This was my O gauge garden railway. The engine was just a clockwork Hornby 0-4-0 tender engine. It was of better quality than the standard model and painted in LMS livery. She was called the Brave Engine by my Dad because he bought for me when I had to go into the Jenny Lind hospital (the children’s hospital in Norwich) for an operation. The Brave Engine was nothing exceptionally special. It was the top of the range but commercially available. It was the track that was specially constructed just for me.
It was all made by Dad by hand from individual chairs, sleepers and rails. The lengths of track were made up one yard long for the straights. The curves had to have the inner track cut of course. There was a former to check that the gauge was correct. Fishplates had to be fitted before the track was laid, so it was much more like building a real railway than a model layout where the track was ready out of the box. All the special components were bought by post from Bonds o’ Euston Road in London, a model engineering shop which has only recently closed, although it moved from Euston Road many years ago. They used to produce an annual catalogue which was a model engineer’s delight. The track was laid on a concrete base around a rockery. I think it was screwed down for stability. There was no ballast.
In this picture you can see the track where in curves round to go through a cutting to the other side of the rockery. Just behind the camera it goes through a tunnel complete with concrete portals – also home made. Making the mould and filling it with cement was just the sort of thing my father loved to do. That was it – there were no points so no sidings, very sensibly. It didn’t need any.
We had a camomile lawn between the railway and the bungalow, and that explains the name –MC & FVR – the Mount Camomile and Fragrance Valley Railway. The name originated in my father’s idea to produce a scented garden. The camomile lawn was meant to be a delightful mass of sweetly-smelling herb, but it wasn’t a great success. There were large patches of bare earth, and weeds. Because my only motive power was clockwork the train would only go round the track a couple of times or so. This was perhaps a slight disadvantage, but at least the railway was finished, or almost finished. The roof of the tunnel was a sheet of tin that was meant to be covered with earth but never was. Not finishing things was perhaps a slight short-coming of my father’s.
It did not last very long. I think its fate was sealed by the bay window extension to our little living room. We certainly needed the extra space indoors, but the building then extended almost over the MC & FVR. If that didn’t do for the railway the whole of the permanent way was shortly to be shingled over and turned into a park for our growing family of cars and boat trailers. The camomile lawn was torn up and the hawthorn and laburnum trees torn down. But it was good while it lasted.