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TMNR Day at Birchley

  Some while ago I came across the Triang Minic Narrow Gauge Railway website (www.tmnr.co.uk) devised by Mike Slater. This brought back happy childhood memories of riding on the system operated by Butlins at Clacton. From the extensive information on Mike’s site my interest grew and not having seen one of these running since the 1960’s I was more than a tad interested when I became aware of the first annual TMNR day to be held at ‘Birchley’, a private 10¼“ gauge railway owned by Drummond Randall, whilst

Reading the ‘TMNR Times’ the magazine of the TMNR society also produced by Mike Slater.

  The 21st September 2008 was fortunately one of the rare sunny and warm weekends this year so I and the family set off not really knowing what to expect. Arriving in the depths of the Kent/Sussex boarder the first impression of Birchley is that  this is  an

impressive property with an extensive garden, just right for a large miniature railway….but it got better. As we parked by the driveway I soon realised that we had just driven over a substantial tunnel. I soon located the refreshment tent along with Mike and other TMNR members. It was clear this railway was going to take some exploring.

  We wondered down to the 3-road station to see 3 TMNR engines sitting in front of a line of TMNR Pullman coaches. What a fantastic sight !

  Soon after we arrived they embarked on a triple headed run around the short track, short still being  quite long in  this context. Later in  the day  I managed to  squeeze  into a Pullman coach (I seem to have broadened in all directions   since  those  childhood  trips  at  Butlins)  and was  taken for a run

similar to their smaller ‘00’ products utilising a trackside transformer most  if  not  all the 35 plus survivors have been fitted with an on-board battery supply instead. The motors were originally driven at 40volts although rated at 36volts but George and others run theirs on 24 volts from two internally mounted 12volt batteries and the turn of speed seemed perfectly adequate to me. In fact once I’d managed to wriggle into the Pullman coach the ride down to the far end of the line was extremely, and somewhat surprisingly, comfortable despite the wood slatted seat which at first sight seemed a touch agricultural.

  The line itself is a credit to Drummond. Throughout the aluminium profiled rail which is screwed to wood sleepers is mounted on a concrete base which in view of the extent of the track layout is a  remarkable feat  of  construction  in  itself.  The  station  has three  lines two of  which  are  served by a platform

trees at a number of points whilst gaining some speed. Eventually we arrive at the end of the line passing another signal box we can continue on to another turn table, take the left hand branch which in conjunction with the turn table provides a run-round loop or take the right hand point up to the unloading       ramp,    an  

ingenious design in itself. Once the engine has turned and run around the train it pulls us back to the main junction, needing some effort up the steep gradient, where the driver deposits the token back on its post and  rejoins the

  If you want to find out more about the TMNR’s go to www.tmnr.co.uk and don’t forget to join the society, its free and you get regular magazines which are in themselves enjoyable and very informative. Happy TMNRing !

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gardens which were stunning enough when we were there but must have been an absolute triumph at the height of the  flowering  season. From  this point the line travels through manicured lawns before dropping steeply down to a junction from where you can turn right aiming toward the tunnel or continue straight on down the branch line. Picking up the branch line token we travel along the edge of  a  densely  wooded  area  passing  close  by  the

and the atmosphere is added to by the signal box, turntable and engine shed/workshop. Turning right from the station the line meanders through very close fitting hedges before passing in front of the substantial house of some character which is an attraction in itself whilst on the right of the line are  attractive formal    

down the branch line by George Coles from Northampton driving his TMNR to the far end of the garden which is heavily wooded. The only problem these 45 year old machines seemed to have is with the gauge widening on one or two of the tighter curves. Although Triang supplied the TMNR engines with a track pickup system remarkably

  The TMNR members were supplemented on the track by Drummand and his merry band of men driving two steam loco’s and a petrol hydraulic boxcab. There’s little that I can put in writing that adequately conveys the atmosphere and enjoyment of this treasure of a railway and  the  only   way   to  find   out  what

its really  like  is  to  experience  it  for

main circuit. Climbing through the cutting into the entrance to the tunnel causes some trepidation and once inside the long curving and extremely dark tunnel one could be forgiven for wondering what you have let yourself in for. Apparently the longest of any tunnel on a UK miniature railway it doesn’t fail to impress at 218 feet long no matter how  many  times you  travel

through it. Emerging into daylight you trundle over a girder bridge spanning an attractive pond before eventually turning right back into the station.

yourself but I have included a rang of pictures below which may wet the appetite. So my thanks to Drummond, Mike and the other TMNRists who made for such an enjoyable day.