Welcome to the home pages of the Blatchington branch a privately owned 5 inch gauge garden railway in East Sussex. These are living pages & as such I am constantly adding & updating them so do come back from time to time to see what is happening on the line. Since the start of the line around 2002 these pages have kept growing, it's my intention to keep the content as balanced as possible & to include details of as many suppliers as possible, please let me have any comments or suggestions about additions that I should make. The line is open to the public a few times each year when all can come & play but I'm also happy to show individuals or small groups round if they want to take a more serious look when there are no children about. Please contact me to arrange a visit.
We are on track for the first public weekend of 2017 which will be on 6 & 7 May when we will be raising funds for Happy paws puppy rescue in Eastbourne. Do come along for a ride & find out more about the trains, we've managed to carry 1 passenger who was around 18 stone so dont be shy come & have a go. Over winter we have done quite a lot of work on the track & garden, parts of the grass are looking a bit battered but hopefully the next couple of weeks should see it green up a bit. Do keep an eye on these pages for updates.
The replacement tree for the elm arrived today & has been planted, the last bits of stump of the elm are being ground out on Thursday all being well which will allow us to start work on locating a further pond & relocated waterfalls. Track work continued over last weekend, with the help of Mike Voros we managed to rebuild & locate a replacement point just leaving a few minor alterations & ballasting to do. It is hoped that the 3 open weekends this year will be on 6 & 7 May, 1 & 2 July & finally 9 & 10 September - these dates will be confirmed nearer the time.
The weather was not too good yesterday but we managed to get some of the track work, repairs & upgrades underway. First off was to lift 4 panels close to where the elm tree had been & start to clean the ballast & replace 1 length of rail plus a couple of sleepers. Also we managed to outline the work necessary to replace 1 of the original points thatis looking very sad now. Work continues next weekend if all goes to plan.
Sadly Trent, my retired guide dog, passed away at the end of January. He'll be missed by many at our open weekends where up until recently he enjoyed a ride round on the trains with the visitors. Talking of open weekends we are sorting out this years events, there will hopefully be 3 weekends again this year, dates to be confirmed so keep an eye on these pages for details. Really must get on with the track work that needs doing, everything apart from the weather is in place for the work so I must pull my finger out soon!
The last week has seen a lot of earth moving & the start of construction of a small retaining wall as you can see in the picture above. Once the wall is complete I'll be doing some minor repairs & cleaning of the track in the area.
Things are on the move in the garden! an earth & grass bank that was close to the line has been dug back & will be replaced with a wall which will stop people catching their feet & as a bonus (I hope) make it look a bit station like into the bargain. Progress with removing the stump of the elm tree is slow but continues, once this is done a further pond can be positioned & the original waterfalls relocated at the head of this smaller pond. Still looking for a replacement tree which I still hope to have planted within the next couple of months.
Over the last couple of days the diseased elm tree in the front garden has been removed. Really sad to see it go so I've started hunting for a replacement, along with the new tree we hope to include a further stream & waterfall as we now have a bit more room to play with. In other news 2 handsets & the controller for the class 37 have returned from Parkside after being serviced post the last open weekend, the new carriage racks are completed & ramps being constructed to make accessing the various wagons easier.
2 new notice boards are now under the initial stages of construction, these will be used for future open events both for advertising & information. 2 new racks for the stock are nearing completion, each 1 holds up to 4 coaches & is on casters for ease of movement, photos soon. We hope to be able to use ramps to get the heavier sit in wagons up to the lower level. The open day page has been updated, still a bit more work to update the video links to YouTube clips rather than streaming locally held video - found that we had raised £53 more than I had previously thought, now our total stands at £3,599 thanks to your generous support of our events. Now working my way down this page changing the older bits into annual summaries rather than the diary format which included lots of duplication.
After a few days to recover from the last open weekend my efforts will be directed to planning the removal of the dead elm tree & the subsequent landscaping of that part of the garden & as always there is plenty of work to be done on the track Must also spend sometime sorting out these pages, I'll be going through this page first attempting to put things into a year by year highlights & stripping out the rubbish that creeps in over time. Any ideas for new bits or items that need more explanation would be welcome.
A really big thankyou to everybody who helped over the weekend, Jan Daynes, Marc Tiltman, Tom Exley, Gary Peach, Harvey Lock, Grace Smith, Eric & Margaret Scott plus others & to all the visitors both old & new who came along this time a& took our grand total of fund raising to an amazing £3,599 since the line opened for its first public viewing in 2007. Now for a long rest before we start sorting out the various snags on the track & get things ready for our first event in 2017! Kraken & Trent (the dogs) & the rest of the team are looking forward to seeing you all then. This last event marked the 5th anniversary ot the naming of the Elm viaduct & sadly the last time the tree itself will be here as it has been struck by dutch elm disease & therefore has to be removed. This time we were raising funds for Kidney research UK in memory of my brother in law who sadly died last February after a long fight with kidney problems. A cheque for £480 is heading their way right now - thanks to all.
The sit astride driving carriage now has fully working brakes, they are of a dead mans design so fully on until the driver puts his foot on a peddle. These brakes combined with the regenerative braking system on the Parkside controller seem to offer a nice amount of stopping power which will be very pleasing to all the drivers on our next public event which is on 10 & 11 September - will get some pictures shortly.
A mixture of work underway on the line at the moment. Following problems with the class 47 during the last open day I've fitted longer & stronger springs to the bogies (more on the loco pages) & purchased a new pair of batteries for the class 37, both now seem to be running well. Next on the agenda is a couple of bits of track work, replacing a worn rail & swapping out a set of points that need some fine tuning.
Another good weekend, the weather was kind to us again & we had a good steady flow of visitors including some new faces. We raised £360 for Honey cat rescue in Eastbourne this time which brings are grand total of funds raised to £3066. The new tunnel was very popular adding a new feature for this event, as always there were a few snags with the trains but this did not seem to upset our passengers.
A few changes to these pages, for those using mobile devices you should notice all the pages are better presented & start more or less in full screen. Video clips are being all ported to YouTube & there is a general cleanup & bringing up to HTML5 standards where possible.
Nicely in time for the next open weekend which will be on the 2 & 3 July I'm pleased to say construction of the tunnel is more or less complete, Thanks to the artistic eye of Marc Tiltman, I hope you will all agree, we have a most impressive addition to the line. Constructed of plywood the whole thing can be put up & removed by 2 people in a matter of minutes, take a look at the video below to experience a test ride round.Trip through the new tunnel behind class 47
Nothing to shout about really but I've just started sorting out the gallery a bit, still lots to do here.
Here's some pictures of the last open weekend, a really big thanks goes to Julie Barton & her steam punk friends who came along & added some colour to the event - hope to see them all again next time.
Well what a weekend! more people than ever & the weather held up for us. Sadly we had a series of technical problems on sunday afternoon that ment we had to resort to people power to give the kids a ride round - a big thanks to Andrew Lock & Marc Tiltman who really did put their backs into the task. Thanks also go to a bunch of folks who came in full steam punk gear adding colour & interest to the crowd. Jan's cakes went down well as always & she is already planning the menu for the July event. All these people & cakes helped us raise an amazing £516.58 for Sussex search & rescue - thanks everyone.
The new points are now planted, tested & ready to use! The weather has been good to me over the last week or so allowing me to finish off my spring track alterations. Changing the existing straight point to a 'Y' configuration has made a considerable difference to the trackwork across the drive smoothing out a previous pintch point on the line - See my track panel page for more details on construction.
Still here! I have to blame the weather, it's just been so dull I could not get my act together to start on the new points but now with the first public event within range I must get going. There has been minimal work done over winter, some edging bricks near the drive have been adjusted so we can remove a dip in the track & the point parts have made it to the work bench so things are on the move.
Once the last open weekend of the year had gone I started planning on some bits of work on the line which should hope to make things work just that bit better. There are 2 points that are going to be altered, a right hand point is being changed to a 'Y' which will hopefully smooth out the bend across the drive & the point at the end of the reverse loop is having some faults corrected which should remove a bit of a tight bend on the main line across the middle of the garden. On top of that there are several areas of the original track which need the sleepers replacing, some of these sleepers are now over at least 12 years old so have done pretty well I recon.
We held 3 public events during the year, the last being the best fund raising weekend so far, the Kent, Surrey & Sussex air ambulance receiving a total of £370. The weekend also SAW a new sit astride coach enter service, good news for the drivers as it has a padded seat plus we were able to cope with more passengers on each ride than ever before. Pleased to say for quite a lot of the time we were able to use all the track & rather than just going in the same direction all the time we were able to use both bridges & circle the house in both directions during a single journey. The locos ran well but the stock on the second event gave us some headaches, a wheel had come adrift on a sit astride coach which for most of the time did not show up, a real tricky problem to spot surprisingly as when with lifted the coach to inspect the wheel appeared in place, it only shows up if you grab the wheel at each end of an axle & twist in opposing directions.
2 companies I thought I'd mention as they have been extremely helpful & efficient - The metal store for angle iron & casters & Kay's fasteners for bolts & nuts - details via google or my helpful links page.
We have been busy building the chassis for a further sit astride coach & racking for the coaches to be stored on. The new coach is hoped to feature both brakes & a built in controller, the aim being to run a long control lead through the 2 other coaches to the engine so the driver can sit at the rear of the train enabling them to keep an eye on young passengers. The new racking will increase are storage area & tidy up the garage a bit. A potentially sad bit of news is that the large Elm tree in my front garden is not looking to healthy & appears to have succumb to dutch elm disease, if it has there will be considerable work to sort out this bit of the garden as I would like to replace the tree & maybe alter some of the banks in the area without disturbing the track.
The class 47 is now back in service after repairs to the Parkside control unit. The wiring has been cleaned up & the control unit put on a higher frame to keep wires further away from the wheels & to make accessing the bolts holding the bogies more easily accessable. Photo shortly.
The mrrails sound unit was installed in the class 58 for testing last weekend, it offers 4 fixed length sound clips which can be played at the touch of a switch. It works nicely showing a lot of potential but the sound clips supplied dont really do it justice, I'm going to contact them to chat over getting a programmer for it & to check the sample rate of the clips.
For extra safety we have added side panels to the sleeper bridge, these are constructed from 9mm marine ply & bolted into the sleepers when required. We hope this will reduce the urge for people to nlean over as the train goes over this area of track.
Just as I thought Trent had got too old to enjoy a ride round he took it into his head to enjoy a couple of laps in the new wagons as shown above.
We had 2 visiting locomotives this year, many thanks to John Harwood & Steve Steer for bringing their Polly 5 along, so good to have live steam on the line during a public event.
Graham Lelliott brought his class 50 along for a test run for an afternoon, this was a nicely detailed loco. There was a a couple of controller issues that came up that needed addressing but nothing that stopped us having an enjoyable afternoon.
Managed to get a gap in the weather long enough to get the train out on its first test run of 2015. In the above picture you can see the rake of 4 rebuilt sit in wagons on their first test trip being overseen by my new guide dog Kraken. Apart from the new bodywork we have now got a foot operated brake, the brake is installed on the latest design of Ride on Railway bogies & seems to do the trick nicely.
The year started with a lot of track work, following the completion of large amounts of work on the house areas of rail were covered in sand & rubble etc. The end of the year saw me planning work on 2 sets of points, the spring return on 1 & a change of angle into the frog on another. Also some of the outter rail on a curved section needed to be replaced, this is where the leading wheels of bogies rub against the rail & over time actually damage the inner face to such an extent that the wheel can run up the surface & jump the rail. After what I think must be around 10 years of heavy service my original bogies from the class 37 returned to Bexhill engineering for a full service & are now back home & fully up to speed. The service saw a new set of wheels with the normal sized flange rather than the increased one that I had requested when I first started building the line as I was having lots of problems with the track. Also for the engines, an Mrrails horn unt arrived, will be trialing this when I get a project box & necessary switches. Work continued on the rolling stock during the year, the final sit in wagon was close to the end of its rebuild & was fitted with a Ride on Railways braked bogie. A further sit astride coach should hopefully take shape over the coming winter, this sit astride is going to be slightly longer than the existing 2 coaches, have a padded seat & will be fitted with the second pair of the Ride on Railways braked bogies. We are also thinking of building 1 of the controller handsets into the roof to reduce dangling cables where possible, it would be nice to run control lines through the other coaches so that, during public events, we could drive from the rear wagon so allowing the driver to keep an eye on young passengers. The braked bogies are a real bonus, although the controller offers regenerative braking it's so nice to have that added stopping power & to be able to hold the train stationary while loading the passengers.
We had 2 very successful public events during the year. The first linked in with Seaford station's 150 year railway anniversary there was a visit from Britannia Pacific' class steam locomotive No. 70013 "Oliver Cromwell", to mark the weekend. A very welcome visitor to the branch itself was Kevin Gordon who kindly came along in full period transport police uniform which added a further vit of interest & colour. The class 58 was solar powered for the first time, probably not possible to do this for all the engines but quite a nice milestone to get the 1 engine charged that way. Two new bodies for the sit in wagons were also used for the first time & prooved very popular. Finaly back briefly to solar power, thanks to Sun Store Solar in Worthing who sourced a mounting kit for me I now have 3 250w solar panels on my roof, it's hoped that these will be able to charge the locos & possibly provide enough power between times to light the house - I'm in the process of converting my interior lighting to 12v as part of these trials.
Very quiet on the railway this year, I had a large amount of building work done on my house which took far longer than expected. During this work the trains found a new home in my dining room - for months the house was in chaos! Towards the end of the year, at long last, I was able to start cleaning up large areas of the track. This work included building some new panels & replacing the outer rails of curves - whilst these panels were out I took the chance to clean up the ballast removing the accumulation of grass cuttings etc. While being stuck in dors I took a further look at the increasing amount of DCC sound available for N gauge, there are dozens of clips on YouTube showing these locos in operation - anyway I took the plunge & purchased a Gaugemaster controller & a Wickness models class 37 to play with to see how I get on
The solar farm took a step forward, the panels are now connected & have been charging batteries. Tricky to give figures yet but at a guess even in winter sun we would be able to fully charge a locos batteries in less than a day! now I can hear you saying this is a very expensive way to charge batteries & you would be right but I am hoping to do more than run the railway with them.YouTube video - 6 August 2012
Here's a video showing how the back garden was shaping up by August, this clip includes crossing the viaduct in both directions in a single journey.
Since the completion of the trackwork we have been doing a lot of testing (not playing trains!) In the above pictures you can see myself with Marc Tiltman doing one of many "test runs" over the sleeper bridge, a general view of the sleeper bridge & a view of the viaduct with the ponds & waterfall in the background. All went well with the new track sections including the 14 foot radius bends by the drive which form the return loop at the end of the sleeper bridge showing that even large locos like the class 37, 47 & 58 can get round a very tight bend provided there is a little track spread.
The class 47 body shell had a new home on a home made angle iron frame! for a while we have been swapping the body with the 37 chassis but now we have another set of bogies so we have built its own frame. I will be the usual Parkside controller configuration. The only thing to find now is a sound unit, has anyone out there used an Mtronics module?
Just the 1 public event this year which included a visit from Ben Harvey with his loco, the event also took the total donations now from the Blatchington branch supporters to an amazing £1,010!
By the end of this week all parts for the ponds & waterfalls should be on site if not already in place, most of the digging is done so it's now down to plumbing everything in & hoping for some rain to bed the lot in. Meanwhile work continues on the last fragment of track construction on the reversing loop.
A few weeks on & you can now see what the finished garden work should look like, more soil to be added, plus plants & hopefully grass if we get any rain!
Although it has been bloody freezing there has been more work on the front garden, in the above pictures you can see that the pond has been planted & the waterfalls have been sited - next steps are to construct a small retaining wall against the bank where the wheelbarrow is seen and then to infill round the waterfalls.
The main event of 2011 was the viaduct project, started in august 2010 the main line over the viaduct was completed in time for the September open weekend with just the return loop to complete plus the landscaping to finish. The pond & waterfall were nearly in place & the creation of the stream under the viaduct was planned out with a target of an open weekend event by May or June 2012 to show off the finished work.
Only managed 2 public events this year, the first at the end of July featured a visiting loco owned by Ben Harvey of Newhaven & the second in September saw the official naming of the Elm viaduct which sports a very smart name plate supplied by Marc Tiltman which adds the finishing touch to Pat Eagers superb brickwork. Clearly lots of track work this year, new points built from scratch, blocks across the driveway to give a level crossing effect & the final curves bent rather than wedged into shape.
Ride on Railways supplied a diamond crossing which is planted at the east end of the viaduct allowing the return loop to cross the main line. On the electronics side of things I spotted a sound unit under development in a YouTube clip by 'hobbysteve' showing a demo of his new prototype controller & sound unit, not available as yet but possibly worth further investigation. I had an updated controller put into the class 37, it's another Parkside electronics but this one has regenerative braking which is not any where close to real brakes but it does certainly slow you down a bit.
The year started well with a midnight trip round the house on 1 January with a group of friends, done this for several years now & makes a really good start to the new years party! We held 3 public events during the year all following much the same patern, all OK but with the usual round of snags. The September event was slightly marred as are guest musician Richard Slack could not make it due to increasing ill health so people had to put up with Tom Cunliffe & myself thrashing around on guitar & mandolin for a while. In august we announced the viaduct project, I blame Peter Gatward! - it's his fault! - no really it is. After a couple of visits to the Beacon light railway I fell hook, line & sinker for the idea of including a bridge on the branch, at this point things got a little out of hand, why just a bridge? why not a viaduct I mused? so after considerable red wine & careful consideration the plans started to come together & within a couple of weeks, with the help of Steve Rhodes, we started the work on the approaches to the structure. A couple of sessions saw us outlined the western approach & mark out the levels of the arches themselves. Somehow the idea of any sort of bridge had not entered my mind during the planning stages of my railway which was a shame as it would have saved a lot of embankment work if I had thought of it. Onto electronics, after much head scratching & fiddling we now have a reasonable sound system working on the class 37. We trialed it on 1 of the open days where it seemed to be well liked & certainly added another dimention to the line.
Track work figured large this year with the main item being the building of a short 30 foot long siding in the side garden to be used for storing of a rough works wagon & just another feature to look at. Additionally we had to adjust 10 of the edging bricks & rebend part of the main loop to ease a tight bend. In mid June I had a delivery of materials for the siding from Travis Perkins Newhaven, I'd really like to thank the driver for going that extra step when he made the delivery, sorry I don't have his name) but he took the bother to drop the stuff exactly where I wanted it & to show me where he had placed it - you would be amazed how difficult it can be finding things in your own garden when you can't see what you are doing & my guide dog does not help much unless Bonios are involved!
While the sun came out for a couple of hours we took the chance to take a few test trips round the line, the pictures above show Eric Meeds taking the controls, Eric was behind the building of the carriage bodies & a sounding board for many of my bright ideas! without Eric I really don't think the project would have ever been completed. The remote point control has taken another step forward in that the switching units are now planted, it's just the electronics to complete & wire up. In my continuing search for a sound unit for my locos I was pointed at a product by Magpie computer developments, it appears from the description to be the basic guts of the Phoenix unit but priced somewhat less at £295 however don't let that lower price fool you as although it costs less initially you will have to add several switches & already have a controller installed in your loco. After a very long delay I finally got a sound unit installed in my class 37, it's the Brian Jones FX4U, Not quite sure on my feeling about it yet, needless to say it did not work first time & required additional wiring - I've now added details of some sound modules to my locomotives pages so please look there for full details.
Another couple of open days this year helped by the usual crew plus the September event had live music on both days provided by John Cave, Jennifer Dole, Ian Cairns, Tom Cunliffe & myself.
A Ride on Railways Hercules from the Beacon light railway owned by Peter Gatward visited the line on are first event of the year, it spent the afternoon performing well towing the Blatchingtn branch's 2 sit astride coaches without hitch while my locos & sit in wagons decided to play up a bit. Earlier in the year Peter had brought along his Maxitrak Ruston to give it a run round the track, it was the first visitor to the line & performed quite well for such a light engine.
A bit of a milestone in April as the site counter registered its 10,000 visitor, I put this total down to the publicity that has been produced by holding the public events.
I suppose the real highlight of the year was The Blatchington branch on TV! Yes, we made it to the box in April! well actually it was for about 3 seconds & it showed my guide dog Trent at the controls trundling along but it still counts... If you missed it the first time watch out for repeats of "Animals do the strangest things" on ITV. All the elements of a simple point control & signal unit reached testing state towards the end of the year, they did work but not to a level that we were happy with. The system consisted of a solenoid controlled from an infra red receiver set in a box with a signal mounted on the top close to the line, thanks to Marc Tiltman who has mounted the solenoids & Ralph Woods who has been playing with the electronics!
We held 2 open days with the usual selection of problems but luckily all seemed happy enough & said they would come along next year.YouTube clip of the Blatchington branch open day on 27 July 2008
I took delivery of 2 new locos in the early part of the year, a complete class 58 & a body shell for a 47 both from Bexhill model engineering. The 58 had scale flanges on the wheels so showed up some further areas of the track that would need attention, did consider increasing the flanges like on the original 37 but managed to put everything right. Towards the end of September I was lucky enough to be invited along to visit the Lilian miniature railway in Hailsham with the new class 58. There was about a quarter of a mile of track which really gave the class 58 a chance to get up to a reasonable speed! For the first time we had a minor failure on one of the locos, a drive gear came adrift - a rather odd sound combined with lack of power & minor panic but all that was necessary was a dob of Loctite. 603 to anchor it back in place. More details coming soonon the locomotive pages. Started to put my mind to getting some sound on my engines but I couldn't find anyone who has actually got either of the ones I was looking at up & running. I'd been chatting to Brian Jones about his FX-4U which he is in the final stages of getting working with the Parkside controllers. The Phoenix locos supersound module seemed to be having some problems from what I could gather, reports of units failing & very long delivery times plus the price are putting me off this module. Moving onto track work. A new steel frog was installed at the east end of the passing loop, aluminium frogs are useless, this now makes this area a much smoother ride across these points. New sleepers were planted across the driveway, these sleepers have the track recessed into them so the rail is protected from cars crossing the track in level crossing style.
After many years of work we held our first open day on 1 September 2007, lots of fun but loads of problems!! still everyone said they'd see us next time.
A year with nothing much to report, busy building the line & started more serious work on these pages.
If you are reading these pages with just the hint of an inkling to build a railway of your own just a few words of caution - these trains are heavy & can move at quite a speed, around 300Kg at up to 10MPh has beensseen on the line, so they are not for unattended small children even if fitted with speed limiters. Also how ever long you think it will take to do a job multiply the time by 5 to get a more realistic estimate! Now read on & get tempted!!!
My thanks go to all those people I have nattered to on the phone over the last few years who have given me so much information and support even if they did think I was totally mad & two fingers to those who said it would never be completed. In some of the photos you might notice name plates on the stock, each coach has been named after those who have helped with construction, I think this could turn out to be a bit tricky to continue as just so many people have been involved along the way. Lastly a really special thanks to Eric Meeds for the hours & hours he has spent on building the rollingstock, he's managed to cope with all my bright ideas & apart from loads of bad language he seems to have survived the experience!
Please do drop in again soon for updates!
Site last amended - 20 April 2017 at 10:45