the 009 locomotives of County Gate

County Gate being a 'what could have been' extension of the Lynton and Barnstaple needed accurate and detailed models of the L&B locomotives, 'Lew', 'Taw', 'Exe', 'Yeo' and 'Lyn'. We used kits supplied by Backwoods miniatures.

With the exception of No 759 'Yeo', we have selected the lighter Malachite SR green rather than the original 'dark olive'. During the weathering process, the locos are finely sprayed with dark grey and this brings the colour back down towards SR 'Olive Green'.

some of the 'girls' have a get-together  - click on image to enlarge

One problem in these small gauges is to get acceptable running for many differing locomotive types. As an example, we find that our Garratt locomotive shows 'P' factor when running. That is, the rotation of the universal drive causes the articulated chassis to bias to one side or another which causes derailment on turnouts unless the check rails are perfectly set. The 2-6-2 Manning Wardles on the other hand, have long rigid wheelbases which can get tight on point checkrails. On County Gate, we have to get the check rails to within one thou. to get reliable operation for both types of loco.

Another problem is the variation in performance of locomotives. When I built the first two sections of County Gate, I was still living in the dark ages and wired the railway for DC (they still switch on light bulbs with a match in Herefordshire). Having seen what can be done with it, conversion to DCC began during the winter of 2007.  Each loco can be programmed to give predictable and consistent performance. In addition, the track voltage is a steady 15V AC so dirty track is less of a problem. At long last, we are blasting into the 21st century! The final programming of locos is a very difficult and complicated task and this work continues.

Locomotives on County Gate must be able to withstand a hard working life and therefore need to be reliable long term. They are expected to run long distances (compared to many layouts) and haul heavy stock over grades. Gradually, we are learning what is required to obtain these characteristics. These days, all coupling rods are fitted with brass bushes and many other small modifications are included.

Building a model railway is about personal choice. We all have our priorities and the results of our modelling shows how really different we all are. My personal bugbear is the practice of slinging inside framed chassis under prototypes which were outside framed. Backwoods Miniatures fortunately have brought out some fine, accurate kits, but the chassis can be exceptionally difficult to build. I must confess that they are beyond me and I have to pay others to build them for me. I have no trouble building the bodies. The design of the Backwoods chassis makes any replacement or repair very difficult.

Our loco 'Taw' had a chassis built by a 'professional' who did not have a clue and despite many visits to Peter Wallace, was never a good performer. For this reason, we have converted it to include the new Grafar/Bachmann N gauge 008 chassis and this appears to be very successful. The loco has less traction, however due to the plated wheels.

To establish 100% reliability, we now mate the L&B locos with a companion vehicle which also collects current. The improvement in performance is outstanding.

two of our Backwoods Manning Wardles

All our locos are now flywheel fitted except the 4-6-0 Baldwin and 'Lyn' where room was not found.

Lynton and Barnstaple locomotives

click for full size image

click for full size image

Here are some of the stages when building a modified Backwoods Manning Wardle (in this case 'Yeo') photos Peter Wallace.

the start of the chassis for 'Yeo'

pony trucks weighted and wired - click on image to enlarge

slidebars soldered to cylinder covers and crossheads fitted - there must be no play in the crossheads

rolling chassis wired and completed  - click on image to enlarge

motor and flywheel fitted  - click on image to enlarge

the completed 'Yeo' wired for connection to 'companion coach' - click on image to enlarge


Lyn is to be built again for the rebuilt Lynton and Barnstaple Railway. Click here for more details

chassis of 'Lyn' - Peter Wallace

'Lyn' dismantled

the completed 'Lyn' - click on image to enlarge

'Lyn' creeps onto the East Lyn viaduct- click on image to enlarge

In addition to these locos, we have also built four freelance models that could possibly have existed had the extension been built. These have indeed added more variety and interest during exhibition running.

the Mallet locomotives


'River Avon' No 666

the Mallet under construction

Following a joke about articulated locomotives for the L&B on the Yahoo forum, I drew a Lynton and Barnstaple Mallet. If traffic had been heavier, the design would have been much more economical than double heading. The locomotive remains within the loading gauge and would have negotiated the curves. The locomotive number tells it all, (the number of the Beast). It is called 'River Avon' or the 'Mad Mallet'. It is a 'kitbash' of a Backwoods Manning Wardle and is fitted with two modified Grafar class 8 outside frame chassis with Roco valve gear and cylinders. The motors are jointly controlled by a Digitrax DZ 143 chip.

Originally, I used Roco chassis but they failed very quickly due to their poor design.

the Mallet loco 'River Avon'

'River Brue' No 667

A second Mallet has also been built, 'River Brue' which is also based on two outside frame Grafar class 8 chassis. The loco represents a development of 'River Avon' and is built to the maximum loading gauge permissible on the Lynton and Barnstaple.

The valve gear was supplied by Backwoods, (from their Russell kit). The motors are now controlled by a Digitrax DZ 125 chip.  The loco is fitted with working lights. The valve gear was quickly replaced with Roco gear as this was more reliable.

'River Brue' No 667, prior to painting. It has working lights.

'River Brue'  prior to weathering


dawning of a new age


railcars 302, 304 and 305

After a couple of early development railcars we now have two silver railcar sets; Coupe d'Or and Southern Belle. They represent classic art deco styling which was so popular in the 1930s. The units are very popular with the younger set who are fixated with modern image railways. They run exceptionally well and being articulated, weave through the points in a compelling manner. They are all fitted with lights and the wiring between the units makes them difficult to put on the tracks. Railcar 302 is now 'sold' to the Glenthorne Estate and has been reduced to a two car set.

Coupe d'Or crosses the East Lyn Viaduct

First Eastleigh built production railcar No 302. Now sold to Glenthorne and operates as a two car set on Cliffhanger. - click on image to enlarge

the future? No.597 'River Avill'

The success of the railcars prompted Eastleigh to consider the use of heavy diesel electric traction units to replace the elderly steam locos. A prototype unit was delivered by Armstrong Whitworth in 1935 for trials. Our model is based on two Grafar class 08 chassis.

'Axe' No 763

The latest locomotive is a Baltic tank 'Axe', No 763. It is an exercise in how North British would have designed a loco for the L&B if they had supplied them for the Minehead extension.

Southern Railway locomotives built for County Gate:-



2-6-2T Backwoods kit b - I.G.R.L. c - Grafar/Backwoods  l - Tony Freestone


2-6-2T Backwoods kit b - I.G.R.L. c - rebuilt by Peter Wallace  l - Tony Freestone
Yeo 759 2-6-2T Backwoods kit b - Peter Wallace  c - Peter Wallace  l - Tony Freestone
Lew 188 2-6-2T Backwoods kit b - I.G.R.L. c - Peter Wallace  l - Tony Freestone
Lyn 762 2-6-2T Backwoods kit b - I.G.R.L. c - Peter Wallace  l - Tony Freestone
River Avon 666 2-6-0-0-6-2T freelance Mallet b - I.G.R.L. c - modified Grafar chassis  l - Tony Freestone
River Brue 667 2-6-0-0-6-2T freelance Mallet b - I.G.R.L. c - modified Grafar chassis l - Tony Freestone
  200 prototype diesel/electric railcar b - I.G.R.L. c -Grafar  l - Tony Freestone
Atlantic Airstream 302 production diesel/electric 3 coach railcar b - I.G.R.L. c -Riverossi  p - JdF
La Coupe D'Or 304 production diesel/electric 4 coach railcar b - I.G.R.L. c -Bachmann   p - Chromed Up
River Avill 777 prototype articulated diesel electric traction unit b - I.G.R.L. c -Bachmann class 08
Axe 763 4-6-4T freelance North British b - I.G.R.L. c -I.G.R.L.   l - Tony Meacham

b  body builder
c - chassis builder
p - painter
l - lining


Glenthorne Harbour locomotives


I built the locomotives shown below in the 70s. Very little was available then and I had to struggle hard to get them to work well. The prototypes are Welsh orientated but we have found an excuse for them to make an appearance by having the Glenthorne harbour branch!

the Garratt No4


click on image to enlarge

click on image to enlarge

click on image to enlarge

click on image to enlarge

This was the hardest thing I think I ever made in miniature! The basis was an N gauge diesel loco. The motor is central and drives the bogies by lay shafts with universal joints. Axles extenders were made and fitted using a jig. I did artwork which was the basis for photo etching the parts at the nearby Beech Aerospace division (they did this in between the times they were building exploding cryogenic tanks for Apollo 13!). The loco is very powerful but solder joints have got a tad brittle and I have had to do quite a bit of servicing. I actually brought it to the UK in the 70s to a Wessex 009 group meeting.

The loco has now had a major overhaul and has been fitted with a flywheel which has much improved its running qualities. It is one of the mainstays for operating coal trains out of the harbour.

stripped for flywheel fitting (click to enlarge)

Hunslet No1 (in memoriam)

a butchered Russell on arrival at Towyn
(N.J. Allcock)

I first met Russell when he lived behind the Buildings at Wharf Station of the Tal-y-llyn. He was painted pea- green and was squat and ugly after the pointless attentions of the Festiniog Railway. I took many photos and measurements and these were the basis of the model I made. In many ways, it was the best of my efforts, having had the benefit of the experience gained in building the others. It ran extremely well, having been built with an inside frame retained by a keeper plate and outside frames with slotted axle boxes. This made maintenance very easy. When brought into action on County Gate, we were forced to open the side frames to allow for further movement of the pony truck on the sharp radii. This Russell sadly lived for only a few months after being mistaken for a mouse by one of our cats. It was completely destroyed.

sadly, this loco was destroyed by one of our cats

The loco was replaced with a Backwoods version, fitted with a ROCO outside frame chassis with Backwoods cylinders and motion. We chose this route as at the time of building we had not found a competent Backwoods chassis builder and as usual, the chassis I built did not work too well. The Backwoods version does not quite capture 'Russell' (a bit like a Russell on anabolic steroids) but works fine for our freelance No1. The loco ran extremely well for a while, until the usual Roco self destruction mechanism kicked in, causing increasing oscillation until it would almost fall off the track! It has now been rebuilt with a professionally built Backwoods chassis by Rex Ashton and very well it runs too.

the newly built No. 1 built from a Backwoods kit. It is lined by Tony Freestone



prior to rebuild

The Alco started out as a white metal kit which was super-detailed but not fitted with a new outside framed chassis. Until the time that this could be redressed, it lived in the loco shed undergoing maintenance! Hey, how lifelike is this? Some locos remain dismantled forever! The Alco has now been rebuilt by Pilton Yard. The bunker was enlarged and new cab panels  completed the picture. The chassis was replaced by a Roco unit which ran very well for a short time before it began to fail.

We have decided to withdraw the Alco from service and place it in the scrap siding where it belongs.

Happier days! No 6 after Pilton Yard rebuild but already a bit dirty! Sadly no bar frames. Loco crew are not fitted as yet in this photo.

No 6...the final evolution now with cab detail. It still awaits the fitting of chopper coupling prior to being glued to the scrap siding - click on image to enlarge


4-6-0 Baldwin No 9

The most unloved of the WHR locomotives, our Baldwin has a scratch built body fitted to a Lilliput chassis. New valve gear was drawn, etched and fitted. Unlike its prototype, this has been a very good running loco and actually ran non-stop for one year at Caboose Hobbies in Denver on a fund raising layout. It has now been re-motored. It is not possible to fit a flywheel to this model.

By modern day standards, the Lilliput chassis runs very fast. This problem has been solved now the loco is converted to DCC.

It is used as the top shunter but does get a run on the line from time to time as it is still a very good runner.

Glenthorne Railcar

It is ironic that our railcars often attract more interest than our precious steamers. For the first few shows, we used the mainline railcar No 200 to operate the shuttle between the harbour and County Gate. This would have been very unlikely as the branch is a private line. We have now built the Glenthorne Harbour Authority railcar which is again visually different both in shape and livery. 

click on image to enlarge

the railcar descends to the harbour

2-6-4 Baldwin No 2 'Ben Halliday'

The Baldwin, (No 2) 'Ben Halliday' was delivered just before Xmas 2008 and built up into a very fine good running loco.  It was a model of Sandy River No19 by Victors Models. Sadly, for us, the H0 scale of the loco, along with the fact that the prototype is a tad small anyway, has meant that it is just too light to be able to haul a useful load up the grades from the harbour branch.

The loco is now rebuilt as a 2-6-4 tank engine using a Langley body fret. This has enabled much more ballast to be placed over the driving wheels. The loco now pulls what is required of it. It has working lights. The chassis runs very well but is a bit noisy.

loco No 2 'Ben Halliday'

0-6-0 0-6-0 No 2 Kitson Meyer

There are a lot of advantages to the Kitson Meyer design and if Kitson had been a better quality builder, the Garratt type may well have been eclipsed. This is a scratch build project based on two Bachmann class 08 chassis fitted with Roco valve gear.


0-6-0 No 12 Peckett

A recent addition to the Glenthorne fleet is Peckett No 12. This is built from a kit by RT models and is powered by a Grafar chassis.

2-8-2 No 7 Hudswell Clarke

Another 'new boy' is the Mikado. This is based on a Roco 0-8-0 chassis and performs very well indeed.


4-6-2 No 10 North British

The Pacific is a modified Darjeeling Backwoods kit.


2-8-2 No 11 Kerr Stuart

Our Mikado is an English version of the huge locos that used to run on the Indian Gwalior system. This is scratch built.

2-8-4T No 14 Hunslet

The next loco delivered to the system is the very powerful 2-8-4 tank engine, used for hauling coal from Glenthorne Harbour and is based on the two Dholpur locomotives, now scrapped.

2-6-4T No 15 Kerr Stuart

The most recent locomotive built is a typical colonial tank of Kerr Stuart. It is a freelance design.