The Branch Line Society

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South Cheshire Miniatures
Sunday 14th April 2019

Report by James Beal

On a cold dry April day 23 miniature members met to ride three varied lines, all within five miles of Crewe; a few had been to Rossington the day before. Our member Neil Lewis put together a well organised and relaxed itinerary which went like clockwork. Three different gauges were travelled, using three different types of traction and the character of each line was entirely different, as is often the case with minor railways.

The first was the Crewe & Weston Railway. This unusual private 9½" gauge ground level line runs round two sides of the friendly owner's large garden. A later extension runs along one side of a small field. There is only one public charity open day a year (13 Jul this year - see BLN 1327.1111 for details).


     

Arriving a few minutes early, the signs were good as the owner was trying out the route, including every loop and siding. The ECS proving run complete, the fixture started on time with Roanoke internal combustion loco 'Bert' hauling two bogie coaches. Even with only four passengers on each train, the group was dealt with quickly and efficiently, every passenger covering every line in both directions. This included the turntable, most of the length of the two shed roads, and reaching the end of the exterior siding. The latter involved hand shunting a bolster wagon to allow the loco to kiss the buffers.

99% coverage achieved, the group enjoyed coffee and cake, available for a small donation. This started a theme for the day, with each venue having hot drinks and sweet treats available.


The Crewe & Weston Railway
[© Neil Lewis 2019]




The Crewe & Weston Railway
[© Neil Lewis 2019]


Our convoy was slightly early at the nearby next venue and were rewarded with tea, coffee and biscuits in the clubhouse while the miniature engineers raised steam and ran proving runs.

This was at South Cheshire Model Engineering Society, Willaston (the venue of our Fixture Secretary's first ever Society fixture on the evening of Fri 8 Oct 2010 near his home!). Conveniently located behind a pub near the Premier Inn, the society, here since 1991, has a well established 2½ acre site with two elevated running lines totalling ¼ mile. The outer is mixed 3½/5" gauge and is compressed into a sort of 'n' shaped circuit, with the covered steaming bays in the centre. The very rare inner, a simple oval (all inside one leg of the 'n' of the elevated outer line) means that only one circuit at a time is normally used - except when we visit! The outer line has public running on the first and third Sundays of the month until Sep. 12.00-13.00 is diesel running usually then, as available, steam from 13.00-16.00.

Our visit was a private one so members were treated to unlimited rides on both circuits. This was taken up with enthusiasm as there was haulage to be had. Steam engines 1506, 61379 'Mayflower' and 44832 plus battery-electric 67027 were all sampled. The locos were beautiful scale models of mainline examples and all the rolling stock used ran on the 5" track. There was some spirited running up to the maximum line speed of 8mph, which also showed off the impressive semi-automatic three aspect signalling system. A walking tour of the shed & steaming bays rounded off the visit. What next? Well, it was a Sunday and none of us had been to church up to that point. Our convoy departed for a former Wesleyan School, now a church hall, just over a mile away in Nantwich.


The South Cheshire Model Engineering Society
[© Neil Lewis 2019]




The South Cheshire Model Engineering Society
[© Neil Lewis 2019]


Mark Haggas, my group's driver (thanks again, Mark!) managed to park opposite the old school. We were greeted by wisps of steam coming from behind the metal railings. A small loco and two coaches were sat ready to depart, from Platform 7¼, one of the two stations at 'The Church With The Train'.

This was one of the more eccentric railways that I have visited. It runs from the front yard to the back yard of the church hall, passing through a storage shed and an extremely narrow side passage on the way. The line is almost straight with no point work, but the entertainment factor is high thanks to the unusual location. The owner started building the line about 12 years ago. It has public running during a kids club, 10.00 until 12.00 every Saturday all year round. Rides are free but donations to charity are welcome - over £10,000 has been gathered. Popularity meant that 7¼" rails were added outside of the original 5" track - the latter is rarely used now. A surprisingly chunky ⅓ scale model of a Kerr Stuart Joffre class is the main motive power and was the traction for our visit. A small battery loco is available to cover but rarely needed. More coffee, tea and cake was provided and extra runs were offered. And then, it was time to go. Many thanks to the Lewis family for their excellent organisation and efficient stewarding and to all the railways for hosting us. A most interesting and enjoyable day.


'The Church With The Train' showing the very narrow gap.
[© Neil Lewis 2019]




'The Church With The Train' showing the very narrow gap.
[© Neil Lewis 2019]




'The Church With The Train'
[© Neil Lewis 2019]

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