It was a really dreary Saturday morning in early December. We were heading down to Burghclere in Hampshire to meet up with a very good friend of ours who is also a very clever and talented engineer.
For some months he has formed part of a small band of volunteers who have been constructing a light railway around the soccer pitch in the village of Burghclere and they were celebrating the start of the venture with a Christmas fair and running day.
We arrived in the early part of the afternoon to find stalls and catering facilities set up around the club house. The volunteers and stall holders were doing a marvellous job of keeping their wares dry in the pouring rain.
I was particularly impressed with the ladies on the catering stand, who were valiantly keeping mince pies dry with cling film whilst serving an endless stream of customers with hot beverages whilst also manning a barbeque. Inside the club house we found Santa in his Grotto, a large tombola stall, a raffle, guess the name of the teddy and many other attractions.
A local church choir arrived and performed a lovely medley of Christmas carols before heading off down a small path to the engine shed/workshop that masquerades as a very pretty station to partake of a ride on the 7¼” gauge railway.
The young cleric himself even straddled the small carriage, cassock billowing in the wind with choristers seated behind him thoroughly enjoying every moment of the experience.
The track is as yet is only partially laid around about a third of the field. It will eventually totally circumnavigate the soccer pitch.
A water tower has been erected alongside the facade of a station. We were told that it had only just been put up, one of the volunteers had made it using an old drum that they found on site which he had very skilfully mounted onto the plinth that he had also constructed.
The train itself was utilising two engines (so double the pleasure and interest for the enthusiast) both beautiful models of Great Western Railway engines. At the far end of the push me pull you line up, I found a beautifully executed model of a Great Western Railway 14XX class tank engine, in traditional G.W.R green. These wonderful standard gauge (4′ 8½”) locomotives were originally built at the G.W.R. Swindon works between 1932 and 1936, a total of 75 being produced. Their design is accredited to Charles Collett, however the original design dates back to 1868 with the introduction of the George Armstrong 517.
True to form the model has an 0-4-2T wheel configuration, twin internal cylinders and slide valves. Sadly, they were withdrawn from service between 1956 and 1965 although four full sized preserved locomotives survive today.At the other end of the consist, in black livery, I found another G.W.R locomotive. This beautiful beasty was a 15XX 0-6-0 pannier tank engine.
This is a perfect copy of one of ten locomotives also built at the Swindon works in 1949. It is an unusual design having external cylinders (17.5″ x 24″), Walschaerts valve gear and a very short wheel base of just 12′ 10″ which allowed it to navigate curves of 3.5 chains (231′ ). The full-size locomotives were quite restricted by their weight and wheelbase rendering them unsuitable for fast running.
The majority of their work was confined to stock movement and they were often utilised at Paddington station. The originals were withdrawn from service between 1959 and 1963, however one working preserved locomotive can be seen at The Severn Valley Railway.
The two 7¼” gauge models complete with three coaches gave us a very smooth ride down the newly laid stretch of track and back.
After our small excursion we were shown the workshop, including some ingenious pieces of equipment that had been personally designed by our host to aid track laying (which utilises PNP Railways PNR-5B bar rail chairs)
I must say we had a lovely afternoon with the trains in this very picturesque village, and we look forward with anticipation to the completion of this wonderful project.