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Narrow Gauge lines around North Leigh




In my previous post, I described a little about the location of North Leigh station on the branch line to Witney, originally planned in 1849. For some reason, this line was omitted from Bartholomew's 1/2inch map of 1903 but I have restored it to its rightful position, in order to show the location of the station and its proximity to the tunnel through the ridge of high ground between North Leigh and New Yatt.


The later, cut-off, which allowed trains to run directly from the Worcester line towards Witney is not shown on the map but it diverged close to North Leigh station, to join the OW&W main line near Wilcote. The map clearly shows Wilcote Manor, home of Sir John and Lady Wilcote, plus their lively daughters.


This region of the Cotswolds was long famous for its many stone quarries, perpetuated in the name of the nearby village of Stonesfield. Some of these quarries were served by a narrow gauge (2' 6") railway, with an exchange dock at North Leigh station.


Unfortunately, all these lines seem to have been omitted by the map-makers, and even diligent searching will fail to find any traces on the ground, today. My own model, therefore, seeks to re-create this lost world and provide a glimpse of what life might have been like in the area, towards the end of the 19th century.




The following photograph shows the chute that was used to transfer stone from the NG railway to the main GWR system. A Hudswell Clark 0-4-0ST has recently taken over from horse power, for shunting wagons under the chute. On the upper level, a stone train has just arrived from the quarries, ready for unloading.




The quarries run along the edge of a steep scarp slope, above the town, and the following scene shows the small workshops nestling under the much-quarried slope. Small farms dot the countryside immediately below the quarries and the railway also serves to bring goods and to carry animals, and occasionally people, to and from these scattered communities. The sheep-nibbled turf is represented by dyed lint, whereas the longer rough grasses are made from pieces of a very old long-haired camel coat, suitably dyed and painted!



In addition to the quarries, the NG line also serves a saw mill, since there are extensive woodlands in the area of Wychwood Forest. The saw-mill has a curiously 'Black Forest' look, probably a whim of Sir John's. The following scene shows a short train of bolster wagons, which has delivered several large logs to the mill for sawing. The water-wheel that powers the mill can be seen towards the right of the picture. Later, the sawn timbers will be taken to the yard, on the upper level at North Leigh.




There is still a lot of work to be done in all these areas and a large part of my purpose, in taking these photos, is to help me visualise possible ways ahead. The back-scene behind the saw-mill does not yet exist - just a plain white frieze - but I intend to print something similar to the scenery that I have added to the photo. Another aspect, revealed by the photos, is a distinct lack of human activity! I have a substantial backlog of painting to do, both of several sets of figures and of various horse-drawn vehicles, which I hope will add more 'life' to these scenes. Plenty to keep me occupied :)




EDIT : I felt that I had cheated a bit with the last photo, so I printed the back-scene onto some sheets of A4 and stuck them onto the frieze. Here's a genuine photo - un-retouched!




This is an example of using test photos to suggest the way ahead :)

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  • RMweb Gold

Hi Mike, I really must remember not to trust Bartholomew's, don't know how they could have forgotten to these wonderful lines! 


Nice to see the quarry line, I especially like the environment around the chute with the standard gauge beneath and everything squeezed for space a bit, very atmospheric.


That backscene will be very effective, I think. What are you going to print it on? 

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Hi Mikkel, I try to take your advice regarding eating an elephant. 


Even though mine is a small creature, I still tackle each small scene separately.  Photography is the common theme that underpins most of my other interests, so these photographs help me form my ideas about how each of these mini-scenes can be developed.  I like to keep them small and compact.


I printed the backscene sheets using the 'draft' mode on my printer.  I think the slightly 'washed out' look works very well, by making the scene seem to recede, rather as though it is a misty morning across the fields. 


For the time being, I shall probably stick with a series of overlapping A4 paper sheets but I could take a digital image to a local printer, for output as a 'banner'.

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  • RMweb Gold

I agree about small and compact scenes. Even Pendon seems to have that amid all the large scenery bits (never been sadly, but that's what photos appear to show).


I've always been a bit apprehensive about having my own photo backscene printed (cost and photo quality), so I like your idea of beginning with your own prints on A4 sheets. That way adjustments etc can also be made before potentially having it prof. printed. Think I'll try that myself on my sidings layout. Thanks!

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Thanks, Mikkel.  For me, Pendon is quite close to home but I don't go very often.  Perhaps that's a good sign since I tend to go when I feel in need of inspiration whereas, at present, I seem to be jogging along quite happily :)


Back-scenes are a real problem when viewed 'for real' whereas, In photographs, it's easy to position the camera to make the perspective look 'right'.  I think they are best kept 'low key' to suggest depth, rather than anything too detailed.

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