One thing leads to another ... back in 2013, I started a blog to cover my growing interest in 19th -century railway models. Since I chose to model the GWR, this inevitably brought me onto a collision course with the Broad Gauge. At first, I thought of this system as something that was only associated with the 'primitive' stage of railway development. It was something of a surprise to realise that broad-gauge trains ran almost until the end of the century: the 'last gasp' being in 1892. As I have already observed in my other blog, the Broad Gauge was a 'different type of railway'.
Although my existing model of North Leigh has a broad-gauge 'history', visible in the wide spacing of the tracks through the station, there is no realistic way in which I could adapt this model. My model is already shoe-horned into too small a space for a 'proper' 00-gauge layout and broad gauge track would be far more demanding, so there is no option but to make a completely new start.
For some time, when looking at carriage designs for potential models on my existing railway, I have found myself having to keep checking whether a photo was actually of a broad-gauge vehicle ... and some of those looked rather interesting!
So, where to begin?
It happens that my wife's family has a long history of Great Western associations, starting in Reading and then following the line as it spread westwards, through the Forest of Dean towards South Wales. One ancestor was located at Bullo Pill, on the Severn Estuary, when a serious accident happened, about a mile to the south of the station in 1868. There are several photographs of the post-accident scene, one of which shows the derailed locomotive 'Rob Roy' surrounded by railway staff and 'sightseers' on the bank in the background. Perhaps, our family ancestor is among these people.
This scene, taken together with the detailed description of the make-up of the two trains that is contained in the official accident report, provided me with inspiration for a new project. I intend to use the train descriptions as a 'recipe' for models, which I shall build and place within a small diorama based on the location.
The accident site was in a shallow cutting about 150 metres north of Cockshoot Bridge [sO 695086], which now carries a minor road to the village of Awre from the main A48. The railway was the double-track main line to South Wales, via Gloucester,
View North from Cockshoot Bridge, 1951 (Creative Commons Licence)
The above photo shows that the cutting sides look much more overgrown in 1951 than in the 19th century photograph and, of course, the track bed has been changed to standard gauge. Another photo,which I took myself, shows the shape of the arch of Cockshoot Bridge in 2016:
In order to start planning my model, I needed to learn how the original broad-gauge track might have looked. For this, I used the construction details provided in the book 'Great Western Way' and, from these, I made a 4 mm scale drawing of the track bed, as a basis for future construction. This 'paper template', set in context by my old 'K's Milestones' model of a Gooch 'Single' locomotive, is shown below.
This shows how the 'look' of the trackbed is very different from the familiar cross-sleepered track, so I shall place this key feature across the front of my diorama. I have yet to decide exactly how I shall construct the framework of baulks and cross-ties, on which the rails are laid. The first step will be to build a length of straight track, before venturing into how to make a curve!
My diorama will be housed in an open-fronted box, rather along the lines of the APA boxes that are, unfortunately, no longer available from Ikea, so I shall have to construct my own version. I like the idea of building an open frame, with separately attached panels, since this will provide ease of access during construction and also facilitate painting a 'backscene'.
My plan is that the broad-gauge railway will run across the front, backed by the bank seen in the accident photo. At one end, the scene will be 'closed' by the Cockshoot Bridge. I shall have to think about how to provide a 'scenic break' at the other end but I expect that I shall include a few other line-side structures, to add interest.
My initial sketches are shown below.
So, I now have a simple plan of action.
In addition to the plan, I have bought some lengths of 'bridge rail' from the Broad Gauge Society and kits to build a locomotive and a mail carriage. Now, all I have to do is start building
EDIT : new photo of Cockshoot Bridge added