Garden Rail Article


In November 2013 The Elmtree Line was featured in Garden Rail Magazine.  

Here is the article on our railway reproduced with kind permission.    Garden Rail Magazine






Here is the text......


I have always had an interest in railways since my childhood, my father Worked for BR as did his father before. As a family we would travel to most places by rail and many holidays took on a railway theme at some point or other. Although I have never actually worked on the railways, (I did once apply to be a driver) my interest has never faded.


For many years I modelled in OO gauge. There were many differing layouts, each time growing in size and level of detail until, in 2003 I ventured outdoors. The railway was a simple OO gauge affair consisting of three large loops around the edge of the garden. There were two stations and a large bridge crossed by the two inner loops. However, the whole affair was laid on breezeblocks covered in roofing felt and never seemed to look right. It was also a nightmare to maintain and didn’t complement the garden itself.


Some four years and two house moves later I took the plunge and ordered a Roundhouse ‘Lady Anne’,
in blue. As the most enticing models from LGB and USA Trains would also run on 45mm track this became
my chosen gauge. At this point I didn’t have a permanent railway, with running sessions being undertaken
using track temporarily laid on grass at either my parent’s home or mine. Another house move in 2008 saw plans drawn up for a more permanent railway — and so began the life of the Elmtree Line.


The garden was a blank canvas of nothing more than grass, with a gentle slope well within the capability of a live-steam locomotive. I had decided on a ground level railway, because to me the most important thing was that the railway should have a lifelike feel to it — additional plants and buildings would also help create some sense of realism.


To build the railway I needed to remove the grass, and initially I considered using a mini digger. In
the end however, the line was built in stages, with the grass dug out and turned over by hand before the addition of track and plants. The soil was very clay rich in parts, which meant the ground was rock solid in summer and moved in the winter as it swelled with water.


During the first autumn, with very few plants and the grass turned over, parts of the garden flooded. Once the plants became established the heavy rainfall did less damage, only twice in the past three years did the lowest part of the railway spend a week or so under water.

Essentially the railway is one large circuit, with a winding inner loop, branch line and one outer passing loop. a larger through station. Early days saw the incorporation of an engine shed and sidings, but these became redundant as live-steam locomotives began to displace track powered electric stock. Over the years I have had three main types of trains; LGB modern Swiss electric loco hauled sets, American outline 1960/70s diesel hauled freight workings and of course live steam of narrow gauge origin.

Due to diminishing usage much of the non live steam fleet has been put up for disposal. In 2011 a narrow gauge line was added using Peco SM32 Flexittack, the main terminus being located off the circuit. In part the two lines hug each other and even cross two bridges together before diverging on separate routes through the garden.

The 45mm track was laid directly onto a mixture of 4mm and 6mm Limestone chippings, and float as per full sized practice. The 32mm track was screwed or nailed into 2ft length pieces of decking board.


Planting around the railway has been a continuous job, with plants that have grown and needed moving
further from the rails. Weeding and pruning is ongoing between March and October. In the first year bark
chippings were laid to slow down weed growth on what was then bare soil. A mixture of conifers, Japanese Acers, summer flowering bulbs and a multitude of various other plants gives the railway a natural and colourful backdrop. The spreading yellow flowers of the Egg Plant are a welcome addition early and late in the year.

The live-steam fleet is ever changing, with some staying with the railway year in year out. Others are purchased having seen use on other railways — they spend some time on the Elmtree Line and then move on to pastures new. This way many different locomotives can be enjoyed at the railway with little expenditure.


Amongst the permanent fleet is the last working locomotive to come from Pearse, a beautiful black ‘Ulysses’ lined out by Matt Acton of Berry Hill Works, a light blue Accucraft ‘Lawley’ painted and lined out by Geoff Munday of Lightlines making a not too distant semblance of a certain "Thomas", and a growing collection of Roundhouse ‘William’ locomotives of which I am still searching for a blue one!

The ‘come and go fleet’ has seen Merlin ‘Mayflower’ and ‘Major’ classes, a Cheddar ‘Hercules’, no less than three Roundhouse ‘Gungadins’, and many others. Occasionally these locomotives make it into the permanent fleet. Rolling stock is from a mixture of various manufacturers but predominantly Accucraft and USA Trains.

Many changes have been made to the railway to accommodate %uFB01lming, which has now become part and parcel of the railway’s operation. Plants, buildings and even embankments have been moved to give better backdrops for filming. If you have ever seen a film of the railway, (Which can be easily found on the internet) you will notice the only 1:1 scale inclusion is the fence, which runs the length of the garden on both sides. Afterall, one can hardly expect to give the illusion of a scaled down operational railway if a house or car is in the background of the shot. The buildings are a mixture of Modeltown and PendleValley, whilst the semaphore signals are from eBay.


As a final note, another house move beckons and the closure of the railway looms closer every day.
As you read this it is possible that the final train may have run. Whilst five years of work has come to an
end, a new railway will emerge in future years — but for now it has been an enjoyable journey!


Written By Keith Greenwood - Summer 2013




( Original Article Published in GardenRail 231 - November 2013 )