Standard and narrow gauge together
Narrow gauge isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but Paul A. Lunn demonstrates how it can co-exist with standard gauge.
Narrow gauge isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but Paul A. Lunn demonstrates how it can co-exist with standard gauge in four plausible scenarios.
This issue features a strong narrow gauge theme, which may not appeal to all. So, not wishing to put the narrow gauge doubters off completely, here is a selection of plans that marry the familiar (standard gauge) with the less familiar (narrow gauge). I find locations where narrow gauge lines meet their larger counterparts hugely fascinating, and not just because they fall into one of my favourite design concepts – adding a second interest for increased visual and operational enjoyment. There seem to be few substantial ‘dual gauge’ layouts out there, and most of the ones I’ve seen prioritise one of the two gauges, with a token gesture for the other – depending on the builders’ preference. I could have chosen any number of locations – Minffordd, Welshpool – even Norden on the Swanage branch – but in the end I only had space here for four. They depict a varying amount of emphasis on the secondary gauge. For those firmly footed in standard gauge there’s Aberystwyth, with its intensive junction, while Dunston Mill is for those who prefer narrow gauge. In between we’ve got Barnstaple Town and Tywyn, where each gauge is fairly equally balanced. Last of all there’s a reduced second take on Barnstaple, encouraging readers to think about compromise. Please note that for ease of modelling I have suggested ‘OO9’ track for all designs, regardless of the fact that it’s a huge compromise for the ‘two foot’ of most narrow gauge lines.
Can you have a narrow gauge layout if you’re a fan of the Rail blue era? Of course you can! BR blue and ‘double arrow’ logos were applied to the 1920s Swindon-built 1ft 11½in gauge 2-6-2Ts that offered an almost cross-platform connection with Class 40s and 25s… Aberystwyth was already a busy railway junction when the Vale of Rheidol Light Railway opened in 1902. The main station served the Cambrian Railways main line to Machynlleth and the GWR line to Carmarthen. The VOR, built to move lead ore and timber in the Rheidol Valley, had its own smaller station a short distance away. All lines became GWR property in 1923. Unlike other Welsh narrow gauge lines, the 7½-mile line to Devil’s Bridge had become a tourist attraction. BR continued to maintain it as such and, though it was threatened with closure in the 1960s, it survived to become BR’S last steam-worked railway after the ’15 Guinea Special’ ran on August 11 1968. The VOR moved into the main station and old GWR locomotive shed in the 1970s after the Carmarthen line was demolished. This narrow gauge oddity had the dubious honour of being the first BR railway to be privatised – it was sold to the Brecon Mountain Railway in 1987/88.
What more can be said about the Lynton & Barnstaple Railway? There are few – if any – people alive today who can remember it, yet it’s still one of the most popular narrow gauge railways in the country. This 1ft 11½in gauge railway was a true main line in miniature. It carried no particular traffic other than providing a link for the people of Lynton and Lynmouth with Barnstaple, the capital of North Devon, and offering passenger and goods services to the small settlements along its 19-mile length. Barnstaple Town was the town’s newest station and it provided a cross-platform connection between the LSWR’S line to Ilfracombe and the ‘toy railway’ to Lynton when it opened in May 1898. Both railways would become Southern Railway property in 1923, but road competition and a lack of patronage led to its closure in September 1935. Locomotive Lew became one of the final items transferred between the two railways at the transshipment siding when it was despatched to Manning Wardle in 1936 so it could be shipped to Brazil. Barnstaple Town, with a curious patch of wasteland, remained a wayside stop on the Ilfracombe branch until that line closed in 1970. The station still survives, but it is unlikely that trains will ever call there again.
Below: a view along today’s Aberystwyth station, with new narrow gauge platforms. The remaining main line platform is on the far left. Beyond is the old GWR locomotive shed and the railway’s new workshop.
Photographed from the loading dock at Tywyn Wharf, Standard ‘4MT’ 4-6-0 No. 75002 shunts the daily Pwllhelimachynlleth pickup goods in August 1966. The concrete bi-block track is available from Peco. The main station, still called Towyn at this time,...
Above: A fabulous 1925 photograph of new Manning Wardle 2-6-2T No. 188 Lew and 1898-built Taw departing Barnstaple Town with a typical mixed train for Lynton in the mid-1920s. Taw still carries L&BR livery. Above: An LSWR Type 4 signal box, with...