Some of you will know me from my previous incarnation here as 'Expat'. However, I have not been on the MRF for a year so now and in the intervening period I've relocated from China back to the UK and consequently that no longer seemed approriate so I have been reborn as Chinahand. Likewise, some of the more long serving members here will already be aware of my previous plans for my new layout but, for those that are not familiar with it, this is how it came about.
Before getting to the layout itself though I thought I would 'Set the Scene' so to speak and provide an historical background for the layout so here goes.
Market Havering & Parmouth – Its History & Raison D'etre
The History of the Line
The scene is set 'somewhere Southwest of Exeter' during the glorious Summer of 1947 in the period immediately prior to the nationalisation of the railways and surmises that, after taking over the Heathfield to Market Havering Branch Line from the South Devon Railway, the GWR built a link from Market Havering to Ashburton to complete the loop and thus provide an alternative 'relief' route between Totnes and Exeter.
As previously noted, the route was originally part of the South Devon Railway but a meeting of the South Devon Railway's shareholders on 17the December 1875, overwhelmingly voted for merger with the Great Western Railway, who thus took possession of the line on 1st February 1876. It was, however, necessary to get this transfer approved by Parliament which was duly achieved by the Great Western Railway and South Devon Railway Companies Amalgamation Act of 22nd July 1878(1) and the South Devon Railway Company was therefore dissolved on 1st August 1878. Following this amalgamation the GWR constructed a new branch line to Parmouth and the Parmouth Harbour Branch was duly opened on 6the November 1878.
At this time both the SDR and GWR tracks were Broad Gauge so there were no problems with the interchange of locos and rolling stock.2) However, the change from broad gauge to what was to become standard gauge had already started and by 1889, the conversion of the last miles of broad gauge from London via Bristol, Exeter and Plymouth to Penzance, including all the associated branch lines, 177 route miles in all, shifted from being a pressing consideration to that of a plan of action. With the experience gained from the conversions to date, the final conversion of gauge was planned with meticulous detail. The general manager at Paddington issued a fifty-page manual of instructions, followed by another thirty pages for the superintendents of the Bristol and Exeter divisions.
Preparations at the track-site were equally as thorough. Ballast was cleared, facing points and complex crossovers made up on site in advance, nuts and tiebolts oiled and freed, new rails and every third sleeper or transom on existing track measured and cut and standard gauge locomotives dispersed to strategic locations on broad-gauge trucks.
At daybreak on Saturday 21st May 1892 over 4,200 platelayers and gangers were assembled along the line ready for the task. The conversion was planned to be completed by 4 am. on Monday 23 May and it was! This is shown by the fact that the Night Mail from Paddington to Plymouth on the Sunday had been booked, in the instruction issued on 30 April, to proceed from Plymouth North Road to Penzance at that time, which it duly did. Thus in less than two days 177 route miles of main line were converted from broad to standard gauge with the minimum of interruption to traffic. A truly magnificent feat of engineering and organisation. (3)
The Line in 1947
Market Havering is now a thriving, medium sized market town which sits at the junction of this relief route between Exeter and Totnes and a branch line from the nearby coastal town of Parmouth. When originally taken over by the GWR, Market Havering had been a terminus station which accounts for its unusually large MPD and turntable facilities. However, with the need for an alternative relief route between Exeter and Totnes, the line was extended just after World War 1, though it still retained its loco servicing facility and turntable which have recently been put to good use when Swindon Works were fully engaged in refurbishing locomotives that had been hard-pressed during the war years. It is not unusual even, to find a top link express locomotive receiving the ministrations of its dedicated work force. There is also a small Permanent Way Department charged with the maintenance of the track and other GWR assets on the route.
Passenger traffic mainly comprises local stopping services between Exeter and Totnes with the occasional main line express being diverted along this route when maintenance works are being carried out on the heavily trafficked main line between Exeter and Totnes. Passenger trains are hauled by an eclectic mix of locos which can be anything from a Class 57xx 0-6-0 Tank Loco to Manors or Halls though the sight of a crack express train headed by a King or Castle rushing through on its way to or from London via Exeter is also not uncommon.
A local branch line service runs between Market Havering and Parmouth with extra trains being deployed on market days. These take the form of either a diesel railcar or, when local freight is also being hauled, a Class 14xx 0-4-2 + Autocoach push-pull train with freight wagons attached. In addition, a daily Parcels Express railcar runs to and from Parmouth which connects with an overnight TPO which passes through Market Havering at 10:00 p.m. each evening, en route to Exeter, where it is attached to the Plymouth to Paddington Night Mail train.
Goods traffic is also generally of the local variety though, again, some main line trains, including slow china clay trains en route from Cornwall, are occasionally routed through Market Havering to ease congestion on the main line. One of the occasional sights to be seen is that of an ex War Department LMS Stanier 8F 2-8-0 heavy freight loco hauling a long train of china clay wagons destined for The Potteries. The GWR built 80 of these locos for the War Department and retained 5 of them for their own use after the war. They were never re-painted to GWR Green but the WD logos were simply painted out and replaced with the GWR logo on their tenders. They were given the Class identification 85xx.
Fresh fish is brought in from Parmouth for both local consumption and canning or onward transport to the capital, together with milk, livestock and fresh vegetables from the rural area surrounding Market Havering. These are consolidated at Market Havering and hauled to Exeter by a mix of Class 45xx and Class 61xx 2-6-2 Prairie Tank locos and a Class 2251 Collett Goods 0-6-0 tender loco.
In addition to its generally agricultural economy Market Havering is also home to the famous Havering Ales Brewery which, like the town itself, takes its name from the local landowner, Lord Havering, and generates a good amount of rail traffic bringing in the malt and hops and despatching barrels and crates of its popular ales across the whole West Country. The present Lord Havering's father had been one of the original driving forces within the South Devon Railway and had, in fact, paid for the construction of Market Havering Station which probably accounts for its somewhat grandiose proportions for a what was, after all, a comparatively rural backwater. (4)
Parmouth is a small and peaceful fishing community on the South coast of Devon which provides a steady supply of fresh mackerel, herrings and pilchards to both the local markets and the canning factories in Plymouth and Newton Abbot. A proportion of the catch is also shipped to the capital in refrigerated box vans.
In the post war era Parmouth is also becoming a fashionable holiday destination for the wealthy captains of industry wishing to get some peace and quiet away from the noise and grime of the industrial Midlands but who want to avoid the more crowded destinations such as Torquay and Paignton. This new 'Tourism' industry has brought a certain degree of new-found affluence and stability to its otherwise fragile post-war economy though the supply of available accommodation is somewhat limited and of varied quality.
1. This is historical fact. The Great Wester Railway and the South Devon Railway Companies Amalgamation Act was, indeed passed by Parliament on 22nd July 1878 and the SDR was duly merged with the GWR with effect from 1st August, 1878.
2. The 85 broad gauge locomotives added to the Great Western Railway loco fleet on 1st February 1876 included not just the South Devon Railway locomotives but also 19 owned by the Cornwall Railway and 8 from the West Cornwall Railway, which had all operated in a common pool since 186, They were numbered in the 2096 - 2180 series but generally also retained their names.
3. Information provided with the aid of 'The Locomotives of the Great Western Railway - Part Two, Broad Gauge' published by The Railway Correspondence and Travel Society.
4. Unfortunately the passenger services gradually became uneconomical and the last passenger train ran on 3rd November, 1958 with the line finally falling victim to the Beeching 'Axe' on 10th September. 1962. The route has not been entirely lost though as a section of it now forms part of the M5/A38(M) Motorway. See the below modern image from Google Earth with Market Havering to the Northeast of Ashburton.
Right, having hopefully convinced everyone that such a line existed, it's time to separate fact from fiction.
As noted above, it is a matter of historical fact that the South Devon Railway's shareholders did vote for a merger with the GWR on 17the December 1875, and that the GWR took over the SDR assets on 1st February 1876. It is also fact that the Great Western Railway and South Devon Railway Companies Amalgamation Act was passed by Parliament on 22nd July 1878 and that the South Devon Railway Company was dissolved on 1st August 1878.
It is also fact that Ashburton and Heathfield most definitely did, and still do, exist and that part of the line between Buckfastleigh and Ashburton was incorporated into the A38 trunk road improvement in the early 1970s.
Market Havering itself, however, is a figment of my (some might say over-active) imagination and the premise of a line linking Ashburton and Heathfield was, to the best of my knowledge, never contemplated by the GWR. Finally, while there is such a place as Par Harbour, it is a modern industrial port on the south coast of Cornwall and bears no resemblance whatsoever to my Parmouth Harbour. The harbour backscene will actually be a collage of photographs of the hillside behind the harbour at Looe.
And so, dear readers, to paraphrase the disclaimers seen at the end of movies, any resemblance between any place or person, either living or dead, and the places and characters appearing herein is pure coincidence.
My Personal Journey to Market Havering
Layouts representing the period between the end of WW2 and the Nationalisation of the railways on 1st January, 1948 are very much in the minority, with most steam era modellers preferring to represent either the period between the wars or the period after Nationalisation when both steam and diesel traction was in use, so I suppose the first question is "why model this particular period ?" After all, most of the railway companies were in dire financial straights after the war when both locomotives and rolling stock had suffered from very hard use and a general lack of maintenance. This is indeed true of the first year or so immediately after the end of the war but, by the summer of 1947, and despite the fact that the majority of daily requirements were still rationed, there was a general feeling of well-being starting to permeate through the country. Most of the armed forces had been demobilised and the factories that had been producing armaments were now back to producing both the raw materials required by industry and the latest consumer goods demanded by the new middle class that emerged after the war. This 'feel good factor' was further enhanced by the summer of 1947 itself which was one of the longest and hottest on record.
While the northern railway companies were still suffering from a lack of both war compensation and new investment, those in the south, notably the Southern Railway and the Great Western Railway, were able to bring both their track and rolling stock back to almost pre-war condition in a relatively short space of time. Locomotives had shed their dull black wartime paintwork and were now reappearing in fresh out-shopped condition with their distinctive Company liveries. The constant need for raw materials, particularly coal, by the resurgent industrial Midlands was generating healthy freight revenues and, at long last, people were able to take a Summer holiday, with the resort towns of the South-West being particularly popular.
That glorious Summer of 1947 was the first time I travelled on a train and the sights, sounds and smells are still as vivid in my memory today as if it were yesterday. My Mother and I spent most of that Summer in beautiful 'chocolate box' cottage in Corfe Castle with regular trips by train to the beach at Swanage, where my Father was involved in the decommissioning of submarines, and my first inclination was, in fact, to model that delightful little branch line. However, having seen some of the excellent layouts representing the line, particularly Ron Rising's Corfe Castle layout which is now housed at the National Trust's Ormesby Hall near Middlesbrough, I had to admit to myself that I could never hope to aspire to the level of detail portrayed in some of them. In addition, I had a niggling feeling that an 'out and back' layout would be very limited in operational alternatives and would not hold my interest for long. What I really wanted was to run some express passenger trains and some prototypically long goods trains. And so the die was cast. It had to be the Great Western Railway and I have been building GWR layouts, on and off, for the past 30 years with varying degrees of success.
I had a plan for my 'dream' layout that had been on the drawing board for over 10 years and I even started to build it once in 00 scale but a change in domestic arrangements in 2000 put the mockers on that. Finally, in 2007, and with retirement looming, I decided that I would have one last go at building it, though this time it would be in N Gauge. Having assembled all of my track and most of my locos, rolling stock and ancillary electrical equipment I retired in November 2009 and moved to China where I set about building baseboards. Once again, however, fate stepped in and, after 3 hip operations over 2 years it became necessary for me to return to the UK for medical treatment that I can't get in China and the dream layout was finally abandoned in 2011. I was, however, determined to build one last layout, though this time it would have to be very much condensed and simplified due to the limited space now available to me in the UK. Slowly but surely a new plan emerged which finally evolved into the 'Market Havering and Parmouth' layout that you will, hopefully, now see come to fruition.
The next installment will detail how the design evolved and has been developed into it's present form so watch this space.
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