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Your Guide to Building a Standard Scale Garden Railway

Building your dream garden railway is a very complex project. Read our advice and suggestions about the process. We hope you find it usefule.


Do you need planning permission?  
This is a bit of a contentious issue. You don’t need permission to build a miniature railway in your garden in most cases. In contrast, the rules may be different if you plan to add structures such as brick-built sheds or tunnels. It might be worthwhile to contact your local authority even just to confirm that no formal planning permission is required.  

Useful links: 

Planning Permission for a New Miniature Railway 7 1/4″ Gauge Society

Planning Permission – Miniature Railway World Forums (

Planning permission – GOV.UK (

How about the neighbours?  

Have you checked that there are no objections from your neighbours? Garden railways can be a tad noisy Make sure the neighbours will be ok with the project before moving forward. Some garden railways have had restrictions imposed after complaints from neighbours. If your neighbours complain about your activities, you may face repercussions from local authorities regardless of whether you need planning permission or not. 

Useful links: 

Noise nuisance and neighbours | nidirect

Noise nuisances: how councils deal with complaints – GOV.UK ( 

 Plan your garden railway project in one go, not piecemeal. 

A garden railway needs to be carefully planned before you begin construction. Make sure you know what you are trying to accomplish from the beginning. Having a complex layout with bridges, water features, and tunnels is great, but it requires a lot of maintenance and time. You might be better off with a simpler layout to start.  

Decide now, whatever it may be. Create a plan for the entire railway system from the beginning. When planning piecemeal, there can be all sorts of compatibility and fit issues later. The track doesn’t have to be built all at once; you can start with a shorter, simpler section of track and add to it later. Plan out your finished project before you start though.  

What tools will you need including those required to prepare the ground?

It obviously depends on the extent of your groundwork. On a flat grass surface, you may only need a shovel, spirit level, rake, and a cart to haul away the cuttings to prepare the ground for a simple single gauge circuit. You may need mechanical earth moving equipment, surveying and construction tools for more extensive work.  


What is your budget for building your railway?  
It is important to know the full cost before committing. Garden railways can be expensive to build. Establish a budget that you can afford. It could take years to complete a project like this, so plan your finances carefully so you can complete it without breaking the bank. 

What is your annual budget for running and maintaining your railway?  
There will be ongoing costs for fuel and maintenance. When you’ve decided what type of railway you want and what you’re going to run, you can estimate your operating costs. 

Rolling stock 

What are you going to be running? There are many things that depend on the weight, gauge, and scale of your locomotive and rolling stock.  

What scale will you choose? This can affect your plans. Some 7¼” gauge locos weigh in at over a ton. With a locomotive of this size and weight, you’ll need deep ballast and heavy-gauge rail. 

What is meant by scale? A model’s scale is how large it is in comparison to its real-world counterpart.  

What gauge will you use? We supply garden track kits in 3½”, 5” and 7¼” Gauge, dual Gauge 5” & 3½” and 7¼” & 5”. The two larger gauges are the best options for ride-on railways. When it comes to stable ground level passenger hauling, 5″ gauge is considered the minimum and only for garden railways. 

What is meant by gauge? Trains and rolling stock are built to a particular gauge, which is the distance between rails. 

What is the minimum turning radius of your loco? You will need to know this to plan the track layout within the space confines of your garden. It may also influence which loco you decide to buy.  

What is the weight of your loco? This will determine the rail profile which in turn may have implications for sleeper size and chairs.  

What is the minimum passing width when carrying passengers/riders? If you want to allow two riding trucks or cars to pass safely, leave enough space for protruding knees and elbows. 

What is the maximum gradient your loco can manage with passengers on board? Miniature locomotives do not like steep gradients. You may need to flatten out steep gradients before laying track. Some locomotives have been known to pull an adult up a 1 in 10 grade when hauling passengers, although 1 in 40 would be considered the sensible maximum. 

How will you store your engines and rolling stock? Miniature locomotives and rolling stock can be a target for thieves. They are also heavy. Consider secure roll-in, roll-out storage on your railway. If not, you may need to invest in a hoist to lift your rolling stock on and off the rails. This will also come in handy if you need to lift them onto a workbench.  

This will determine the gauge, turn radii limitations, ground preparations and type of rail you will need to use.  


Preparing your track bed. In addition to supporting the transfer of the rolling stock load to the ground, the track bed also holds the track in place. Track beds should be constructed with drainage and geotextile fabrics that prevent plant growth but allow water to drain.  

Ensure that your track bed is level across. Even though the track bed may have minor gradients, it is important that it is level from side to side. A failure to do so can lead to vehicle tipping and derailments. 

How much headroom will you need? Make sure you take great care when it comes to overhanging plants, trees, and garden structures. Make sure there is sufficient headroom so the tallest person can stand comfortably while riding. 

What immovable obstructions and service access are there? A proper survey of your proposed site may reveal underground services that you weren’t aware of. As part of your railway design, you must incorporate access to such services and ensure that objects that cannot be moved are navigated around. 

Are there banked areas that are too steep, and can they be levelled? The maximum advisable gradient is 1:40. Track gradients greater than this should be levelled if possible, avoided if not. 

What type of ballast will you opt for? Ballast serves to spread the load from the sleepers to the ground, facilitate drainage, anchor the sleepers to the ground and assist with track levelling. As rounded stones can cause the track to shift, it is best to use stones with sharp edges. Track stability minimizes derailment. 

Ensure rail alignment is correct before ballasting. Before packing with ballast, make sure your track panels are aligned correctly in the track bed. Once you have ballasted, it is almost impossible to re-align.  

Will your track be a there and back or circuit? If you usually need to lift your track, there and back railways are often the best option, and it also avoids the need for rail bending. However, we believe most would agree that circuits are far more satisfying.  

What overall length of track are you aiming for? You must know the length of your track to calculate the final cost. We supply garden track kits in 10m lengths that contain everything you need to create a 10m track panel (except tools) in your chosen gauge and chair type and have sufficient sleepers for the recommended spacing which are shown below. If you buy individual parts you will need to decide on your required sleeper spacing and calculate how many sleepers you will need.  

Suggested sleeper spacings: 

What rail profile do you require? Your gauge and the kind of rolling stock you operate will determine this. In general, the larger the gauge and the heavier the rolling stock, the higher the rail profile and rail weight. 

As a general guide: 

  • 3½” Gauge – 5/8 x 5/8 16mm Aluminium or 21mm Aluminium or Steel 
  • 5” Gauge – 5/8 x 5/8 16mm Aluminium or 21mm Aluminium or Steel 
  • 7¼” Gauge – 21mm Aluminium or Steel (For light vehicles running occasionally you could use 16mm Aluminium). 


ALUMINIUM – 16mm and 21mm  STEEL – Profiled rail – 21mm 
Advantages  Advantages 
Doesn’t cause excessive wheel wear  Less susceptible to expansion/contraction 
Doesn’t rust  Hard-wearing 
Relatively light  Can be welded 
Easier to bend  Stronger than aluminium 
Disadvantages  Disadvantages 
Wears more quickly  May cause excessive wheel wear 
More susceptible to expansion/contraction  Relatively heavy 
  Harder to bend 
  Susceptible to rusting 

 Will gauge widening be required and where? There will be a need to widen the gauge on track curves to enable locomotives and wagons to manoeuver safely around sharp bends. As this function is built into our plastic sleepers and chairs, it is easy to facilitate. The spigot is off set, so placing the chairs on the sleepers with the arrows facing in will set the gauge.  Read more in our Buying Guide to Standard Scale Track

What type of sleepers will you use? Rottable wood or resilient plastic? Plastic sleepers offer the advantages of being more resilient and requiring less maintenance. The initial cost of wooden sleepers can be less, but they may need to be replaced sooner. Our plastic sleepers come with pilot holes already drilled and their hollow base will anchor into your ballast for greater stability. 

What are the pros and cons of wooden and plastic sleepers? Plastic sleepers are more hard-wearing being frost, rot, and UV resistant. If using our plastic chairs and sleepers, automatic gauge widening is built in. 

How will you secure your chosen rail? Rails can be secured to sleepers in a virtually endless number of ways. Pins, screws, nails, clips. It depends on personal choice. PNP standard scale rail chairs are moulded in resilient plastic and can be screwed down or clipped in depending on your choice. We offer chairs for 16mm and 21mm rail profiles and a bar rail chair for 10mm x 20mm black bar rail. One of the advantages of using our screw fit or clip fit system is that they can easily be removed should you need to lift your railway or replace parts.  

What will you use to allow for expansion and contraction? Rail will expand and contract as temperatures change. You will need to allow for this when laying your track by leaving gaps between rail ends. If no gap is left, the expansion may cause the rails to expand and buckle. A fishplate is a metal strip that is screwed to the ends of two rails to join them together and allow for expansion and contraction movement. We offer 2 types of fish plates for standard scale, light, and heavy options.  

How will you bend your rail for the turns? Rail is usually supplied in straight lengths which means you will need to bend the rail for your curves. The advantage of 16mm aluminium rail is that it is softer and therefore easier to bend. 21mm steel rail is harder and may take a bit more effort. You can bend rail using a lot of patience and a garden fork or buy a purpose-built rail bender.  

Where will you drop fire and oils? It will be necessary to have a section of track over a fire pit if you intend to run steam locomotives so that you can “drop fire” while de-commissioning or re-firing your locomotive. Ideally, this needs to be a fireproof pit with drainage.  

What allowances will you need to make for utilities? Will you need to put water pipes under the track bed for hosepipes? Do you need to wire in power for gardening tools and lawnmowers?  Will you later need underground wiring for things like signalling or lighting? Where will you get your water supply for steam engines? Think about all these things when planning your railway. Once you have created the track bed and laid your railway you won’t relish having to dig it up again to add in these items. 

Will you need to include points? Depending on the complexity of your railway, you might need to include points. Laying the points first allows other track panels to be soft-laid before fixing everything. You can buy points already made for your chosen radius or make them yourself using sleepers, chairs, and rail. You will also need to install point levers to activate the point change. When finalizing your track plan, you may wish to determine which points and gauge you will use. Trying to get points in a random radius may be difficult. 

This will determine the extent of groundwork needed and the quantity and type of rail, sleepers, chairs, and fixings that you need.

And almost finally…………………..  

Draw up a detailed scale plan before going any further. This should be for the end vision you have for your garden railway. You don’t have to build it all in one go but it will really help you if you plan it all out to start with.

It may also help to read our Buying Guide to Standard Scale Track.

These youTube videos may also be useful:
How to create a garden railway that uses PNP Railways plastic sleepers and chairs.

PNP Garden Track Kits come with all the parts you need to create 10m of track.

Order yours here:

3½” Gauge Track Kit
5” & 3½ ” Dual Gauge Track Kit
5” Gauge Track Kit
5” Gauge True Scale Track Kit
7¼” Gauge Track Kit
7¼” & 5” Dual Gauge Track Kit

*Tools not included.

And really finally………ENJOY YOUR GARDEN RAILWAY!



Thank you to our contributors for the images and videos.

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How much does it cost to stop a train?

What components do I need for a complete vacuum braking system and how much will it cost?

We are frequently asked what items are required to fit vacuum brakes.

There are of course many different types of locomotives and rolling stock so there is no generic answer.

The example solution shown below is based on a narrow-gauge Romulus hauling two eight wheeled wagons. On the loco, all wheels are braked whilst on the wagons just the rear four-wheel bogie is braked.


Product Part No. Description Qty Unit Cost Total Cost
PNR-4R Vacuum Ejector No 1

Required to create the vacuum

1 £78.95 £78.95
PNR-1H Vacuum Limiting Valve

Used to set the limit of vacuum in the system

1 £40.95 £40.95
PNR-3P 7¼” Narrow Gauge Progressive Brake Valve with Lap 1 £195.90 £195.90
PNR-2D Vacuum Brake Kit with Trunnion. This version is to allow for fitting in carriages where space may be an issue. 3 £45.70 £137.10
PNR-1C Vacuum Reservoir

To hold a reserve of vacuum without which the brakes would not be able to be applied

3 £17.00 £51.00
PNR-1G Vacuum Release Valve Employed to allow atmospheric air pressure into the vacuum reservoir 3 £12.00 £36.00
PNR-3U Vacuum Gauge – Brass

Two are required, one to show the vacuum in the train pipe and the second to show what is in the reservoir on the loco.

2 £51.80 £103.60
PNR-1E 1/3 Scale Brake Blocks (Set of 4) 3 £15.80 £47.40
PNR-1J T-Hose Connector 6 £1.45 £8.70
PNR-1M BSP Socket 3 £2.00 £6.00
PNR-1L Male Taper Hose 3 £1.85 £5.55
PNR-1I Clear PVC Tube 3 1/16th 4 m £1.15 £4.60
Example Total Including VAT £715.75

Prices correct as at June 2021.

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Mount Kilimanjaro at Rugby MES

Extract from the Rugby MES Newsletter.

The month started with the trial steaming of locomotive ‘Mount Kilimanjaro’, which is on loan to us by owners PNP Railways – the makers of various plastic products for miniature railways such as the rail clips for our track and vacuum cylinders for our coach brakes. The video of this is on our website but here is what Edward has to say:

It was a lovely sunny day, and the first steam trials for the East African Railways 59 Class Garratt No.5928 “Mount Kilimanjaro” that is staying with us. This marks the completion of the major works that were carried out in order for the boiler to pass its hydraulic and steam tests. The engine has been completed almost exactly as it was last running, and came with some ‘health issues’! We knew about these before we agreed to have “MK” on loan at RMES, and we knew we’d have some work to do, which will take us a little time, it’s nothing we can’t handle with the clubs skills, and will be a very interesting trip in to the science of steam locomotives. Today’s steaming was all about finding out what the performance of the engine was as it arrived, setting a benchmark, and from that we can build. The ‘health issues’ were very evident and we had some issues with steaming, as we had already predicted, but we know now what we need to do.

I couldn’t have completed the work on my own and the help of the engineering department has been invaluable. I don’t make a habit of naming names in case I miss anyone out, but you know who you are!”

Many thanks to Rugby MES for the update and images.

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A boy, his Grandpa and and 08 Shunter

Railways connect us is so many ways.

Back in 2018, when life was a lot less tense and we spent all summer visiting railways and exhibitions, one of the exhibitions that we visited was The Bristol Model Engineering Show. And one of the photos that we came back with was this 5” BR Class 08 Shunter, mounted on PNP chairs.

As lockdown continued and show after show cancelled and nothing was running we published images looking back on previous visits and re-published the above image.

We were delighted to get a response to the post from someone who had acquired this little locomotive and had it overhauled and repainted. It now boasted a new number and new colours, chosen to replicate an 08 to which the new owner had a connection.

As a 5 year old he used to visit his granddad who worked at North Gawber Colliery, Yorkshire. On one particular visit he had his photo taken in front of the original 08 that inspired his later choice to acquire and re-number this example. She now runs on PNP sleepers and chairs on the Wansford Miniature Railway on the Nene Valley Railway. We think that is a great story. We hope that you do too.




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Moel Fammau

I had just staggered in from shopping with bags full of groceries that needed sanitising before storing away  (a job that I have come to loath during this lock down period but am continuing with now as a precaution), when I caught a snippet of Paul’s conversation.  I heard “Moel Fammau” drift through a cloud of sprayed disinfectant.

Easily distracted from a horrid chore, I peeped around the living room door and found Paul on the phone to PNP’s marketing people.  After Paul had put the phone down I enquired if we were going to Mold.  Paul frowned slightly and then started to laugh.  He went on to explain that Moel Fammau was one of his collection of model locomotives not the actual mountain above Mold near Wrexham which it is in fact named after.

He had purchased Moel Fammau from his “favourite shop” Station Road Steam in 2006.  It turned out that an enquiry had been made about this locomotive and Paul thought that It would be nice if we could do a bit of a write up about it for The PNP Railways website.  He suggested I take a look at The Station Road Steam site in their archive section to find out more about this 7¼” gauge Quarry Hunslet locomotive and its sister engine Pendlewitch.

I am inordinately fond of all small industrial working locomotives and I find the Quarry Hunslet to be a very appealing engine.  The full-size locomotives were primarily built for the slate quarries of North Wales.  They were produced by “The Hunslet Engine Company” in Leeds between 1870 and 1932.  Designed for hard work, in harsh conditions over rough terrain they needed to be relatively light weight, durable and have a short wheelbase.

These locomotives ran almost continuously all year round until the decline of the slate Quarries in the 1960’s.  Even today working Hunslet Locomotives can be found, still earning their living, serving the tourist and leisure industry mostly in North Wales, but also in other areas of Briton and some can be found in Canada and America (sadly these are usually for display purposes only)

Looking at the pictures on the Quarry Hunslet website I can pick out quite a few locomotives that I have enjoyed being pulled behind, I also had the honour, for the cost of a fiver, of driving Margaret a cab less Quarry Hunslet that was running on a short track alongside the Vale of Rheidol Light Railway from Aberystwyth to Devils Bridge.

Oh well! enough cooing over the Loco we must get down to some facts about The Quarry Hunslet.  It is an 0-4-0 narrow gauge (2ft) Locomotive.  Actually the gauge on the working engines was 1ft 10 ½” but now in preserved engines the gauge runs at 1ft 11 5/8” to 24 inches (600mm).

Most of these locomotives were originally constructed without a tender, rather utilising a slate truck or another piece of rolling stock, to carry extra coal for the engine as well tools and rope.  Of course, the Hunslet is a saddle tank engine, its water supply being carried in a tank that rides over the boiler rather like a horse’s saddle.  Personally, I think that this gives the locomotive a very pretty appearance.

The Original Quarry Hunslets were one of “The Hunslet Engine Company’s” most notable designs.  The very first of its type emerged from the Leeds works in 1870 and was called “Dinorwic” after the Slate Quarry that it was built for.  It was an innovative design for its day, its narrow gauge required to cope with the limited, narrow, rugged Welsh terrain.

The locomotive proved to be essential to the development of the slate industry utilising the existing tramways, rolling stock and wagons originally constructed for the antiquated horse drawn method of transportation that had itself developed when pack horse transportation had proved to be too laborious.

It is little wonder that many of these spritely locomotives have been lovingly reproduced in model form.  Looking at The Station Road Steam Archive I found some information on Moel Fammau and a mention of Pendlewitch.

It appears that both these Locomotives were built by John Milner a founder member of the 7¼“ Gauge Society in 1973.  John Milner was by profession an engineer, originally working in the aircraft industry, however in 1973 he made the decision to move into manufacturing miniature locomotives.

In later life he would  claim that his fledgling business “Milner Engineering” in Chester was kept afloat during its first year by a commission he received from a gentleman in Bolton (who later became a President of the 7¼” Gauge Society) for a one third size Model of a Quarry Hunslet.  Drawings and Castings for this reproduction were supplied by Roger Marsh enabling Milner to build the first in a long line of wonderfully crafted miniature Quarry Hunslets.

Moel Fammau the first locomotive produced by Milner and named after that Mountain above Mold was so well received in Bolton, that the gentleman immediately commissioned a second engine to be named Pendlewitch.  Incidentally both these Locomotives stayed in Bolton with the original owner on his private railway until he died 30 years later.

Milner’s great skill and craftsmanship is very apparent in Moel Fammau. The locomotive itself is 55 inches long rising to a height of 33 inches at the top of the cab.  She also sports, uncharacteristically, a 40” tender.  There is a saturated steel boiler having expanded steel tubes and as in  most locomotives it has a fusible plug in fire box (safety precaution allowing water to be dropped onto the fire if the water tank should run low, the screw in soft solder plug melts allowing remaining water to douse the fire in the boiler).

The working pressure is 90 PSI, with twin salter safety valves. The water feed is serviced by twin injectors, and there are mountings on the left-hand motion bracket and a pin on the crosshead for a mechanical pump to be fitted if desired.  Cast Iron Cylinders inside slide Valves actuated by Stephenson’s valve gear with pole reverse in the cab. Drain Cocks are also operated from within the cab.

I am reliably informed that Moel Fammau is probably one of the best-known model Quarry Hunslet locomotives.  Milner Engineering is responsible not least for building a good few dozen of these locomotives themselves,  but they also produced drawings and castings for amateur model engineers to build their own Hunslets probably resulting in at least another few dozen builds.

Moel Fammau is undoubtedly a precise beautiful piece of engineering, presenting a graceful locomotive so why, I ask was, it painted that horrid Calf Scour colour?

And Paul, your choice of colour for the refurbishment of blue lined in black and white is not exactly appealing to me either.  However, it is all a matter of choice.


See more at:

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A hidden gem in Norfolk.

We were delighted to receive this write up from one of our customers in Norfolk. We are sure that you will enjoy reading it:

 “Although the railway is still very much a work-in-progress, all the PNP parts are fitted, and I attach a few pictures which have particular reference to the trackwork. Most of the re-planting has yet to be completed.

The total length of the line is approximately 600 feet, all in 7.25″ and includes a main loop, passing branch extension, triangular run-round enabling trains to run both clockwise and anti-clockwise on the line, and a two-road engine shed. All trackwork is on the PNP system. The steepest gradient is 1 in 20, the sharpest radius 15 feet, and there are seven sets of points. The line was laid on an existing mature Edwardian woodland garden, with MOT type 1 hardcore and 14mm Montsorrell granite ballast kept in place with boards. The PNP system meant that track could be produced very quickly and easily (using a rail-bender and a custom-made jig). The permanent way and trackwork was all down and operational within six months of starting.

Current motive power is provided by two Station Road Steam built 0-4-0 locomotives: a ‘Feldbahn’ which served as the firm’s demonstrator in Germany; and ‘Tihany’, an early ‘Stafford’ saddle tank with a distinguished history. Rolling stock consists of two driving trucks and a four-seat ride-in carriage by Paul Williamson, plus one three-seat ride-on convertible bogie truck.”

 Please do keep sending us details of your projects. We really do enjoy reading them and seeing your pictures.

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Baltic Tank 4-6-4 Locomotive


At the start of this time of self-isolation, I made a foray down to our garage, where some of our locomotives and rolling stock are housed, along with a variety of other bits and bobs. I was just contemplating one of my father’s miniature steam plants that he must have built way back in the late fifties, and just as I was trying to place where the piece of lino that was on its mounting board was from, my other half pointed out a puce green locomotive.

At first glance, to my untrained eye, she looked rather ungainly a long lanky tank engine with quite small wheels, to make it worse it had a funny sort of Tender truck behind it that I later found out was not a natural pairing for this locomotive. “Odd” I thought, but being no oil painting myself I kept quiet, as hubby launched into an explanation of what this 5” gauge locomotive was and why she was special.

Firstly, her size is unusual as this model is a 5” gauge reproduction of a prototype 5’ 6” broad gauge locomotive so a scaling factor of 1:13.2 has been employed to build this model. Normally for models of standard gauge (4’ 8½” ) a scaling factor of 1:12 or (actually 1: 11.3) for the purist using 1 1/16” to represent 1 foot is employed.

I was informed of this before he told me that she was a model of a Baltic tank 4-6-4 locomotive. She is a 3-cylinder tank engine built originally to service The Buenos Aires and Pacific Railway that was in service between 1886 to 1948. These 4-6-4 tank locomotives were designed and built by Robert Stephenson and Co. and this particular type of locomotive was built between 1928 and 1930. This model Baltic tank engine’s number is 2367 and as it worked on an Argentinean Railway you can see that the number plate is reproduced in the Spanish language Ferro Carril De Buenos Aires Al Pacifico.

Apparently, the name of this “Baltic” locomotive tank engine comes from the very first 4-6-4 tender locomotive, a 4-cylinder compound locomotive designed by Gaston du Bousquet for the Chemin de Fer du Nard in France in 1911. The 4-6-4 was designed and built for the Paris to Saint Petersburg express and so was named after the Baltic sea. This model Baltic tank engine is a copy of one designed and built by Robert Stephenson and Company Ltd, Darlington, engineers, as mentioned above. It was awarded a Highly Commended certificate at the 50th Model Engineer Exhibition, also at a Midlands Model Engineering Exhibition sometime later, and bears a plaque attesting to this on the front just below the smokebox.

I was looking at the 4-6-4 wheel arrangement on hubby’s model Baltic tank locomotive which according to my mentor is a fairly good wheel arrangement for passenger tank locomotives. However, more commonly a 4-6-2 arrangement is often employed. The beauty of a tank engine with carrying wheels at each end of the locomotive is that it can run equally well forwards as backwards and hence does not need to be turned on a turntable. The 4-6-4 is well suited to high speed running across flat terrain because this type of engine has fewer driving wheels than carrying wheels, hence a smaller percentage of the engines weight contributes to traction compared to other engines with more numerous driving wheels. The 4-6-4 is therefore more suited to higher speed passenger travel rather than hauling heavy freight or slogging up sustained grades and inclines.

The 4-6-4T, is essentially the tank locomotive equivalent of the 4-6-0 tender Locomotive, but they have water tanks and coal bunker supported by four smaller wheels trailing behind the engine instead of a tender.

Hubby’s model has three cylinders. The external (outside) cylinders valve gears are Walchaert’s, but the internal (inside) valve gear is Stephenson’s link. The inside cylinder drives an internal crank on the middle axle, as do the outside cylinders so they all drive on the same axle. The middle cylinder sits over the front bogie. This front bogie even has a swing-link system, so it is in effect a self-banking bogie. The turbo generator which can be seen on the images is capable of running the front or rear head lamp depending which way the locomotive is heading on the train. Powerful headlamps were necessary on the routes served by these locomotives, owing to the fact that many parts of this railway were unfenced, and obstacles and wildlife had to be detected early on the route.

The model has a non-prototypical four-wheel coal and water tender which when the removable part of the cab and imitation bunker coal is removed, makes driving much more convenient while adding to the distance that can be covered without stopping. All in all, a lovely model acquired from Robin West of View Models on the understanding that some refurbishment is required to bring it back to its former prize-winning condition.

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PNP bar rail chairs survive -20C

We recently received this from a customer. Interesting to note the temperature range that the bar chairs are subjected to, especially in relation to our recent post about their use in Canada. Many thanks for sending this in.

“My son’s garden railway is in Northern Italy close to the foothills of the Alps. It is, at the moment, an end to end run of about 155 yards in length with a passing loop of about 15 yards, but there is ample space to extend this to a continuous loop of about 400 yards. Family matters are ensuring that progress is very slow, but I know that I have taken out enough of your bar stock chairs to get at least 2/3 of the track built! Initially the track was laid on homemade concrete sleepers, but these were very time consuming to cast and have had a small mortality rate over the years. Following a rethink about half the track has been laid on plastic ‘timber’ purchased locally.

The track bed under the sleepers is at least 4″ deep, sometimes in a trench, sometimes on hard core, with about another 1.5″ ballast around the sleepers. In 10 years since the first lengths were laid nothing has moved significantly despite temperature variation from -15C to 35C regularly and -20C to 40C in extremes. Just for your interest the long straight is 70 yards long with the bottom half on a 1 in 50 gradient and the top half at 1 in 40. 

The blue loco featured in one of the photos is my Phoenix Locos Titan 5 “Alpine Courier” which I have taken over there on 3 occasions to give it a change of scenery. Purely for you own amusement in these rather boring times, if you look up ‘Alpine Courier’ on YouTube then find the one labelled Bellaria Alpine and Northern, this was filmed over the full length of my sons railway one lovely afternoon when we had nothing better to do than play with trains and cameras!” 

We really do enjoy reading about your installations and projects and seeing your photos, so please do send them in or post on our Facebook page. And we look forward to being able to sit in the sunshine and play with our trains again.


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Just how low can we go?

We recently had a request for a repeat order for a bar rail chair suitable for ½” x 1” hot rolled steel rail. The last order had been placed in 2005 for an installation in Canada where they do not have access to metric bar rail.

But this re-order came with a rather unusual question: At a track-planning meeting yesterday the question of low-temperature tolerance of your chair material in a Canadian winter was raised. Can you tell me what the usable temperature range is for the chairs please? In our location the extreme low temperature would be about -20C on rare occasions. A normal winter low would be in the -5C to -10C range.

We had to put in quite a bit of research on this alongside the suppliers of the polymer. Although the manufacturers did not specify a minimum usable temperature in their data, we had been given a verbal assurance previously that it would withstand the temperature range requested.

Reassuringly for users of our metric sized chairs, these are also made from the same weather resilient polymer.
So, as we speak, 800 of these chairs are en-route to Canada. We will endeavour to find out how they faired in the depths of a Canadian winter.

The imperial chair is shown below alongside PNR-12K metric bar rail chair and below that in situ in Canada.
We are considering putting the imperial measurement chair into full production and adding to our website as a stock item. Do you think that it would be an item that would be of interest? Please do let us know.

PNP-5P and PNP-12KPNP-5P and PNP-12K


Imperial sized bar rail – Canada


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King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table

This week I finally made it down to a garage to meet a V.I.P. As I opened the doors there he was with big sad eyes, “SIR PERCIVALE”.

No we don’t have one of the Knights of the Round Table residing in a garage, but rather a 10¼” model of a Southern Railway King Arthur Class 4-6-0 locomotive Number E 772. The sad eyes of course are the spectacle plates in the cab designed to be almost teardrop in shape to allow for maximum vision in these minimum width cabs and to fit through the narrow tunnels on the Southern lines.

I was rather surprised by the sheer size of this model. The engine is 7′ 2″ long and the tender is 5′ 3″ a total length of 12′ 5″, it is 2′ 6″ from rail to tip of the cab and 1′ 9″ wide. It is built to true scale 2.18 inches to the foot, (a rather ragged fraction of 1/5.5 scale). At the moment “SIR PERCIVALE” is awaiting a paint job so the livery is rather patchy, but in parts you can see the green colour characteristic of the Maunsell period on the Southern Railway. The cab is rather spectacular but the tender has more paint than the Loco right now.







This model of a King Arthur was one of the Oakhill Manor in Somerset collection that was sold off in or before 2004. It has been slowly refurbished over the years and has now had a preliminary steam test but awaits its full boiler test to be signed off.

Having had my interest aroused I did a little research on the net and was amazed to discover that there were 74 full size King Arthur class Locomotives built for or by The L.S.W.R. and Southern Railway between 1918 and 1927. They were, of course, named as a massive advertising campaign for the Southern Railway.

This six-coupled class loco was derived from the 736 class of 4-6-0 engines introduced by a Mr Urie on the L.S.W.R. in 1917, however the original 22′ x 28′ cylinders of the forerunners were reduced to 20 1/2′ x 28′ in The King Arthur’s. The boiler pressure was also raised from 180 to 200lb psi, super heaters fitted, improved piston valves, more streamlined steam passages and a larger chimney with a capuchin.

In actual fact the original Urie engines were rebuilt as King Arthur’s, these are known as The Urie Arthurs’s, (20 in total), and some of the new engines, to the modified design, were built by the North British Locomotive Co. Ltd and these are fondly known as The Scotch Arthurs (30 in total).

The Eastleigh Arthur’s were built by Maunsell at Eastleigh (24 in total). SIR PERCIVALE is an Eastleigh Arthur as denoted by the prefix E before its number 772. Although I am given to understand, by the fountain of all knowledge (my husband), that all the King Arthurs were denoted as E as they ran and were maintained out of the Eastleigh works.

SIR PERCIVALE has an 8 wheel tender also known as a “Water Cart”. As the Southern lines did not have water troughs the locomotives could not pick up water on route. This was mainly because the Southern Railway was more of a commuter service offering shorter stopping passenger runs, hence the engines required less amenities en route than those of other railways, travelling much greater distances non-stop.







Some of The King Arthur’s, used on the eastern section of the line, had a six-wheeled tender ( to enable them to be turned on shorter turntables) whereas those engines used on the western section (like SIR PERCIVALE) sported the double-bogie tenders and could carry 5,000 gallons of water.

Unfortunately these majestic Locomotives were slowly edged out of service between 1953 and 1962. The Southern Railway being one of the first to adopt electric traction very early on in the 20th century.

SIR LAMIEL ( A Scotch Arthur named after a minor Knight of Cardiff and alleged to have had a following of the fairer sex ) is the last remaining full size preserved King Arthur and it can be found on display at The National Railway Museum in York, or out running on either the mainline or a preserved line quite often.

The Urie Arthur’s have romantic Arthurian names including EXCALIBUR, CAMELOT, TINTAGEL and MORGAN LE FAY,to name but a few. The Eastleigh and Scotch Arthurs are all “SIR’s” apart from QUEEN GUINEVERE and KING ARTHUR himself in the Eastleigh group.

The full size SIR PERCIVALE entered into service in June 1925 and was withdrawn in September 1961. As a romantic footnote the knight himself was a legendary knight of the round table in King Arthur’s Court and he was noted as a hero in the quest for the grail, before being replaced in later literature by Sir Galahad.

A wonderful piece of railway history that should enthrall all model engineers and miniature railway enthusiasts not to mention fans of heritage and historic steam locomotives.