It is afternoon in the Overbourne bay at Farthing station. The all third "strengthener" rests in one of the sidings, while a worker from a local cartage company is lost in thought. The coach reveals that I'm still in the process of fitting couplings to some of the stock.
The regular branch engine No. 1961 of the "850" Class shunts a horsebox to diagram N5 into the horse dock. The horse seems nervous at the prospect of travelling inside a box on wheels. Perhaps in reality horses were not brought to the loading dock before the stock was in place?
Horse and groom wait for the staff to open the doors. The horsebox is from the old Colin Waite kit. The busy horse traffic around Farthing was inspired by the Newbury area and the DN&SR and Lambourn lines. I had no end of trouble finding a suitable racing horse as most available OO horses are either in full harness or just too poorly moulded to work with. So I ended up with this Noch example, to which I added just a bit of filler in strategic places, and a horse rug (is that the word?) made from toilet tissue. The horse is HO, but I think it works OK if we assume it's a two-year old!
Meanwhile No. 1961 continues its work. The C10 "strengthener" is drawn out of its slumber for use on the busy late afternoon service to Overbourne, which always draws a good number of passengers arriving on the ex-London services or having spent the day in Farthing. The coach is a Triang RTR conversion job (construction notes here) and this photo is rather revealing of the various compromises involved. While I do like RTR bashing, in this case I've got an almost finished kit-built coach waiting in the wings as a replacement.
The "strengthener" is coupled up to the standard branch set waiting in the platform, while a couple of well-to-do passengers watch with detached interest. The wicker baskets are from Hornby and are the only items on the layout that were used straight out of the packet. The baskets are very good in texture and colour, although a couple in my packet seemed to have slipped unduly past quality control.
Next up in the formation is the horsebox, now containing horse and groom, and seen here being coupled up to the rest of the train. Horseboxes tended to travel next to the loco at the front of the train, although I've forgotten why. Was it easier on the horses that way?
Every afternoon of every day, Miss Agnes Wilkinson sits on the bench at the end of the platform, hoping to catch a glimpse of driver T. F. Oberon, the lost love of her lost youth. He ignores her today as he has done for the past 45 years, but Miss Wilkinson does not give up. Tomorrow she will be back on the bench, for she knows that some fine day Mr Oberon will yield.
The Overbourne train is now made up and ready for boarding. It really is a very clear day today - so clear in fact, that the entire town above the embankment walls has disappeared into thin air . Still, it beats having our cluttered basement as a background!