The BLLR is a model narrow-gauge railway in my back garden in Hampshire, England. It is to a scale of 16mm to the foot, or about 1:19. The gauge of the track (gap between the rails) is 32mm (O gauge). At this scale, a 5'6" person is modelled at 88mm high (about 3½"). This scale/gauge combination is sometimes called SM32.
This website has existed in one form or another (often not public) since May 2008. The bllr.org.uk address was registered on 11 May 2008. Unlike the GMES website that I run, I will be updating this one on an irregular basis without any version control or record. The website in its current form was created on 14 March 2009 and is currently on Google Sites, but may be moved as circumstances change. The 'permanent' address for this site is www.bllr.org.uk.
Well, it fits with the concept of a "local" line (see below) and it's the name of the parish I live in, so it saves me having to think up a fictitious name. Also, it is the sort of name that a full size "working" railway might use. There are a number of possible abbreviations: B&L Lt Ry, B&LLR, BLLR, B&L. Any of these would look OK on the side of a wagon. If I change my mind about the name of the railway I'll have to buy another domain name!
I spent some time mulling over possible names ranging from "Liphook Woodland Railway" (the initials match those of an existing well known garden railway), "Liphook and Bramshott Railway" (I could use Lynton and Barnstaple stock without changing the lettering but it doesn't sound right, having seen the conventional way round for so long), Liphook Ironstone Railway (I don't think the letter "I" looks so good on the side of a wagon and it's a bit too specific), Iron Hill Botanical Tramroad, North East Iron Stone Haulage (look at the initials), and many others.
Many people modelling railways in this scale take one of the Welsh narrow gauge railways as their prototype; some make a pretty good job of it. However I would like to fit the railway to its surroundings and the general locality rather that try to re-create a little bit of Wales. We'll see whether I can achieve this in practise.
At one time, iron smelting was a major local industry. There are local iron stone deposits and the fuel used was charcoal made from local timber. The industry declined when iron smelting with coke was invented (before the development of the railways) as there was no coal nearby. Local place names include Iron Hill and Hammer. There's more information at Fernhurst's Iron Industry, Fernhurst's 'iron age' and the Fernhurst Furnace Trust.
Also, one branch of the River Wey, which had several different types of mill along its length, runs nearby, so perhaps I can include some reference to this. River Wey - Wealden Iron Industry.
The army has had a large presence in the area. Of particular relevance is the Longmoor Military Railway. This had that rarest of railway features, a complete circle of track (used for training purposes). The military also had the ordnance supply unit, OSU (Liphook), which had sidings off the London & South Western Railway's Portsmouth Direct Line which came to Liphook in 1859.
The Honey Lane Brickworks at Selborne which makes distinctive orange bricks and the Brickworks at Midhurst both had tramways.
The website of the Industrial Railway Society is a great resource. There's more and more good stuff once you start looking. I've just found a page on Weydon Hill Sand Pits on the south western edge of Farnham, which is not that far away. This had a short 2ft gauge railway from the pits to a siding of the Southern Railway and to a lorry loading point. This article also mentions a short, hand-operated 2ft gauge line in the pottery at Wrecclesham, nearby.
Agriculture, brewing, hops were (are?) grown fairly locally. The brewery at Alton had a rail connection to what is now the Watercress Line.
How much of the above I will end up using I don't know, but there were lots of local industries which transported products by rail (or could have).
The railway must be "part of the garden" (not just stood in it because there's more space outside than indoors). My hope is that when the line has matured the railway will be almost invisible to the casual observer unless there's a train moving. This means that the majority of the line will be at ground level.
Is it a real (small) railway or is it a model? I think it's a combination of both. In the garden you have to contend with real weather, 20 foot daffodils and huge animals on the line. At present I am concentrating on getting the basic structure right; realistic curves and gradients, a fairly simple layout and a good length of line to give a short but prototypical run time from end to end. As the tracklaying progresses I will be looking for suitable plants for the lineside and thinking about stations, buildings and other lineside details.
There are a large number of websites by individuals modelling narrow gauge railways in the garden; I have found more than 50 relating to modelling at 16mm/ft on 32 or 45mm track. In particular, Dave Watkins' Birches Barn Light Railway which appears to be wholly at ground level and includes his tiny coal fired loco "Frog". Next up is Ian Stock's Lower Bryandale Railway which has some wonderful atmospheric detail. Finally, not a specific railway but a thought-provoking article Marc Horovitz on Garden Railway Aesthetics.
See the pdf attachment at the bottom of the page. The red numbers are rail height in millimetres above a datum (150mm below the house damp proof course). The paving slabs are 600mm square. (Plan to be revised.)
Initially, I intend building the line as an end-to-end single track with a locomotive run-round loop at each end and one or more passing loops in between. This will be more representitive of typical full size lines than a circle, although without the ability to just leave a train running. I may add a tail-chasing loop later although it will not give a level run. Finally, I might run a raised track from the back LH corner of the garden down towards the house to allow waist-level steaming-up sidings.
Because I want to make this a truly ground level line, I will mostly be laying the line to fit with the existing ground levels and modifying the levels to suit the track layout where necessary. There may be the odd embankment (but nothing too obtrusive) or cutting (difficult due to the roots of some very large trees).
The ground slopes upwards from the front RH corner, near the back of the house, to the back LH corner of the garden. The difference in height is about 900mm in a distance of about 24m. In a straight line this would give a gradient of about 1 in 26 which is too steep for comfort on a railway of this type, so the main part of the railway will snake its way up the garden from one terminus near the patio to another near the back fence. With the route shown on the plan, the line will have an almost continuous gradient of 1 in 100 (maybe a bit steeper in places, depending on tree roots, etc). I will try to keep a minimum radius of 2m (6'6") on the main line but the top curve at the back RH corner will be tighter, possibly down to 1.2m (4').
Although I generally intend to run smaller locos and rolling stock, I am trying to allow for larger visitors. I have trawled through the available specs and made some measurements. The tallest loco I have found is an Accucraft 13 ton Shay, which is listed at 197mm high. Otherwise, there's not much above 165mm. The tallest carriage I can find is 160mm. On width, 135mm appears to be the limit, applicable to both the Roundhouse VoR 2-6-2T and an unknown carriage (measured over the footboards). So, on straight track the nearest structures will be at least 200mm above rail level and 75mm either side of the track centreline. Minimum track-to-track spacing will be 150mm. On curves I will be making an allowance for the swept width of longer rolling stock.
See separate page for details of the track construction. (Now somewhat out of date.)
I hope eventually to add working signalling to the line. This will use semaphore signals, probably electrically operated. Yes, I know this might be a bit OTT for some narrow gauge lines but I have an interest in signalling and it will, if worked properly, add to the realism.