7" gauge in the garden


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7¼" gauge in the garden


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I have been fascinated by narrow gauge railways almost for as long as I can remember. I remember going to the museum at Brockham in the UK with my father when I was a lad, and later exploring the 2' gauge railways of North Wales. I cannot really explain why I find them more interesting than standard gauge railways, but for years I have endeavored to reproduce them in a number of different scales. Other interests came and went, but in the background there was always narrow gauge.

I have fond memories of the Weymouth Miniature Railway in Dorset and the East African Railways class 59 Garratt at Crystal Palace and would take every opportunity to ride on railways large and small.

What is the difference between narrow gauge and miniature railways? A "miniature" is a scaled-down model of something else, whereas a narrow gauge loco is not a model of something else, it just happens to be small. For instance, a 15" gauge version of a Gresley pacific (such as those on the Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch) would be a scaled-down miniature of the real thing. However, Sir Arthur Heywood's 15" gauge locomotives are just small; they are narrow-gauge locomotives in their own right. Heywood suggested that 15" gauge was the minimum practical gauge that would provide a practical (or commercial) service. For instance, the line he built for Eaton Hall was intended to carry 5,000-6,000 tons of materials per year. Recent developments by Ken Swan and Jim Haylock (say in the last 20 years) have shown that in many ways, 7" narrow gauge can also provide such a service, at least as a passenger-carrying pleasure railway. A perfect example of what can be accomplished in 7" narrow gauge is the Moors Valley Railway.

I used to have a 5" gauge railway around my garden in England which was not really stable enough for young children - as they fidgeted the trains had a habit of derailing. It was a good start though and I learnt a lot and thoroughly enjoyed building it. When my wife and I moved to New Zealand in 2005 I sold the 5" gauge equipment and said that if I was to build anything here it would be 7¼" gauge or larger.

10" gauge and upward is frightfully expensive (and very unusual in New Zealand), so that only really leaves 7" gauge. Interestingly, if you choose to go up to 2' gauge, the prices are not that much more than 7", it's just that they are so big they are impractical for most individuals - and you have legislation to comply with. I helped build a 7", narrow gauge style line back in England in 1989 so I have a good idea of what I am letting myself in for and also what is possible.

In September 2010 we bought 1.25 acres (5000sqm) of flat land near Hamilton and I am starting to plan my new railway. It'll likely be a while before I actually start construction as work and building a house will have to come first, but that doesn't mean I can't spend my time planning! CLICK HERE to view updates on the railway (as and when they occur).

Please select one of the links on the left to follow me on my exploits in building a miniature railway here in New Zealand.


Member of:
The 7" Gauge Society
Cambridge-Rotorua Live Steamers Inc.

Experimental & Model Engineers
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John2 Consulting

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