Still, not to be deterred, further up the track-way I succeeded in slicing the top off the rainwater soak-away, found two operational waste pipes I never knew existed and almost severed the mains cable to the pond pump. The fact that the end of the line joined up with the start, three inches below it, was by now no more than a minor irritation. Surprisingly, only a minimum of post level readjustment was needed to fix the problem, but by this time, I was past caring .

Thanks to the discovery of all those immovable obstacles and the number of last minute route modifications, the last ten yards was now a masterpiece of incredible engineering (all bad!). Heath Robinson would have been proud of me! In the middle of the proposed tunnel along the front of the tool-shed, the track curved sharply downwards and on the last sharp bend around the patio, the gradient was steeper than 1 in 28. If it wasn’t supposed to be part of the main line, it would have made an ideal site for hump - shunting!

A couple more days were spent in stapling the whole lot with a layer of roof felt, and I was ready for the big time - laying some railway! Given the number of curves and bends, there was only one thing to purchase with my flexible friend - flexible track, courtesy of Peco and KGR.

Despite having convinced my two dear daughters that investment in the project would provide each with a section of line named after them in perpetuity, at seven quid a yard, progress was still painfully slow. A magazine advertisement for used track produced a magnificent response of zero until "Tony the Train Man" gave me a good deal on several lengths of used LGB plus a Bachman Big Hauler. (Little did it know just how "big" a "haul" it was going to be!).With the final purchase of one power unit and a freight wagon to start the collection done and dusted, the grand opening was looming on the horizon. .

Like every half-decent railway, which requires an identity of some description, this one was to be no exception. Deciding upon a name was relatively easy. Since many weeks of backbreaking work was spent in remodelling the garden, together with providing HL with a good deal of extra planting power, "Lotts Moor Border Railway" stuck out like the proverbial sore thumb!

Some finishing touches such as track lighting and signalling were installed ,thanks in no small part to an old fruit machine, which had lain dormant in the shed for years, a bunch of relays from Maplins, a couple of reels of multi-core cable, and Phase I was complete. Even HL confessed to a certain amount of grudging admiration.

One advantage of living in the South East is the relative convenience of cross-channel shopping. So it was that the Grand Opening Ceremony was not only attended by many specially invited guests (i.e. the long-suffering neighbours), but also copious quantities of Calais Crush into the bargain. Suffice to say that a "jolly good time" was had by everyone! Having said that, the only thing that tended to mar the proceedings was someone’s little Behaviourally Retarded Anti-social Troublemaker who managed to remove my one-and-only engine from the track with a flying Teletubby. Removing her from the face of the earth was an option not entirely disregarded. At an intimate ceremony attended later by myself and my PC (an Austerity Class 4-8-6), I self-awarded a railway Operating Charter which now hangs proudly above the paper dispenser in the downstairs Passenger Waiting Room.

Since the line was opened, some additions to the consist have been made, all scratch built, apart from the wheels and, if you stand far enough away they do look reasonably authentic. Whether or not trains are running, there is plenty of other traffic - neighbourhood cats walk along it to avoid getting their dainty little paws wet. Birds use it as a race-track and even the occasional insect has been spotted walking along the rail presumably since it’s the shortest distance between two points.

For the more technically minded however, the Railway closely adheres to the following specification:-

Rolling stock and accessories occasionally to scale.

Historical and Geographical accuracy coincidental.

"Connex S.E. meets Denver & Rio Grande!"

Design follows "proto-whimsi-typical" guidelines.

Existence at the C.E.’ s discretion

and operation entirely to his own satisfaction.

Rivet free, obviating requirement to count them.

R.C.s welcome to visit - I’ll help you look!

The next phase of construction has already been completed, with the provision of a small siding and a passing place for a loco as yet awaiting purchase. The air has consistently been heavy with the pungent aroma of Creosote and the neighbours washing has once more mysteriously disappeared from the lines. Whilst this time I have carried out the installation to a more exacting standard, planning and execution was really only half the fun!!! Just you look out - phase three!



Living in the world of fantasy, my dream would have been to eventually cover the garden with railway, points, crossings and enough bits to make Spaghetti Junction look like a rectangle! However, time is a great healer, so I erred on the cautious side. Two reasons sprang to mind - firstly, very little chance of success in trying to persuade HL she didn't need a lawn, and secondly, some mindless B'stards nicked my entire rolling stock from the shed whilst we were on holiday!

Nevertheless...following some serious negotiations with the Insurance Company, and the Boys in Blue, who to this day haven't so much as sniffed a suspect, I managed to replace the missing articles to some extent, in order to keep the rolling stock rolling so to speak. Sadly, my scratch builds were irreplaceable. Whilst  they were not exactly straight out of Swindon Works,  they were far more appealing than the shop-bought variety. (well I think so...)

(At this point my thoughts turn to the little S**** who thought they had a better right to my property than I do, and hope that they find enough power to run the locomotive - 10,000 volts ought to do it, and that the rolling stock runs up where the big orb in the sky  fails to give light!)...but I digress again...

Due to the continued lack of Planning Permission, and if I carried on, we’d have no lawn left, there consequently has been no major extensions to the track layout, but the "wheels" have changed. "Tony the Train Man's" Denver and Rio Grande has been replaced by another Big Hauler - an ET & WNC complete with Walschaerts valve gear, plus a very hairy live steam Iver from Cheddar Models. My first real chuff-chuff!!!! (Probably my last when HL finds out how much it cost!!). This has been currently renamed "Lady Fuschia" since its original name "Iver" sounds only marginally better than "Thomas" and the new Big Hauler has been named "Phoenix"  - risen from the "ashes" of the old one? How sad...

Apart from maintaining the trackside accessories and keeping the rails in place, I think that's about the completion of the LMBR. The Posts and Planks seem to be holding up year on year. The woodwork on the signals needs annual attention, the bridges require the odd bit of cementing, and every Spring, the annual "my-plants-were-there-before-your-railway" Knock-Out Competition commences whenever the track starts to disappear behind the greenery. Each time a run is planned, an hour or two must be spent in trying to find the railway!  But its all in good fun, as is the constant pleasure it gives this Old Git whenever time and the inclination to "play trains" permits. Long may it continue.

There really is a railway in here somewhere!

...One way to keep the greenery away!

(To shorten the narrative, I refrain from detailing the endless visits to the local Building Reclamation Yard, large areas of dead lawn caused by the over-enthusiastic use of wood preservative, disintegrating work clothes and the perma-smell of Creosote that hangs around like night time in the Arctic! After a day’s hard work, I was about as welcome in the house as a rat with a suitcase.)

Such was the genius of my mathematical calculations, that I found myself some two weeks later, ten feet away from the shed, all posts firmly fixed in place, timber planking secured and STILL six inches above the ground! There immediately followed a polite verbal condemnation of Pythagoras and every Theorem he ever invented plus an almost irresistible urge to test the combustible properties of preserved hardwood. Discretion then being the better part of valour, the decision was made to "keep on trackin’ " past the shed at the same height and then build a bridge over it later. By this time, nearly two thirds of the proposed loop had been completed and like all good projects, one eventually gets to the saddest part and sure enough, I reached it. The last stretch of track required an uphill climb around the rockery, levelling off past the small toolshed, down through a sharp double bend around the patio and finally levelling off once more to finish up at the little known Austrian village of Bachwehr Itstadted!

With renewed fervour and a serious re-evaluation of my arithmetical abilities, I calculated the gradients necessary for both ends of the loop to meet at approximately half way between the bottom shed and my starting point. Once more and with more will than way, the "Chief Engineer" set off up the garden with spade, stakes and trusty club-hammer. Some initial trench-work was required, which all went rather swimmingly until I discovered what appeared to be yet more builders rubble near the Rockery. An exploratory dig indicated that this could possibly be the longest piece of concrete known to man but in actual fact, turned out to be the main drain - two feet higher than originally estimated. Being unable to remove it without causing some potential after-dinner embarrassment to residents further up the street, I had but one alternative and that was to build over it. This of course necessitated a re-grade of the half-dozen posts already hammered into the ground further down the route. I was now beginning to question whether or not a Mountain Railway would have been an easier option.

The promised border was duly dug, along with several new and judiciously remodelled old ones. This was followed by an instant regret of not taking up a less energetic pastime, like mountaineering. Historically, our house was not supposed to exist. It was originally intended to be an access road into a new development area. Since the development never happened, neither did the road. But it did, however, provide a perfect dumping ground for building rubble left over from the completion of the other houses on the estate. (And guess who finally made the discovery??) Also, you may be interested to know that Kent clay is rumoured to make good bricks. It has a consistency of concrete in the Summer and toffee most other times. Suffice to say it sticks to anything and anyone. So by the end of the month, having wrestled broken drains, pipes, bricks and the fossilized remains of a builder’s packed lunch from their respective underground resting places, plus accidentally knocking the top off our soak-away, my back was killing me. From observing my antics, bouts of laughter were no doubt having a similar effect on the Armchair Supervisors indoors.

By mid April, the Railway right of way was in place, and Stage II, the laying of the track-bed was scheduled to begin. Something eluded me in trying to fix the mathematical relationship between a Frying Pan and a Fire and at this stage of the project, I consequently wished that at least an extra five minutes of initial planning time had been spent on even a superficial site survey. (The actual relationship between the Pan and the Fire is that one directly connects with the other at warp speed!)

The topography of our garden is a "Ski-Sloper’s" delight. Essentially it has four reasonably straight sides, sadly of differing lengths, and about as level as the House that Jack Built. If you stand in one corner of the garden with a colleague standing at an opposite corner,at the same height, he or she will be either four feet above the ground or four feet below it dependant upon where you are at the time. I can only assume therefore, that the absence anywhere of a 90-degree angle or a level surface must have been part and parcel of the Great Development Plan of the day. Personally I blame the designers. Surely they must realise that sooner or later some Anoraks come along and want a railway in their garden. Doesn’t everyone???

Never mind - Big Problem! What to do? Build one third of the track at ground level and the rest three feet below it, or vice versa and make the whole thing look like the Alton Towers Corkscrew without the cork? Compromise being the name of the game, I decided upon a "fifty-fifty" layout as long as (a) the track reached ground level by the small shed at the top of the garden, to get the lawnmower out, and (b) reach ground level or just below it, outside the large shed at the bottom of the garden, to get me in. (Pretty smart huh?- read on!). Having selected an arbitrary starting point somewhere near the top end of the garden and near the kitchen (in case of a terminal attack of thirst), the first stake was driven home to about six inches off ground level. From here, I allowed myself a run of at least twelve feet of level track before commencing the long gradient to the bottom shed some 100 feet further down the line.

Contained in the aforementioned magazine was an article entitled "Garden Railways from Scratch." Having mentally shouted an emphatic "Yes!" to all the Objectives for having one, without actually taking much notice of any of them, planning was forever afterwards plain sailing into the stuff of nightmares.

It was noted with some concern that one major requirement not covered in the article was Planning Permission  the kind that has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with Local Authorities. Our garden is already well established both plant and shrub-wise, unlike many of which I have read, where the railway is seeded long before anything else. Add to this the fact that Her Ladyship, as she will now be referred, is a very keen gardener, like Apollo 13 - "Houston, we have a problem!" The mere mention of lumps of timber poking up through her prized fuchsias and geraniums initially sent both her into orbit and yours truly down the pub! (The nice one shown above!)

Nevertheless, to sweeten the deal, so to speak, I eventually offered to dig another border to enlarge her recently created "cottage garden". That seemed to do the trick, and approval was finally obtained. It came, however, with more provisos than a Government White Paper, but what the heck! At least I got it. (Did I fail to mention that this border was needed as a railway right of way in the first place? - silly me! )

Since having achieved an "F" grade in the subject of Patience, at just about every level in my educational upbringing, this shortcoming naturally influenced the whole of the planning process. In fact it must have taken me the best part of thirty minutes to decide where the track was to be laid. The Railway in general, was to be scaled around no Company or Region I could think of, apart from the Edge of the Garden, and as far as attention to detail was concerned, if, whatever ran around the track, stayed on it, was fine by me. The only decision requiring a bit of thought was the method of construction. With HL s no-go policy on horticultural disruption, the idea of a retaining wall around the entire garden sank faster than a concrete life jacket and no doubt would have rendered the Chief Engineer front runner in the Death-In-Very-Offensively-Repugnant-Circumstances Event!

Consequently, in accordance with my fast-and-furious philosophy on life in general, the "3P" was chosen. (Post and Plank Procedure!) Use of this tried and tested method, would at least enable me to go over the shrubbery rather than in it. Furthermore, it’s a lot quicker than building stone walls, even if doesn’t last as long. This year’s Best Garden Design would almost certainly win next year’s Eyesore of the Month Trophy, so an element of flexibility was a must. Anyway, the lumps of timber would just have to poke up as best they could!

The great day arrived on March something-or-other 1998 amidst a fanfare of feverish indifference , HL went off to have her hair done, the neighbors were out shopping and both daughters decided to work late. But in true pioneering tradition, construction work commenced in earnest.

For a long time it had been an occasional ambition to build a railway in the garden, but neither the time nor the opportunity presented itself until recently, when the prospect of redundancy together with the usual "offer I couldn t refuse," produced an early retirement. Thus, having survived the initial trauma of being sent on leave for the rest of my life, and notwithstanding the occasional attack of apathy-reaching-fever-pitch, a chance purchase of a not-so-recent edition of Garden Rail changed my life forever. (Well not really, but a good plug won t harm the circulation& ) With the sudden realization that my lifelong ambition could at last be achievable, the great Garden Railway Project was born.



       "Steam on Regardless."

(& A Sad Tale of How Not to Do It and Still Have Fun)

I quit playing trains at the age of 13 when I discovered Smoking and Girls. As adolescent lunacy would have it, the end of the line finally arrived with the sale of my prized Tri-ang "OO" collection, whose proceeds were used largely without success to fund the activities of both.

Having long since given up the former habit, and following many years of relatively faultless marriage, the same could also be argued of the latter. However, whilst here and there, the old "barnet" may have receded, my interest in railways has not. (The sight of an A3 Pacific in full steam has just GOT to be the next best thing to a good woman  must be all those moving parts!)