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Model, Miniature and Narrow Gauge British Railways and Steam Trains

My interest in historic events, nature and wildlife is reflected in our choice of destinations when planning our holidays and day trips.

Smokey Joe Steam Train in Nathanville's Model Railway

Smokey Joe Steam Train in Nathanville's Model Railway

Enjoy Trains of a Bygone Era

Thanks to the Good Works by Railway Enthusiasts

I’ve always had a fascination for steam trains. I can remember when I was young how on my way to school steam use to billow up on one side of the humpback bridge and then a few seconds later the other side as a steam train went underneath the bridge and came out the other side.

Long gone are those days but enthusiast clubs have restored small sections of railways across Britain and run regular services for tourists, which are always fascinating to see.

Whenever we’re on holiday in England or Wales, and we get the chance, we always enjoy seeing these engines from the bygone era; and timing permitting take a joy ride on them.

Years ago we built our own railway model village in our loft, which was great fun.

Below is a collection of some of the photos and videos of steam railways which I’ve taken over the years from our travels across Britain.

Our Joy Ride on Puffing Billy

Filmed By Me During Our Visit To Beamish

Puffing Billy Designed and Built in 1815 by George Stephenson

While on a short holiday break in Northern England specifically to visit Beamish we had the great pleasure and honour of taking a joy ride on Puffing Billy; giving us a unique experience of what it would have been like for the first public paying passengers by train.

In those early days of train transportation, almost two centuries ago and before passenger trains became established in the early Victorian period, passenger carriages didn’t exist, so the first paying passengers travelling by train had to stand in the open goods waggons.

Our Joy Ride On the LNER 985 Steam Train

While Visiting Beamish

During a weekend visit to visit Beamish in North West England as well has having the privilege of taking a ride on Puffing Billy we also took a ride on this magnificent steam train; which in Contrast to Puffing Billy of over a century earlier passenger transport was well established with comfortable seating in enclosed carriages.

Narrow Gauge and Steam Trains in the Lake District

Ravenglass and Eskdale, and Lakeside, Windermere

There's two distinctly different train services in the Lake District:-

  • Ravenglass and Eskdale (a narrow gauge railway), and
  • A steam train service at Lakeside, Lake Windermere

I’ve been on holiday to the Lake District a couple of times, each time using the Ravenglass and Eskdale railway service; a narrow gauge railway.

On our last trip to the Lakes I also had the opportunity to watch and film the other great steam train service; at Lakeside, Lake Windermere in the Lake District. Lakeside being one of the many tourist attractions on the water’s edge of Lake Windermere, the largest lake in the Lake District.

This video is the short film I made of these two great steam train services during my last holiday in the Lake District, England.

Steam Trains and Railways in Unusual and Isolated Places

In going through my collection of old photographs I came across a selection of intriguing old photos of steam trains, miniature railways and model trains and railways, as showcased below.

Ghost Train

Ghost Train

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Clevedon Miniature Railway

In Clevedon Park, Bristol, is a miniature railway service providing joy rides for the younger members of the public; so I didn't get a chance to ride on it but it's an excellent idea to have a miniature train circuiting the park as an unusual form of entertainment for kids, giving the parents a few minutes rest on their day out to Cleveland.

Clevedon miniature railway, near Bristol

Clevedon miniature railway, near Bristol

Model Train on Platform at Bristol Temple Meads

At Bristol Temple Meads (built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel in 1841), just inside the entrance on the main platform is this superb large scale model of a steam engine in a glass showcase. Of all the train stations I've been to I've never noticed model trains on display other than at Bristol, but then again Bristol Temple Meads was one of the pioneering public train stations built in the early days of the commercial railway system in Britain; so such a spectacular model steam train on display at Bristol Temple Meads is very befitting.

Model train at Bristol Temple Meads

Model train at Bristol Temple Meads

Map for Clevedon Miniature Railway and Bristol Temple Meads

Ffestiniog Narrow Gauge Railway, Wales

Originally built in the 1830s to transport slate from the quarries in the Ffestiniog area of wales using horses for the upward journey and gravity for the return journey was given over to steam powered trains in 1863 and opened to a passenger service in 1865. Today this narrow gauge railway, almost 14 miles long, runs as a tourist train service, mainly in the mountainous and forested Snowdonia National Park.

Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways Victorian Vintage Weekend

The Great Whipsnade Railway

In the photos below are two trains, a black train and a green train, that services the Whipsnade Wild Animal Park railway. The Whipsnade Wild Animal Park railway originally opened in 1970 as "The Whipsnade and Umfolozi Railway", named after the area in South Africa from where Whipsnade obtained their first group of white rhinos. As that time, the railway ran through the rhino paddock and it was only after the rhinos moved to their present location in 1985, that the name changed to "The Great Whipsnade Railway".

The first line only went about a mile, and was an `out and back' service. It was extended to its present length of almost two miles in 1973, and at the time was a unique way to help visitors gain the most from their day at the Park. The majority of the locomotives and rolling stock are genuine narrow-gauge (running on track 2' 6" wide), and were obtained from the Bowater paper mills at Sittingbourne, Kent.

As on the best railways, the locomotives all carry names - steam locos Chevalier, Superior and Excelsior and diesels Hector and Victor.

A commentary is often provided as the train leisurely steams through mixed paddocks of camels, yaks, some of the world's most endangered deer and antelope and past the elephant paddock.

Great Little Green Train at Whipsnade Railway

Great Little Green Train at Whipsnade Railway

Great Little Black Train at Whipsnade Railway

Great Little Black Train at Whipsnade Railway

Train in Theme Park at Disneyland Paris

Our first holiday in France was to visit Disneyland Paris, a memorable occasion and while there to get around the complex we occasionally nipped onto this small gauge railway service at the nearest train station to us in the park; and then for a few minutes enjoyed the ride around the park to our next destination stop.

Train in theme park at Disneyland Paris

Train in theme park at Disneyland Paris

Map of Public Train Service at Disneyland Paris

Nathanville Model Railway Village

Years ago we constructed a model railway village in our loft which we named Nathanville after my son, ‘Nathan’. Here is a very brief video clip of Nathanville in operation.

Model of Percy from Thomas the Tank Engine

As pictured here, in our back garden proudly stationed is a model train of Percy from Thomas the Tank Engine. Years ago a friend of ours, an engineer by trade, gave us a model train he handmade from sheet metal and wood. I can't remember what colour it was painted but although in excellent condition it was in need of a lick of paint to restore it to its former glory so using car spray paint I painted in the colour of Percy.

The following year, while on holiday, we spotted a plastic Thomas the Tank Engine face washed-up on the beach. The face looked about the right size to fit the front of the model train I'd re-painted the previous year so I popped it in our beach bag for safe keeping and brought it back with us on our return home. As luck would have it the face was a perfect fit so by doing no more than making a couple of minor slits in the front of the model train to take the lugs at the back of the face it snapped into place just as if it had been made to measure.

Large model of Percy from Thomas the Tank engine

Large model of Percy from Thomas the Tank engine

Growth in Victorian Railways

Newspaper Article in My Great-Great Grandfather’s Scrapbook

My great-great grandfather who grew up and lived in the Victorian period kept his own scrapbook of newspaper articles, and this one featured below gives a glimpse of the rapid advancing railway network across Britain during those early pioneering years in steam trains as a commercial and passenger service.

Growth in Victorian Railways

Growth in Victorian Railways

Source: Victorian Scrapbook by George Burgess (1829-1905)

  • Victorian Railway Trains
    Victorian Railway Trains, statistics about trains published in a newspaper and saved to a Victorian Scrapbook of Newspaper Articles on Victorian Science and Nature by George Burgess (1829-1905)

Scale Model Train Sets and Accessories - Ideal Starter Kit

If you’re thinking of starting a model railway, adding to an existing one or just want and intriguing toy then this fine model and a bit a tracking is a good starting point.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2007 Arthur Russ

Your Comments

Arthur Russ (author) from England on June 13, 2017:

Thanks anonymous and Takkhis, although belated feedback (my oversight), I hope you enjoyed your day browsing through all the model train sites; I'm sure there's been quite a few changes in recent years.

Takkhis on October 18, 2012:

Journey by train is fun.

anonymous on September 25, 2010:

I found your great site during my mission today visiting all the model train sites I can. Looks to be a long fun day,Thanks for all the links.

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