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History Battle of the Gauges
extremes on the Eastleigh Lakeside Railway near Southampton
In the Victorian era,miniature railways were beginning to appear.But how did the peculiar gauges we know today actually arise? It’s all a matter of scale:the size of a miniature locomotive has long been expressed as so many inches to the foot,vis-a-vis its full-scale counterpart.For example:if a full-size chimney 12 inches tall,was faithfully reproduced measuring two inches tall,the scale would be two inches to the foot.In the decimal age this can more conveniently be expressed as 1:6,meaning that the miniature locomotive would emerge 1 / 6 th the size of the original.Similarly,where the full-size locomotive ran on rails 4' 8 1 / 2 " apart,a 1:6 locomotive would require rails around 9 1 / 2 " apart,and so,for no other reason than that it was a convenient scale,early engines began to appear at this gauge.It is thought that the very first 9 1 / 2 " gauge locomotive (a 2-2-2 now in the Bolton Museum) was built as early as the 1840s,barely a decade after the completion of the first standard gauge trunk line.
15-inch Gauge In the mid-Victorian era model engineering was becoming an acceptable and fashionable pursuit for gentlemen of means,and miniature railway engines were being built in a variety of large gauges - usually 15-inch,18-inch or 20-inch in those early days. With locomotives came railway lines.These were usually built to serve or enhance the country estates of the sort of gentlemen who could afford to build them.One of
Miniature Railway 1 “...to enhance the estates of the sort of gentlemen who could afford to build them...”
these wealthy enthusiasts was Sir Arthur Heywood of Duffield Bank near Derby,who did much to popularise the 15-inch gauge. The line on Heywood’s estate was steeply graded and just under a mile in length. Heywood wrote the seminal work Minimum Gauge Railways ,promoting the 15-inch gauge, but the phrase has been borrowed by successively smaller gauges ever since,as technology has evolved to make ever smaller locomotives practical. The railway at Duffield Bank was built to provide serious freight and passenger transport around the estate,which really did make some sense in those days before tractors. The rolling stock and locomotives were really narrow gauge machines rather than ‘miniatures’,and this was also the case at Eaton Hall,where the Duke of Westminster established a similar 15-inch line. This was all to change at the turn of the century with the arrival on the scene of locomotive engineer Henry Greenley,whose work for J Bassett-Lowke produced the first true 15-inch gauge miniature locomotives that were to become classics of their kind.Bassett-Lowke was convinced
ABOVE Sir Arthur Heywood with Effie,the first relatively crude locomotive to run on the Duffield Bank Railway BELOW They don’t make garden railways like this anymore! A 15-inch line near Tewkesbury,Gloucestershire in the 1930s
that miniature railways had a future as leisure attractions, and put this idea into practice in 1915 by converting a moribund threefoot gauge freight line in Cumbria into a 15-inch gauge miniature railway - the Ravenglass & Eskdale.For commercial use, 15-inch has much
Miniature Railway 1