Exbury Gardens 12 1/4″ scale railroad and its Rhododendron Gardens in Hampshire, England

Most evenings I retreat to my office and read, work on blogs and try to figure out how the pyramids were built. When I am done I join wife Sarah in the sitting room and get dessert. Sarah sits and knits and watches the telly whilst I root around in my office. Sarah likes gardening and gardening shows. I hate gardening but labour in our garden on the basis that it is a shared job albeit I am the very junior partner.

Recently Sarah has been watching a five part BEEB (BBC) production about the 2019 RHS (Royal Horticultural Society) show at Kew. As I watched I was generally amusing myself trying to decode at least one of the latin names that these green fingered bods throw out like machine gun bullets. In the production there are visits to the genius gardeners showing how they do it. Raising 214 different type of Hostas seems a bit excessive to me but, different strokes for different folks. Right?

Any road, I came to attention when the proggy centered on Rhodies (Rhododendrons). The reason for my perking up was that Bob Bodie (one of the clubs earliest members – he was N scale) owned on of the largest Rhodie nurseries in Fort Bragg and current member Bruce Philp still operates a Rhodie nursery. Our modified weed patch has quite a few rhodies acquired from Bob when he was alive and Bruce.

The visit was to a place called Exbury Gardens which, whilst I am English, I had never heard of or been to. So here I am checking out Exbury Gardens and, more importantly, their steam train which, the BEEB insisted, was 12 1/4 inch gauge.

Exbury Gardens is a garden in Hampshire, England, belonging to a branch of the Rothschild family. It is situated in the village of Exbury, just to the east of Beaulieu across the river from Bucklers Hard. Exbury is a 200-acre informal woodland garden with very large collections of rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias, and is often considered the finest garden of its type in the United Kingdom.

Exbury is not too far from Brighton on the south coast where my folks live. Click on any image to see pics full size.

Brighton to Exbury Map

These pics show off thew gardens”

In the north east corner of the gardens there is also the 12 14 in (311 mm) gauge Exbury Steam Railway that goes on a journey through a tunnel, around Dragonfly Pond, through the Summer Lane Garden, along the top of the rock gardens and into the American Garden. The railway was built in 2000–2001 as an additional attraction in the gardens. Three narrow gauge style 0-6-2 tender tank locos were built specially for the line by the Exmoor Steam Railway. The railway has proved to be more popular than anyone had anticipated, with trains often needing to be double headed.  It is notable for having carried the Queen on a footplate trip round the railway.

If you are up to it here is a vid. There were quite a few available vids but I liked this one the best.

I’ve put it on my bucket list!!!!

And, I never did find out why 12 1/4″ (311mm) gauge.

The Billy Jones Wildcat Railroad at Vasona Park – 18″ gauge Live Steam in Los Gatos, CA

I lived in Montreal when I first came to North America in 1968. Alas, I have not been back for many a moon. My daughters, Annalise and Holly, have visited and had a great time. All of this I told to two Quebecois who came to visit our layout here in Fort Bragg, CA. The visitors were making their first visit to California. They had foregone LA and traveled north along the Pacific Coast. Despite the cold weather and rain they had a delightful time. Until they reached Fort Bragg the highlight of the trip had been a steam train ride their Californian relatives had taken them to in Los Gatos.

A very quick search on the ‘net turned up this info and video about the railroad:

William “Billy” Jones’ railroad began in 1939, when as a regular engineer on the Coast Daylight run, he spotted a derelict miniature locomotive in a scrap yard during a layover in San Francisco. Purchasing it for the princely sum of $100, he moved it back to his prune orchard on Daves Avenue in Los Gatos. That locomotive turned out to be Venice Miniature Railway #2, formerly operated in Venice Beach, CA. during the heydey of Abbot Kinney’s artist-community development on the beachfront west of Los Angeles. Designed by John Coit and built by the Johnson Machine Works of Los Angeles in 1905, the now over 100 year old locomotive has hauled thousands if not millions of happy children and adults over its long career. Billy Jones operated the 18″ gauge 2-6-2 “Prairie” type locomotive on a loop around his orchard from 1942 to 1967, always for free, to the delight of local kids and families.

Billy Jones passed away after a brief battle with leukemia, and in 1968 local volunteers began planning to rescue the equipment and re-locate it to a new home at Vasona and Oak Meadow Parks. The Wildcat began operations at Vasona Park in July of 1969 and has been open to the public ever since. The railroad now also has a second, larger steam locomotive and a diesel locomotive to help the aging two-spot with its duties. This footage was shot in 2006 shortly after the #2 received a new boiler. The original scotch ‘marine’ boiler is on display in front of the engine house. The logo seen at the beginning was designed by Disney animator Ward Kimball.”

Thanks for the heads up guys – I’ve added this one to my bucket list.

Scarborough North Bay Miniature Railway in North Yorkshire, England

The last time I was in Scarborough there was a howling gale. The English couple I talked to at our layout assured me that the weather had improved since my last visit some fifty years ago!

The couple told me that when I visited I missed my chance to ride the North Bay Railway from Scalby Mills to Peasholm Park and back again. This is a 20″ guage miniature railway, built in 1931 with 4 steam outline diesel locomotives, Poseidon, Robin Hood, Triton and Neptune,which run 7/8 mile. along the North Bay area of Scarborough in North Yorkshire, England.

Here’s the rather long vid they recommended.

I told the couple I would DEFINITELY take a ride the next time I was in Scarborough.

Irvine Park Railroad, Orange County, CA. – has a 24″ gauge ride on consist

Irvine Park Railroad, founded in April 1996, is a one-third scale train that takes both children and adults on a scenic ride through historic Irvine Regional Park. It’s located in the foothills of Orange. I found this out when Bill Burbridge and his charming wife came to visit our layout in Fort Bragg, CA. Bill and I got chatting and I soon found out that he is an engineer on the railroad. Me, not being shy, asked him if he had any photos and if so could I include them in my blog. Well, he did send some photos and they are bobby dazzlers. See for yourself:

[Click on any one to see full size in a gallery.]

The train is a 24″ gauge C.P. Huntington, manufactured by Chance Rides of Wichita, KS.

Thanks Bill for sharing.

Whiskey River Railway – a 16″ gauge railroad in Marshall, WI

You just have to be lucky to find “nuggets” of railroad stuff. Me and the missus were holidaying in Holland. One of the “things” that struck us was how many of the houses’ front windows had flowers in them. The flowers were great but what was also great was the “vases” in which they resided. A lot of the “vases” were nothing more than household bottles. One empty bottle that caught my eye was what I am certain was an old dimple Haig whisky bottle. Unbeknownst to herself I determined to get her one when we got back to Fort Bragg (CA.)

What I thought would be easy is actually difficult and expensive. This dimple Haig is available for $274.34!!!!!!!!!

Dimple Haig Bottle

Dimple Haig Bottle

So I quit on Plan A and went to Plan B and acquired some beakers used in a lab – happy wife!!!

All was not lost in my efforts ‘cos I came across a vid of a 16″ gauge railroad called the Whiskey River Railway. My knowledge  of it is miniscule – it’s in an amusement park and runs on a two mile track. Here’s the vid:

Lovely locos.

“Backyard” Railroading on a Grand Scale

This blog ‘s title is the title of the vid. All the intro says is this:

“Backyard doesn’t begin to do this massive system justice: 15-inch gauge, one-third full size, a 10-ton steam locomotive, air brakes and handbrakes on cars, five [real] miles of track, two tunnels, a wood trestle, automatic block signals, two diamonds, a ten-stall roundhouse and a 40-foot turntable!” It’s not till you are well into the vid that a banner comes up telling a little history but NO location.

So, sit back and enjpy one of the finest 15-inch gauge locos and layout I have ever seen:

If anyone can tell me more I’d be delighted to hear from them.

Redwood Valley Railroad in Tilden Park, Oakland

Quite a few of the visitors to our layout are from the Bay Area. A frequent question is where in the Bay Area can I take the kids/grandparents/nieces/nephews and uncle Tom Cobley and all to see a model train or, better yet, ride on one? My response is “Tilden Park in Oakland.” You can actually ride a steam train there on the Redwood Valley Railway.  It’s a 15″ gauge steam train and it rides through the redwoods of Tilden Regional Park. The loco is truly magnificent. As pictures speak louder than words here are two vids to get you going.

This one has a great soundtrack.

This vid gives you a better view of the ride.

And, as a bonus, there are lots of  other model trains running on other tracks.

Lappa Valley Steam Railway near Newquay, Cornwall

The road from where we were staying to the Lappa Valley Railway was horrifying. Even by Cornwall’s standard of narrow roads the route we took something else. Look at this picture – this is a main road with a one vehicle wide bridge.

The road to the Lappa Valley Train

The road to the Lappa Valley Train

Anyway we got there …….

Sign at Entrance

Sign at Entrance

When we got there we found that although it was a gorgeous day wife Sarah and I were the only people there apart from the ticket collector, engineer and two tea ladies. The railway is a short 15 inch line catering to families with kids. Our loco was named Zebedee.

Zebededee ready to roll

Zebededee ready to roll

Zebedee's controls

Zebedee’s controls

As we trolled along Sarah and I tried to remember where we knew the name Zebedee. Sister Karen, who wasn’t with us knew instantly – the Zebeddee character was a “Jack In The Box” in a tiny tots TV programme called the Magic Roundabout that aired in the 70’s. Zebedee wore a bright yellow jacket and had a shiny spring instead of feet, and would often be accompanied by a Boing sound whenever he disappeared. The iconic closing lines from the show were, Zebedee called to everyone. “Time for bed.” to which Florence replied “Already?”

Zebedee from the Magic Roundabout

Zebedee from the Magic Roundabout

When we arrived at the end of the line we marched off to the cafe as I was parched. As Sarah was ordering I saw it …….. Malteser cake!!!!!

Malteser Cake

Malteser Cake

There was one slice left. Hee, heee, hee. For those who haven’t savoured a malteser they consist of a roughly spherical malt honeycomb-like centre, surrounded by milk chocolate. You suck off the chocolate and then suck the honeycomb. After thirty two your tongue is totally raw and your blood sugar number is waaaayyyyyyy off the scale. Whoppers are a pale imitation.



Whilst we were glugging our tea and I was stuffing my face we watched the engineer take on water ….

How about that for a water tank

How about that for a water tank

Fortified for the return to where we were staying down those wretched narrow lanes we sauntered back to the depot …..

The train depot

The train depot

Twas a lovely bucolic afternoon.