Fairlight Works

Official blog of the High Weald Light Railway (1977) Co. Ltd.

Inspiration – Belfield Hall Estate Railway

inspiration model-railways narrow-gauge

When featured in the Railway Modeller in 1990 the Belfield Hall Estate Railway must have been, in retrospect, one of the first layouts to pick up two current themes of small layout design – minimum gauge and the ‘pizza’ concept.

It was built by Stephen Brown in what is now commonly called 0-9 – 7mm/ft scale and 9mm gauge track representing 15″ gauge – and in a circular format with a 3ft radius baseboard. Unlike smaller, modern ‘pizza’ layouts however it had a conventional track plan depicting three separate scenes on a private estate railway taking supplies and produce between the “big house” and the nearest mainline station.

Belfield Hall - 09

At the time I had never seen anything like it, and I remember sketching out my own ideas for circular layouts after reading the RM article. Clearly others did too, because a clever 009 layout called Ty Morau (The Seasons) used the same circular format with four scenes (I’ll leve you to work out what each one was).

Happily the BHER still exists, now in the stewardship of Tony Hill, and I got the chance to see it for myself at ExpoNG in 2007. The scenery has been updated but the core of the layout is still the same and it still rotates – so in effect a moving train can stay in view while the board turns.

Belfield Hall - 09

Stephen Brown has posted a history of the layout on his website, and you’ll also find details there of a new project – Belfield Quay in 16mm/ft scale – which contains a tantalising mention of a never completed 4ft radius version of Belfield Hall…

A newer, and equally inspirational 0-9 layout is Colin Peake’s Shifting Sands, which reproduces elements of many seaside tourist attractions on a similar sized (although rectangular) board.

Although there is already too much on my ‘to-do’ list to be able to consider my own minimum gauge project, occasionally my thoughts do turn to it. Generally speaking I am more interested in 18″ gauge prototypes – the likes of the Woolwich Arsenal system or the line that once served the local Brede Valley waterworks (Carl Arendt has based a layout idea on this one). To hit that scale/gauge combination sweet spot one could use 10.5mm track in 7mm/ft scale or 9mm track in 5.5mm/ft scale. Maybe if I ever build that model of Carnegie