The Branch Line Society


Wester Pickston Railway
Saturday 4th August 2018

Report by Nick Jones

This was kindly arranged by Simon Mortimer, as quite a few members were 'in the area' for the Invergarry & Fort Augustus Railway fixture (a mere 113 miles or just 2½ hours away) the next day. This Wester Pickston Railway, home of the Scottish Model Engineering Trust, was a great introduction to the world of 7¼"railways for your author who had previously only sampled this gauge in the form of short temporary lines laid at open days and the like. By contrast, Wester Pickston is very much a 'proper' railway with multiple loops, varying scenery, viaducts, and even a tunnel!


The layout is far too complicated to describe in detail but BLN 1305 had a full page detailed track plan. The main route is actually dual gauge (5"/7¼") to run 5" locos, although the ride-on stock is, as common with mixed gauge, all 7¼".

The weather forecast was not promising and the morning brought the usual Scottish dreich¶. Happily, as we arrived the sun burst out and remained for the whole of our visit, a definite plus for an extensive tour in uncovered sit-astride stock. Refreshments were provided in the well appointed club room and, once all had arrived from far and wide, we moved to the railway's main station, Pickston. Our party of 18 (an impressive collection of miniature men and women) divided into three trainloads which the layout could easily take simultaneously. One steam hauled by WPR No3 0-4-0 'Auld Reekie', one pulled by replica Barclay industrial shunter 'Puffin' and our train was hauled by BR Class 20 replica '20020'.

I cannot speak for the other trainloads but we quickly fell into a very efficient pattern of working with our member Henry Kennedy operating points and our BLN editor directing operations from the guard's position at the back of the train. Exercising his photographic memory of the layout and which bits we had covered so far, Paul directed our (extremely obliging) driver to literally every available nook and cranny of the railway - even up the loading/unloading ramp! Certainly the 'Auld Reekie' contingent also had a similarly obliging driver who liaised with the points operative to gain all running lines before starting on Ducks End bay platform and siding. They ended up threading multiple roads on the new shed and turntable branch and even the centre road (of 3) of the carriage shed missed last time!

For public running days, the railway has a comprehensive computer-controlled signalling system based on miniature (how appropriate!) colour lights. The clever design allows signal heads to be removed for safe storage when not in use. Given our complex itinerary, the signalling was not in use - we were 'driving on sight' - a tour of the box was kindly given also showing us some signal heads after.

You've got to hand it to them - these signal heads are a very good idea, two would be better than one though.
[© Nick Jones 2018]

The railway continues to grow. Since the previous BLS tour a new turntable has been installed, with at least 16 roads so far and plenty of space for expansion, so a return visit will be needed. I would highly recommend this railway to anyone who couldn't make this visit. Although normally private, they have four public open days each year. will have next year's dates in due course.

After this excellent visit one car load explored some old railways including St Fillans station. Although closed in the early 1950s after less than 50 years of use, or perhaps because of this, remarkably the Category 'B' listed station buildings, signal box, waiting room and retaining walls are all intact, original and well cared for as a caravan holiday park.

Picture of the main station looking in one direction.
[© Nick Jones 2018]

Picture of the main station looking in the other direction with our organiser, Simon Mortimer on the platform, is plotting the next moves with one of the volunteers.
[© Nick Jones 2018]

The former St Fillans station holiday park is well worth a visit, or stay in the converted signal box and walk the trackbed by Loch Earn. In outstanding countryside the 1965 Glen Ogle landslip site was seen; it precipitated the Callander & Oban line closure. Ballachulish branch terminus was also visited.

¶Dreich an old Scots word: 'A combination of dull, overcast, drizzly, cold, misty and miserable weather.'

Permissive working, all three trains can be (just) seen in this shot. Many miniature railways seem to feature woodlands and very delightful they are too.
[© Nick Jones 2018]

The line to the right leads to a new 19 road turntable (we will need to return when they are all complete). Also shows detail of an interesting dual gauge point (made on site).
[© Nick Jones 2018]

The end of the new turntable was reached - next time it will be 'spinnage'.
[© Nick Jones 2018]

The impressive turntable on the shed/turntable branch.
[© Nick Jones 2018]

If they had told us before we went that we would be doing the loading/ unloading ramp I'd have said it was a 'wind up' - well actually it was….
[© Nick Jones 2018]

The other main station, Ducks End (one way of deterring ducks - who always prefer Down Roads, incidentally) where all the track and both sidings were covered by our tours.
[© Nick Jones 2018]

A very smart carriage shed - fortunately the line was clear to the end.
[© Nick Jones 2018]

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