low on soil.

The decking is complete bar some more fixings and a bit of levelling.

It has all been sanded and about half painted with masonry paint and sprinkled with sand to give a good key for the ballast. Tracklaying looms...

30th January 2014

A milestone is reached

This week we completed the posts and rails for the main line, rounding off a month of solid achievement, as our press release would say, should we feel inclined to issue one.

The most strenuous task, building up the embankments, is almost half complete, and a good third of the decking has been laid.

23rd January 2014

Progress on all fronts

A foursome today, quickly splitting into two pairs, one to put in more posts and one to fit newly-delivered PVC runners to them.

Then one pair split further, Keith to trial-fit curved decking on top of the posts and Frank to earth up more embankment.

This last activity was facilitated by a wooden jig constructed by Tony and associates yesterday, which takes some of the guesswork out of getting the slope at the right angle.

Weather was chilly with a brisk wind, but the forecast showers failed to arrive, so uninterrupted working was possible, as seems to have been the norm so far.

Apart from a few runners cracking on the tighter curves, all went to plan, with Keith's careful angled cutting of the decking producing a neat run around the curved sections.

And just to make us feel even better, the treasurer turned up to reimburse expenses claims.

22nd January 2014

Turf's up

Manual labour may well be good for both body and soul, but there's nothing like a real machine for getting the job done.

So Keith hired a neat little turf-cutting machine, which he whizzed around our circuit diagram in barely half-an-hour, cutting two strips either side of the line of posts.

On the surface it hardly looked as it anything had been done, but careful exploration with a spade blade revealed the grass had been neatly cut about an inch below the surface.

With additional volunteers on the barrows, rapid progress was not only possible but achieved.

In quick time all available posts were earthed up, after we decided that it was easier to do before putting the decking on.

8th January 2014

The build-up begins

After some patient negotiation we have received three dumper-loads of topsoil from the neighbouring building works, currently being converted into a caravan site.

A couple of barrow-loads were promptly conveyed to our own building site and two slabs of turf excavated as a trial.

It looked OK so we pressed on, building up about 3m of embankment around the decking.

It was hard work, particularly post-Christmas, but at least it was starting to look something like what we intended.

16th December 2013

Homework for the holidays

A garden railway needs decorating, and that includes buildings.

So a Grand Experiment was initiated, to see if a house could be cast out of concrete, to give it the necessary weather- and vandal-resistance.

A wooden mould was made in two halves, and filled with a mixture of concrete and polystyrene.

The latter was intended to reduce the weight, but it still weighs only a shade under a (metric) tonne.

Too heavy to steal, at least.

11th December 2013

On the level, all the way round

Used a borrowed laser level today to put in about a dozen posts all the way round the circuit to the same level as those in the trial section.

As none of us had used such an instrument before we were pleasantly surprised to find the last one was spot-on level with the first - very much beginner's luck.

We agreed reducing the post spacing to 50cm would make the curves easier to form and stronger.

The next job is to talk to the treasurer about a couple of large cheques that need to be written for the rest of the plastic.

8th December 2013

We are go for launch

A critical meeting today when six of the seven trustees of the railway met to appraise progress.

There was agreement that the PVC system was suitable, possibly with some additional strengthening if required on the curves.

We also agreed the budget, which with the cheaper materials means we can lay the sidings as well.

The need to roughen and paint the top surface was mentioned, to facilitate laying a sand/cement/peat mixture in lieu of ballast.

The next stage will be to for Keith to acquire more downpipe to cut into posts to use as level markers around the length of the track outline.

We will also build an embankment around the trackbed built so far.

Tony had the clever idea of peeling back the turf where the soil will be laid and then relaying it on top, to stabilise the formation and to reduce the amount of re-seeding required.

It is encouraging to see the degree of interest shown by other members of the club, with several offers of help with tools and equipment, and in one case with the procurement of suitable plants from the adjacent Rotten Row nursery.

So maybe we won`t have to steal them from the roadside displays, after all.

4th December 2014

Test section complete

Another session today to finish off the trial section by concreting in the posts and attaching the soffit board section to be used as a trackbed.

This time Tony gets in on the screwdriver action.

The soil gift has been delayed but is promised for next week.

A site meeting is planned for Sunday to get the approval of the group to go ahead, and to plan the next stage.

27th November 2013

Proof of concept, at this time

Turning the first sod, with a spade of common steel rather than engraved silver, such are the realities of post-boom Britain.

20th November 2013

Planting the acorns

A cold afternoon in mid-November, but Keith is undaunted, marking out a likely track plan on the front lawn.

He has also proposed an alternative cheaper construction material, namely uPVC sections, in place of the bomb-proof but expensive Filcris recycled material.

A strength test may be required to ensure standards will be maintained.

13th November 2013

In the beginning, a cunning plan

Welcome to this blog concerning the 16mm layout to be built on the premises.

The plan has been gestating for some months, but the good news is that a recent members' meeting gave its approval.

The presentation which won hearts, minds and wallets is here.

All we have to do now is build the thing.

'We' being seven new members, all with previous regarding 16mm activities.

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