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Technology Speed Records!
Queensland Railways is unlikely to agree with our suggestion that its trunk line is a miniature railway,but it's very,very fast!
What is the miniature railway speed record? That might sound a fairly straightforward question,but for all sorts of reasons,it isn’t.Many standard gauge trains run for long distances at close to 200mph,but trains of narrower gauge have to run more slowly. One reason is obvious - if the width and height of the rolling stock is the same as a standard gauge train,but the rail gauge is narrower,the rolling stock will be less stable. However,if the rolling stock is reduced in scale to suit,running speeds can be quite high. The 1067mm (3' 6") gauge sees some quite impressive train speeds,with 100mph not uncommon in Japan and Queensland,Australia.Queensland Railway’s new Brisbane-Cairns tilting trains can reach 106mph,and are scheduled to complete the 1,000-mile journey at an average of over 40mph. But as the gauge gets narrower,rolling stock necessarily becomes somewhat topheavy,wheels and bearings have to spin faster,and the maximum speed rapidly falls.In the pre-World War 11 heyday of the two-foot gauge,line speeds crept into the 25-30mph region,but as narrow gauge railways lost the battle with bus competition the impetus to run faster was lost. Much more exciting are the experimental and regular runs made by smaller 15-inch gauge miniature locomotives.In 1905,Bassett-Lowke made a number of experiments to find just how fast steam engines built to the 1:4 scale could run.Henry Greenley’s famous locomotive ‘Little Giant’,arguably the grandfather of all miniature steam engines,was tested on the Eaton Hall railway. A typical end-to-end run on this three-mile line took about 17 minutes,including a 30-second crossing stop,but pulling a load of five tonnes, Little Giant made a run in 10 minutes,30 seconds.To average 17mph over three miles,
Miniature Railway 1 “...180 miles at 88mph... And all on a tender full of water...”
with a 30-second stop in the middle,the train must have run for long stretches at well over 20mph,quite a feat on what was effectively an industrial line.For a few days in 1905,Eaton Hall must have been an exciting place.The engine went on to hit a speed of 26mph on a slight downgrade,running,according to reports ‘with perfect steadiness and freedom from oscillation’ at this scale speed of 104mph.But this was not destined to be the 15-inch record by any means. The Romney Hythe & Dymchurch very definitely was built for speed.When the line opened,the 15-inch trains would thunder along the 8 1 / 2 flat,and mostly straight,miles in 30 minutes - an average speed of just over 17mph inclusive of stops.Locomotives often exceeded 32mph,with 35mph not unknown.Tests of these highly sophisticated Greenley locomotives had yielded speeds of up to 39mph - a remarkable scale speed of more than 117mph.Today,with enforced caution at the many crossings following a spate of crashes with cars crossing against the warning lights,the railway allows 35 minutes for the run:a still impressive average of 14 1 / 2 mph,including two stops. On the 10 1 / 4 ” some fine schedules were achieved in the 1930s.The short-lived Surrey Border & Camberley Railway was scheduled to run two miles in 15 minutes,later reduced to 12 minutes,which equates to a scale average of about 55mph.Few ordinary seaside lines then or now could match this sort of speed,but the 1930s was very much an era of epic record breaking,so perhaps it’s no surprise that the official 10 1 / 4 " record dates from this era too.Mr H F R Franklin,a partner in the model-building firm of Bassett-Lowke,constructed one of the finest 10 1 / 4 " garden railways ever made - 1.2km ( 3 / 4 mile) long,with an impressive 21-metre viaduct.‘Loadstone’,a 4-4-2 Atlantic steam locomotive weighing 750kg,is recorded as having a top speed of 25mph,the equivalent of 150mph for a full-size machine.Even more remarkable in its way was a two-hour,30-mile non-stop run at an average of 15mph:180 miles at 88mph in full-scale terms.And all on 73 litres - a single tender full - of water.
1905 speed trials at Eaton Hall with the legendary 'Little Giant'
Miniature Railway 1