The Branch Line Society


The Beeches Light Railway
Saturday 25th August 2018

Report by Andrew Murray

60 members making up half of the visitors present (and very kindly increased from the original limit) gathered at Adrian Shooter's home at midday to sample his 2ft gauge private railway of nearly a mile built between 2002 and 2004. The afternoon began with a welcoming speech from Mr Shooter himself from the footplate of his blue Darjeeling steam loco at station (Rinkingpong Road). He introduced the various groups attending, including several railway as well as motor vehicle groups (with their smart Morgan and other classic cars), and of note, relatives of the original visionary of the Darjeeling Railway.


His Railway crosses the drive to the house near the garage block which itself has rail access. A few of the classic cars almost drove down the tracks to access the paddock often followed by the inimitable Martyn Brailsford shouting for them to stop! The cars were displayed in the middle of the paddock.

Everyone was invited to travel on the first train of the day which left the only station, Rinkingpong Road very much in Darjeeling Railway style, at 12.40. It was made up of the Sharp Stewart 1888 built Darjeeling loco No19, works No3518, and two matching replica Darjeeling coaches.

The railway
[© Andrew Murray 2018]

The railway is basically two single-line circuits, the east one (Right) round the house and garden and the west (Left) encircles the paddock. They run alongside each other through the station but the only platform is on the east side. A scissors crossover at the station connects the two. Further connecting lines north and south of the station join the two circuits to form a large perimeter oval.

The first train departed southward out of the station anti-clockwise round the east circuit past the gardens and house. There is a significant uphill gradient, up to 1 in 20, beginning where the line crosses the house drive (top right on the track plan) all the way through the trees and along the connecting line to the west circuit. Despite the best efforts of the train crew and some very dramatic sound effects from the engine, the track was just too greasy for the train to ascend on this first run and it had to drawback and take another run. This did look a bit 'iffy' again but the skill and experience of the crew, and some helpful sand on the track, got us through and onto the west circuit. We navigated this around the paddock and the southern connection back onto the east circuit and up the hill to the west circuit again with rather less effort. The train ran over the large perimeter circuit seven times non-stop before arriving back at the station around when our 'BLS specials' were due to run.

There are two three-road sheds inside the eastern circuit; the loco shed backs onto the station and the carriage shed between the station and the house. Outside the east circuit is a further storage shed (wooden) with a second on the far side of the drive in the garage block. We were split into two groups to fit on the single carriage special which was waiting on carriage Shed Line 1. Traction was diesel hydraulic Hunslet 'Col. Frederick Wylie', works No9349 of 1994, rebuilt by Alan Keef in 2004. Leaving the Carriage Shed it ran anti-clockwise around the east circuit then the north connection, reversed and propelled onto the siding to the storage sheds; unfortunately a tree obstructed the wide coach from going right down the siding. After this siding the train continued anti-clockwise and reversed back into the carriage shed for the first group to alight and the second to repeat the trip. It is thought to be the first time these tracks were covered by passenger trains (and a first for the driver!).

From our arrival until the first passenger train, Adrian ran one of his former Mail Rail sets, green No37, built by English Electric to works No760 in 1930. This was hauled and propelled around the west circuit by Motor Rail 'Major Gerald Scott' of 1957 works No21619. Two more Mail Rail power bogies were in the storage shed, from set No44, also built by English Electric in 1930, works No 812.

The Darjeeling train then made another run until 14.00 when it was lunchtime; a very well-prepared barbecue (they were clearly used to catering for 130!) and deservedly the train crew were first! After lunch it was back onto the Darjeeling train again for a 'non-standard' run. The usual departure anti-clockwise around the east circuit was followed by the train running straight back round through the station and across the crossover onto the west side clockwise with three clockwise perimeter trips arriving back at the station in the northward direction. Mr Shooter was noted in control as the train did these unusual clockwise circuits of the railway. After a short pause, the train departed again northward out of the station to head clockwise again around the east side, back to the station and across the other part of the scissors crossover. The train then made six full perimeter circuits arriving back at the station in the standard way, just before 15.00. Except for the crossovers, which were each traversed once, every running line had been done at least once in both directions. Then members started to head off - some to conveniently do bits of the new Oxford layout (see BLN 1312.1768).

The Darjeeling train did, however, carry on giving standard rides and another non-standard run covering both crossovers and the full western circuit again. Two items of motive power not used during the day, both in the loco shed, were a Robert Hudson diesel mechanical, works No38384, built in 1930, and 'Model T' railcar, built in 2008 at Statfold Barn in the name of Hunslet and given the works No9901. It was an excellent afternoon, we couldn't have asked for more, with the weather being on our side too. We thank Adrian Shooter profusely for hosting this fantastic event at his home and letting us 'hijack' his trains for the afternoon, and also all of his volunteers, both for running the trains and for providing lunch. Also thanks to Martyn for organising it with Adrian. Pleasingly, our visit (which was fully booked very quickly) also resulted in £1,800 being donated to charities of Adrian's choice.

The drive, running line (with car!) and garage line.
[© Andrew Murray 2018]

Green Mail Rail set No37.
[© Andrew Murray 2018]

The first 'BLS Special' has loaded and emerges from Shed Line 1 to do some rare track. A Daventry member adds some colour to the picture (thanks Duncan)!
[© Andrew Murray 2018]

A fine classic car line up, mostly 'Morgans' (hand made in Malvern) in The Paddock; encircled by the west circuit.
[© Andrew Murray 2018]

This could so easily be India rather than remote rural Oxfordshire.
[© Andrew Murray 2018]

Some miniature men, your GS, MR Ed and BLN Ed on the platform near the scissors crossover.
[© Andrew Murray 2018]

Every railway should have one: The 2008 'Model T' railcar comes with a crank (…..handle).
[© Andrew Murray 2018]

On the drive approaching the steepest section of the line, with very little straight track it is easy to go round the bend on this railway!
[© Andrew Murray 2018]

Carriage shed/workshop.
[© Andrew Murray 2018]


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