Friday, December 4, 2020


Flashback Friday: The Royal Duchy, 3 April 2010, a railtour remembered


2020 has seen so many of the things that we normally take for granted denied us. Every walk of life has been affected in some way by the restrictions that have, of necessity, been imposed upon us. Those of us involved in any of the many facets of the railway hobby will be all too familiar with the things that we haven’t been able to do, from club evenings and model railway exhibitions through to steam galas and railtours. Although some railtours have run in the second half of the year, and heritage railways have managed to stage a few events, all have been run under strict social distancing guidelines with greatly reduced numbers of participants.

Looking back through some old photographs, I came across a set that I took ten years ago in April 2020, when I travelled on the Royal Duchy railtour, from London Paddington to Penzance, which I joined at Reading. I’d originally booked on the tour as it was scheduled to be double-headed from Bristol Temple Meads to Penzance section by 34067 Tangmere and 30777 Sir Lamiel. As a fan of Southern steam locomotives, the prospect of experiencing these two over the South Devon banks was an enticing one. I’d been trying to get a mainline run behind the King Arthur since the early 1980s and had always been thwarted by circumstances. Alas it was not to be on this occasion either as both Sir Lamiel and Tangmere were side lined. The Southern duo were replaced by LMS Black Five 44871 and BR Class 7 Pacific 70013 Oliver Cromwell, while the steam-hauled leg of the tour would now start at Exeter St Davids. All was not lost however, even this curtailed section provided several hours of steam haulage with the added bonus that the non-steam legs of the tour, from Paddington to Exeter and from Penzance back to the capital, were to be in the hands of the Class 52 diesel hydraulic D1015 Western Champion.

I remember it as being a super day and the presence of the Western only enhanced the experience. The Black Five and Oliver Cromwell certainly didn’t disappoint on the South Devon banks and the Cornish mainline. As the train departed Penzance for the return run in the late afternoon, my feelings were not so much those of disappointment that the steam leg was over but more of anticipation to see what D1015 would deliver on the long run back to London. We were not disappointed.

Let’s hope that it won’t be too long before railtours are running fully booked and platforms are once again crowded with onlookers.


Saturday, November 28, 2020

 Winterbourne Road - a small rural station

As mentioned on an earlier Blog post, originally Ryedown Lane was intended to be a self-contained micro layout with scenic section and fiddle yard all contained in its four-foot length. I soon realised that this would be pushing it if I wanted to operate two coach trains of bogie stock and goods trains of more than just two or three wagons. Therefore, early on in the layout’s development, a two-foot long fiddle yard was added. This improved operating potential greatly and still meant the layout could be set up quite quickly at home or at an exhibition and would fit on a six-foot table if required. That’s how Ryedown Lane appeared for its first few exhibition appearances.

I’d always had it in the back of my mind that another board could be added eventually. The baseboard for Ryedown Lane was one of a pair of 4ft x 1ft boards that I’d originally made back in the late 1980s with the intention of using them for either a small diesel depot or branch line terminus. That project never developed and the baseboards remained in storage for over twenty years. The second baseboard was pressed into service as a lid for Ryedown Lane, offering some protection when transporting the layout in the car or in storage at home. After lugging it to several exhibitions and then having to store it somewhere out of the way for the duration, it occurred to me that I might as well just get on and use it for the extension. Thus Winterbourne Road was came into existence.

A small wayside station with a loop and a single siding had always been in my mind for the next section. The atmosphere I was after was something like Castle Caerinion on the Welshpool & Llanfair, although I wanted it to combine the essence of that location with a Colonel Stephens theme. I leave it to others to decide if the combination works or if, indeed, I’ve captured the atmosphere I was after but I will say that two people, who’s opinion I hold in high regard, have commented at various times about the similarity between Wintebourne Road and Castle Caerinion which I take as a great compliment.

Simplicity was the order of the day with this part of the layout. Only one structure was required. I already had a suitable building to hand. The is based on the three identical structures that once existed on the Selsey Tramway at Hunston, Chalder and Siddlesham. It was the first building that I scratch built and had been in the drawer for several years waiting for the right opportunity to be used. Other than that, the only scenic features on this board are the chalk cuttings, fencing, trees and another of my favourite minor railway features; an ungated level crossing.

Winterbourne Road came into use in 2014 and the layout has been exhibited in this extended format ever since. The two-foot fiddle yard proved a bit restrictive so this was extended by twelve inches in 2016. My original plan for a compact micro had somehow morphed into an 11 foot-long layout.

Friday, November 6, 2020


Flashback Friday

An occasional series looking back at four decades of railway enthusiasm.

Just to prove that my interests don't revolve solely around rural narrow gauge railways, we'll start off with something completely different ...

New stock for the Isle of Wight

5th and 6th May 1990 were significant dates for the railways of Hampshire. That weekend, the third rail electrification between Portsmouth, Fareham, Southampton and Eastleigh, the so-called Solent Link, was turned on. This milestone was marked by a gala, with stations decked out in Network South East red, white and blue bunting, an enhanced train service and various connected events, including a mini open day at BRML’s Eastleigh Works.

Significant though the Solent Link electrification was for the area, one of the main things that sticks in my memory was the display of 483 008, one of the newly refurbished 1938 tube trains, in the yard at Eastleigh Works, soon to be dispatched to its new home on the Ryde –Shanklin, Island Line.

The refurbished 1938 stock, designated Class 483 under the BR TOPS system, was the replacement for the even older ex LT standard stock, Class 485 and 486 (4VEC & 3TIS in the ‘proper’ Southern region classification) which had been in service on the island since 1967. The 38 stock looked rather good in the NSE livery and certainly appeared much more modern than the existing trains, although in reality it was only a few years younger than some of the cars it was replacing.

It wasn’t quite the end of the line for the standard stock though. In October 1990 a five car train was returned to the mainland and travelled under its own power to London. The intention was to restore it as a heritage set and indeed Ryde depot had already painted two of the trailers in LT livery. The official handover was at the Tube Centenary open day at Morden Depot on  4th November that year.


The two Driving Motor cars, 2 and 7, are seen here at Morden that weekend. Sadly things didn’t go as planned. With other DMs being obtained for heritage use from London Transport departmental stock the two ex-island cars were left for two decades and were eventually cut up at Eastleigh over the winter of 2011 /12.


The remaining cars of the 1938 stock are currently in their last few months of service on Island Line, kept running against the odds by the ever resourceful staff at Ryde depot. As has been reported in the press, once again the replacement stock will be from the London Underground, this time in the form of the former District Line D stock trains, heavily rebuilt by Vivarail. The last 38 stock trains will run in early January after which Island Line will close until the spring to allow for various infrastructure upgrades to enable surface stock, rather than tube stock, to be used.

Twenty nine years after it was seen newly rebuilt at Eastleigh, here is unit 008 at Ryde Pier Head on 26th May 2019.

Monday, October 26, 2020


26th October 2020

Ryedown Lane.

A bit of background and a look round the terminus.


Development of Ryedown Lane started around 2010. The original plan was to build a small self- contained layout in a space of 4ft by 1ft. I wanted to create something that invoked the atmosphere of a light railway, particularly those associated with Colonel Holman F Stephens, in 009 (4mm scale, 9mm gauge). As it turned out, the layout has gradually morphed into something larger and is currently 11ft long, incorporating the original Ryedown Lane terminus, a through station at Winterbourne Road and a 3ft fiddle yard.

The layout in its current form. Seen in the rather lavish setting of Stowerail back in 2017.

There were a number of prototype influences but in particular two lines from the Stephens empire provided inspiration, the 3ft gauge Rye & Camber Tramway and the standard gauge Hundred of Manhood & Selsey Tramways which I hope may be seen in the finished layout. There is also some influence from the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway which, while not a Stephens railway, has so many of the features that I associate with this type of line built in the early years of the 20th century, including simple corrugated buildings and multiple ungated level crossings. The W&LLR influence is particularly noticeable at Winterbourne Road, which will be covered in a future blog).

The setting for the layout is somewhere in ‘Wessex’ in the early to mid-1930s, a time when most independent light railways, standard and narrow gauge, were in terminal decline as they fell victim to increasing competition from road vehicles. In true ‘light railway’ fashion, we imagine that the station at Ryedown lane is located some distance away from the rural community that it claims to serve. The line was originally intended to go much further but a lack of finances resulted in construction being halted and the creation of a terminus in a cramped location next to the road leading to the village.

The main features at Ryedown Lane are the station building (based on the one at Selsey on the above mentioned Selsey Tramway in its later years), a small engine shed and associated workshop (originally based on the small loco shed at Rye on the Rye & Camber but now somewhat enlarged). The small ground frame hut is inspired by a photo of the one that once existed at Tenterden Town on the Kent & East Sussex railway, and thus maintains the Stephens link. The water tower is based on those on the Welsh Highland Railway at Porthmadog New and Beddgelert.

We’ll take a look at the other parts of the layout, and the locomotives and rolling stock, in a future blog.

Monday, October 19, 2020

 FR Bygones Weekend 9 - 11 october 2020:

a little bit of normality

In a normal year I usually manage one or two visits to north Wales to coincide with one or other of the many special events on the Ffestinog & Welsh Highland Railways. 2020, of course, has been anything but a normal year, with the F&WHR, like every other heritage railway in the UK, closed for a good chunk of its regular operating season and facing some very real issues. The truncated service on the Ffestiniog, running only as far as Tan y Bwlch using smaller locomotives and heritage stock, which has been in operation since July has provided some income for the company and some enjoyable days out for those who managed to visit the area. 

Sadly, this year's big event, the Fairlie Eventful weekend, in late June had to be postponed and we will have to wait in hope that the celebrations to mark the 150th anniversary of the famous Fairlie locomotive trials will go ahead in 2021. The other big event each year is th Victorian weekend in October. This too was cancelled but wit charcteristic Ffestiniog determination the Ffestiniog refused to be beaten and rolled out Bygones weekend as a substitute. Still subject to restrictions, nevertheless the weekend provided a chance to enjoy a little bit of normality and enjoy some of the many wonders that the railway has to offer.

Foremost among the weeknds happenings was the naming and dedication of the recently restored large England tank Welsh Pony, which has been a mainstay of the summer service this year. The ceremony took place, for invited guests only, at Dduallt on the Saturday morning, the train then continuing to Blaenau Ffestiniog. 

Welsh Pony ran another service to Blaenau for FR Society members in the afternoon before switching to a similar service to Beddgelert on the Sunday, swapping over with Prince. These were the only services running further than Tan y Bwlch and pretty much the only trains running the entire length of th FR since March.

Other passenger services were operated by the Penrhyn Hunslets Linda and Blanche.


While Palmerston spent the weekend operating a demonstration goods train to Rhiw Goch. 


While only a shadow of the usual Victorian weekend, the Bygones event was an enjoyable distraction from the grim reality of 2020. Let's hope it's not long before we can enjoy the sight and sound of a double Fairlie storming up the line with a heavily laden ten coach train full of happy holidaymakers.

Prince returning from Beddgelert on Saturday. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Welcome to Ryedown Lane, a blog about about railways, real and model. Some of you may be familiar with the name Ryedown Lane from my 009 model railway layout which has been seen at a number of exhibitions in southern England over the last decade or so as well as appearing in the pages of Railway Modeller and on the NGRM online forum.

I've greatly enjoyed exhibiting the layout and sharing this wonderful hobby with like-minded enthisiasts both at events and online. Given the situation at the time of writing (June 2020) and the cancellation of model railway exhibitions due to the coronavirus pandemic I thought I'd follow the example set by a number of fellow modellers whose work I admire and start a blog as another way of experiencing and sharing the hobby. 

You'll find a thread chronicling the layout's development, and some of it's fictional back story on the NGRM Online forum Due to issues with image hosting sites, a lot of the images posted on that site are no longer to be seen, so part of the rationale for the blog is to create a record of the layout that may, hopefully, be imune from any similar problems in the future.

It won't all be about Ryedown Lane; I'll be posting on other model railway projects and my wider interests in the real thing as well. From time to time we might even look at non-railway related interests.

I hope you'll join me for the ride.

  Flashback Friday: The Royal Duchy, 3 April 2010, a railtour remembered   2020 has seen so many of the things that we normally take for g...