So where is it?

Now I know roughly what the new layout is going to be, the next question is: where is it?

The original concept of the HWLR was for it to run north from Rye on the Sussex coast to Tenterden, where it would assume the route of the Kent & Sussex Railway as built to Headcorn and then on along the authorised extension to Maidstone. Branches to Hawkhurst and Cranbrook provided the settings for Dave Holman’s O16.5 layouts.

HWLR overview

My interpretation of this extended the Hawkhurst branch further – west to Hurst Green and then down to Etchingham for a connection with the Hastings-Tonbridge line (rather than the K&ESR which took the flatter route via Northiam to Robertsbridge) and further to Burwash with an eventual target of Heathfield in mind. Ambitious, certainly, but in the slightly parallel realities our model railways tend to inhabit we can assume that it was made to be.

From all of this, which section is a candidate for a preservation project (that also suits my track plans)?

Phase 2

Phase 2 is fairly easy – Burwash is a very attractive village and the buildings of the high street would make a good setting for the simple terminus planned here. If we say that the last part of the HWLR to operate pre-preservation was the gypsum mine branch to the south east, running to an interchange at Etchingham on the Hastings line we can probably drag it’s survival out to the late 1950s or early 60s when it was replaced by a conveyer belt system (in reality this runs down to Mountfield sidings between Robertsbridge and Battle). If the initial focus of restoration was east towards Hurst Green and Hawkhurst (perhaps another fictional gypsum mine in that direction kept that section going as well) then Burwash can be a fairly recent re-opening with ‘basic railway’ infrastructure.

Location - Burwash

The main village high street is on a ridge, climbing east to west, and School Hill from the south rises sharply to meet it. At the junction itself is a war memorial and a pub across the road. So far so good.

Having the railway bridge over School Hill would send the trackbed through a church yard on the east approach but I’m sure we can massage geography a little to suit.

Moved carriage siding

The Phase 1 end I’m not so sure about. I have a fairly clear idea that the setting is going to be an ‘edge of town’ location where further progress along the original trackbed is no longer available – so which town?

Location - Hawkhurst

My first option is Hawkhurst, where on my fictional map there were small halts on both sides of the A268 just as the Cranbrook branch diverged to the north. The southern halt has become the natural limit of the railway and grown into a substantial preservation era terminus.

This would give an approximately 7.5 mile railway in preservation.

Location - Rye Foreign

The second option is to go all the way to the edge of Rye, which via Hawkhurst makes for a 20-21 mile railway and a very different proposition in terms of resources and rolling stock needed to operate. Between Peasmarsh and Rye on the A268 is the delightfully named Rye Foreign which would be a brilliant station nameboard.

The scenery here is much flatter and more rural so would be as much a contrast with Burwash as the slightly grander surroundings of Hawkhurst.

While I would love to pretend that there was a 20 mile long 2’6″ gauge railway up the road from my house, the shorter version feels more plausible. There is also the point that “Fairlight” in this version of reality is a fictional town with attributes of Rye and Hastings old town – roughly midway between the two. So the final option is make the Phase 1 terminus Fairlight “Something” and invent an equally fictional identity for a town in place of Burwash.

Posted in 009, fairlight, model railways, narrow gauge | Comments Off on So where is it?

Tiny tar tank

While planning and preparation for the new layout is underway, I actually have a “here’s one I made earlier” up my sleeve to fill an otherwise empty space.

Over Christmas I decided to get some soldering practice in and build a Glyn Valley Railway tar tank by N Brass Locos. It’s a tiny little thing, the chassis is around the size of a penny and so while assembly is quite intricate there is the advantage of not needing a load of heat to get the solder flowing.

N Brass GVT tar tank (009)

N Brass GVT tar tank (009)

I hadn’t soldered a kit together for quite a while, so it was nice to pick something up that could be completed with a couple of evenings’ effort. Well, almost completed. It still needs a filler cap and tap fitting, couplings and painting.

N Brass GVT tar tank wagon (009)

I’m not sure if it has a role on Fairlight 2.0 – it would be a good contender for the ‘to be restored’ siding if weathered heavily, but it’s also a nice little item in it’s own right.

It would also be interesting to compare it size-wise to the Mercian / Knightswork water tank that Phil Parker built recently.

Posted in 009, narrow gauge | Comments Off on Tiny tar tank

Fairlight 2.0: This time I mean it

Or, the realisation you actually had the right idea ten years ago

When I came back to narrow gauge modelling in 2006, my first attempt at a new 009 layout was of a preservation-era railway built into a set of Ikea Ivar shelves in our flat in St Leonards. We’ll skip through the next decade of changed minds, false starts, family dramas and house moves because in the end the appeal of that idea has never really gone away.

The railway was (not originally, but later would become so) the High Weald Light Railway, a 2’6″-ish gauge replacement for the Kent & East Sussex Railway that – in the mind of Dave Holman, it’s original creator – ran from Rye on the south coast up to Headcorn and Maidstone with branches to Hawkhurst and Cranbrook. His O-16.5 layout of Hawkhurst was featured in the Railway Modeller in 1991 and formed one of my key modelling inspirations. He later built another, Cranbrook, which I came to own for a while but never really ‘got’ either 7mm scale or the idea of maintaining and modifying someone else’s layout.

But the concept of the HWLR stayed with me, and in 2013 I posted a plan for a “New HWLR” layout in 009 which would replace Cranbrook in the office I worked from at the time.

Planning again v1.2b

Needless to say zero progress was ever made and after a change in work focus I gave up that office and no longer had a suitable space for a permanent layout until we moved house in early 2016. Recently I’ve been planning what to do next, and it turns out that “next” looks a lot like the original plan…

Still 009. Still the preservation era HWLR. Back to something that can be mounted on Ivar shelving, although now upgraded to the deeper 50cm version which has proved to be a better fit for the storage crates for Narrow Planet (not a consideration in 2006!). In it’s current configuration the shelving gives me up to a 2.9m / 9’6″ run at around 1.2m height, split into three sections between the uprights. Although more on that in a moment.


Phase 1 is going to be the main terminus of the preserved railway, stretching over 83cm and 42cm shelf modules. Although the shelves are robust I’m anticipating building on a separate baseboard that sits on top of them – on the older type of Ivar the shelves simply lifted off the uprights, but have recently been redesigned to now clip on more securely and the force needed to dismantle them would risk damage to a integrally constructed layout.

The trackplan here is essentially the same layout as the 2013 plan, although the smaller space means the entrance over the road bridge has been lost and sidings have been added to give loco facilities suitable for an established terminus. Points on the loop are Peco 18″ radius, with 12″ in the yard. As we’re in the modern era there could potentially be a museum element to this although I also like the idea of showing something under construction.

I had thought there would be room for a town scene here too but on reflection I’m going to keep it fairly open and focussed on the railway – perhaps as if the site is slightly removed from the town the line originally served.


Moving to the left there are two further 83cm sections. The first (i.e. middle) has taller uprights and further shelving above so seems to fit as a fiddle yard, initially serving only Phase 1. It could eventually run through to a second terminus on the left-most shelf section, representing the ‘other’ end of the railway. I’ve drawn in a train turntable which would be useful for storage and for potentially running each end of the layout as separate operation.

This is because initially I thought about having Phase 2 as a pre-preservation scene, so it was planned with a shorter loop and tighter 12″ points. At this end the focus would be on the town, with places like Hawkhurst and Burwash in mind.


(All of the plans above can be viewed at a larger size by clicking through to their Flickr pages.)

However I found I wasn’t happy with the more cramped nature of the shorter length and, given there is room in the garage for a further 42cm module to balance the two halves, decided to draw up a potential longer version taking the overall length to 3.3m / 10′ 10″.

In this configuration I would set both ends in the modern day, with a transfer ramp sneaking in to show how visiting stock arrives at the railway, but the town behind could be fairly timeless and serve as a backdrop for vintage services as well. Operation can now more easily be ‘somewhere to somewhere’ which really appeals to me in a model railway.

Whether I actually get as far as the full train turntable or just opt for a simpler fiddle yard remains to be seen, but there are plenty of other things to do first including this pair of ex-Meridian Models Bagnall open wagons which were assembled today in a few spare ten minute breaks during the day job.

Meridian Models 8-ton Bagnall wagons (aka Bagwags)

* Incidentally the O-16.5 layout Cranbrook is still in good hands and I believe is due to be exhibited at the Narr-O exhibition in Merstham on April 22nd.

Posted in 009, fairlight, ideas, model railways, narrow gauge, planning, track plans | Comments Off on Fairlight 2.0: This time I mean it

And done

Completed RNAD crew van kit

By my standards, under a year from considering a project to it becoming a thing is some kind of speed record. Presenting the RNAD crew van, an 009 kit in 3d print and etched nickel silver. This has leapfrogged a couple of other projects because a) I liked it when I saw one at Corris Railway last April (and later worked out they are at other places including Amberley) and b) as it’s effectively a box on wheels would be fairly easy to design.

It is now listed at Narrow Planet and also available from Parkside Dundas and (when I have more stock to give them) the Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railways shop.

As for here, evidence from lack of posting is probably a good sign that I’m not much of a layout modeller of late. Not only lack of time but really coming round to the realisation that the bit of the hobby I really enjoy is designing and making things that are useful to other people. So I’m calling time on this blog. I have some work to do on the Narrow Planet website and when that is completed intend to switch to product development focussed updates there instead because that will give a lot more to talk about and it doesn’t feel right being so blatantly self-promotional in this format.

Thanks for all your comments and feedback over the years, and see you again soon!

Posted in 009, amberley, ego trips, kits, marketing, meta, model railways, narrow gauge, new products, preservation | 1 Comment

I accidentally all the kits

I went on the recent trip to Wales with a couple of specific items in mind to measure up and evaluate for potential Narrow Planet kits. As is often the case I came back with more than I bargained for.

RNAD van at Maespoeth

This utilitarian box, pictured at the Corris Railway at Maespoeth, is one of the crew vans built for RNAD Broughton Moor by Hudson in the mid 1980s. Perhaps not the most charming of narrow gauge vehicles, but a good companion for the Baguley-Drewry and it appeals to my industrial sensibilities. It was kind of on the radar before the trip, but a close up examination revealed how modellable it was.

And so.


And this is where I’m up to 009. It has a 3D printed chassis and bogies all printed in one piece, of which more shortly, with etched body and details. So far it seems to be fitting together rather well, and appears to be a usefully quick project to get something new to market.

Test build body

Posted in 009, industrial, kits, model railways, narrow gauge, new products | 2 Comments