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THE LEIGH VALLEY LIGHT RAILWAY

19 GRAFTON ROAD LONGLEVENS GLOUCESTER GL2 0QP

 
     
 
 
     
  INTRODUCTION

I have been pleased to be associated with the Leigh Valley Light Railway since the late 1990s and greatly admire the tireless annual work of the Morgan family in raising steam and - most importantly - funds for both Crohns in Childhood and The Milestone School. All monies raised go straight to the two charities with no personal expenses deducted. In both 2004 and 2005 over 1 400 was raised.

But who better to talk you through the Leigh Valley Light Railway phenomenon than the man with the vision himself - Malcolm Morgan

 
     
     
 

WELCOME TO THE LEIGH VALLEY LIGHT RAILWAY

HISTORY

The Leigh Valley Light Railway ( named after its original owner, our eldest son ) was constructed in the summer of 1995. Originally it was built to G scale with a gauge of 45mm. We held our first Open Day in the August of 1996 ( which we continued annually until 2002 ) In 1997 the railway was extended and a decision was made to change the track gauge to 32mm ( 0 Gauge ) to reflect Leigh's interest in the Welsh 2' narrow gauge. In the following year the layout was extended again and remained in this guise until 2002. Due to problems with tight curves and steep gradients, as well as the lack of a dedicated steaming area ( a problem highlighted at the 2002 Open Weekend ) a decision was taken to completely rebuild the line as well as redesigning the garden with a railway theme. Although Leigh has lost a lot of his initial interest in railways it was decided to retain the title as there is a village named Leigh situated between Gloucester and Tewkesbury.

THE NEW RAILWAY

Situated in the Leigh Valley sometime in the 20th Century, the railway has somehow survived and to a large extent recently prospered. There is considerable tourist traffic as well as a large variety of goods to be transported. Commodities such as coal and timber are regularly carried along the line and in order to improve the costs of transportation some rather elaborate, specialised locomotives have been imported from around the World including Garratts, a Heisler and a Shay.

There are three principal stations on the line: Leigh Valley , named after our eldest son, Jason Junction named after our youngest son and Rachel Halt named after our daughter.

A Hunslet type 0-4-0ST reminiscent of the Festiniog's Blanche and Linda rests on Leigh Valley Depot

"Katie", a Hunslet type 0-4-0ST reminiscent of the Festiniog's Blanche and Linda, rests on Leigh Valley Depot

MOTIVE POWER

Locomotives are mostly named after family members and are a mixture of conventional 0-4-0 or 0-6-0 tank engines, a saddle tank engine and a tram locomotive with a roof. The railway also owns a "Russell" ( the original full-size runs on the Welsh Highland Railway ) and "Douglas" ( the original can be found on the Talyllyn Railway in Wales) In addition to the above roster are the unconventional locomotives previously mentioned.

ROLLING STOCK

Rolling stock consists of a mixture of 4 wheeled and bogie coaches with the conventional maroon livery of the Leigh Valley Light Railway as well as some new stock recently purchased from the now defunct ( fictitious) Dean Forest Narrow Gauge Railway (DFNGR) Goods stock is a mixture of 4 wheelers for carrying coal and general goods. There are also specialised bogie wagons for carrying timber.

THE GARDEN

The garden has been redesigned more with a railway theme. The path design using wooden sleepers and reclaimed bricks reflects a narrow gauge flavour. Although this has created a much smaller lawn, it has allowed more area for the planting of shrubs and flowers. Obviously 2004 was the first year after the garden had been replanted so a lot of the planting has yet to mature. This is particularly the case for the "box hedging" on the layout which will take several years to develop into miniature hedgerows.

 
     
 

PRACTICAL INFORMATION FOR VISITORS

Light refreshments and a raffle/ sales stand will be available. Cuttings of many of the plants featured in the layout will also be on sale. Helen Morgan will be only too happy to answer any horticultural questions about these.

We want you to enjoy your visit to the Open Weekend and hope to see you again in the future. Because we are operating live steam locomotives - which can burn and scald - we respectfully request that you do not cross the orange barrier which has been erected for your safety adjacent to the railway. The barrier is primarily there for your protection. It also allows the operators unrestricted access to their locomotives at all times. Access to the area at the back of the layout is strictly forbidden to all members of the general public.

 
     
 

THE LEIGH VALLEY LIGHT RAILWAY:

A VIEW FROM ROUND THE BACK

 
     
  THE LAYOUT 1995 - 2002

The following graphics show the evolution of the original concept of the Leigh Valley Light Railway and make an interesting comparison with the photographs of the finished installation

Leigh Valley Light Railway original concept drawing

Leigh Valley Light Railway Plan

Notice the addition of the village area and level crossing, more complex station area and flared loop round the pond. Although kinder to close-coupled rolling stock it remained the Achillies Heel of this configuration. The removed loop, however, was a good idea waiting for its time to come.

As official photographer I have been lucky enough to get an all-round view of the Leigh Valley Railway over the years and here are a series of pictures giving a tour of the original bi-level configuration, clockwise from Leigh Valley Station.

The view from Leigh Valley toward the house 1996-2002

For me, this picture sums up much of the early days of the Leigh Valley Light Railway: A sunny July weekend, visitors watching from behind a fairly minimalist fence hung with collecting boxes and Malcolm re-fuelling one of the many locomotives to be seen with their carriages and wagons around the layout. However, the walled single line "Long Drag" at the right means that the front of the layout is the only place to ready trains for operation. Also visible at the far end of the layout are the dramatic curves in and out to give the trains a chance of turning 180 degrees.

Leigh Valley Station from the house

A reverse angle shot of a similar scene showing more of the supporting kit of this particular brand of 16mm = 1 foot ( 1:19 scale ) live steam modelling. Note too the radio control handset - although some simpler locomotives work on the "power up and go" principle relying on the operator to keep in close proximity at all times.

Malcolm's Garratt about to tackle the 180 degree curve to Rachel Halt

Malcolm's Garratt - an articulated engine designed to negotiate curves - will still have to turn 180 degrees from this position to reach Rachel Halt at the foot of the incline in the background.

An alternative view of Leigh Valley Station with the Long Drag in the background

An alternative configuration of Leigh Valley station with a footbridge and less buildings as a Talyllyn influenced passenger train tackles the Long Drag. Like its namesake on the Settle-Carlisle route, this was needed to gain height but also challenged the steam raising and torque characteristics of any locomotive using it.

A telephoto shot of the Long Drag

This telephoto lens shot shows the 180 degree reverse curve just before Rachel Halt and a green diesel shunter just leaving the kink in the Long Drag as it chases fellow battery powered model Gilbert up the incline. The LVLR's approach to block signalling can be quite permissive at times! Little red Gilbert is just about to hang a right over the bridge crossing the wood-reinforced cutting just in front of the house.

Freight train runs bunker first over the bridge

Another view of the Long Drag with the freight train crew breathing again! Leigh Valley station is visible in the background.

Faller battery steam outline tank engine crosses bridge.

This shot shows another battery powered model - this time a Faller steam outline tank engine - on the bridge itself with Long Drag and part of Leigh Valley station in the background. Just as in the full sized prototype, a black engine can pose problems for the photographer when posed against a lighter surrounding.

Jason Junction marked the start of another 180 degree curve.

Jason Junction was also the scene of a few derailments as trains started off from the station onto a tight 180 degree curve which also sloped down to the tunnel. Chain couplings also tended to fare worse than more sophisticated tightlock examples.

Jason Junction with water tower

Jason Junction always reminded me of a station on the Festiniog with the valley dropping away beyond the line but, as in the last shot, the need to prepare trains at Leigh Valley meant that paraphenalia tended to get in the way of both guests and photographers!

The tunnel has been a constant feature of both Leigh Valley Light Railway layouts.

The tunnel - a constant feature of both Leigh Valley Light Railway layouts - is a challenge to photograph due to the contrasting light and shade in this location. After 2002 however the approach was less flange-punishingly tight!

 
     
  THE LAYOUT 2004 ONWARDS  
 

The new more locomotive-friendly layout first displayed in 2004

The new more locomotive-friendly layout first displayed in 2004

Approaching the new layout through the railway themed garden

Approaching the new layout through the railway themed garden. Although wet weather marred some of the public running period - and threatened to get my camera rusty - the rain could not dampen the enthusiasm of either the visitors, operators - or even photographers. Glistening surfaces and more visible exhausts just added to the allure of steam.

A Talyllyn influenced train passes anti-clockwise through the new Leigh Valley station

A Talyllyn influenced train passes anti-clockwise through the platform avoiding line of the new Leigh Valley station: the only one of the three to retain its original position. The locomotive depot is on the right of the much simplified track layout.

A more general view of the 2004 layout

A more general view of the 2004 layout with the Goods Shed visible behind Leigh Valley Station. Also noticeable is the new, extensive road layout separating the two sides of the railway. This is made of real tarmac and opens up a number of modelling and photographic possibilities. However, Health & Safety regulations now demand a more robust spectator fence.

A clockwise travelling train closes in on a classic VW Camper van.

A clockwise travelling train closes in on a classic VW Camper van.

An anti-clockwise freight train passes Rachel Halt

New-position Rachel Halt passengers and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle style fairies alike watch coal travelling toward the locomotive depot as the driver of the Landrover and the three old codgers from BBC TV's "Last of the Summer Wine" wait for the blue tank engine and its wagon train to clear the level crossing. Slightly further up the road, the driver of a red VW Golf has AAsked for help. Not that the wheel came off when it was dropped in like the TV commercial!

A view across the road to the back of the bridge at Rachel Halt

A view across the road to the back of the bridge at Rachel Halt. The open spaces created by the addition of the road have opened up new vistas from the back of the layout - especially useful during afternoon sunlight. Although not a cold day, the fields inside the curve past Rachel Halt were Fresian!

Malcolm's Garratt "Helen" eases a train of forest products round the Rachel Halt Curve

Malcolm's Garratt "Helen" eases a train of forest products round the Rachel Halt Curve. Not that the driver is scared!

"How now brown cow?"

"How now brown cow?" "Well, I can hear my elocution lessons without all that flange squeal!"

Clever use of the preparation area can see at least two trains being readied for action

Clever use of the preparation area can see at least two trains being readied for action. Also notice the church with its tall spire in the background

Malcom attends to his Heisler articulated engine "Ernest" at the re-positioned Jason Junction

Malcom attends to his Heisler articulated engine "Ernest" at the re-positioned Jason Junction. Notice too the signalbox controlling the preparation sidings near the girder bridge in the distance.

A De Winton vertical boilered 0-4-0 leaves the tunnel for Jason Junction

A De Winton vertical boilered 0-4-0 leaves the tunnel for Jason Junction

A 1:19 scale fox has a brush with the then-unnamed "Helen"

A 1:19 scale fox has a brush with the then-unnamed "Helen" as the red Garratt steams back to Leigh Valley Station.

A black Garrett rolls past the locomotive depot and three permanent way men having a break

A black Garrett rolls past the locomotive depot and three permanent way men having a break

 

 
     
 

Click here for more on Leigh Valley Light Railway steam locomotives

 
     
 

Click here for more on Leigh Valley Light Railway diesel locomotives

 
     
 

Click here for more on Leigh Valley Light Railway rolling stock