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November 2nd Meeting

Posted 15/11/2016

3 short presentations by members 

1 Kettle Valley Railway by Peter Cox.

Peter Cox gave a typically lucid presentation on the Kettle Valley Railroad in Canada, which he had visited on a family holiday in the summer.

He explained why the railroad was built and how the formidable geographical obstacles were overcome. A video and Peter's own photographs, illustrated the challenge: towering mountains, plunging ravines, the seasonal hazards of snow, ice and fire. No wonder the railroad (begun 1910, completed in five years and on budget) was called 'McCulloch's Wonder'. We marvelled at the innumerable trestle bridges that kept the gradients manageable.

The line was closed in stages between 1961 and 1973 and the track lifted. A section has been preserved (and restored after a major fire in 2003) by the Myra Canyon Trestle Restoration Society; another section survives as a cycle path, a mere 4,100 feet above sea level.

No Cox presentation is complete without musical accompaniment. He ended with a recording of "The Kettle Valley Line"' taken from "Songs and Stories of Canada" and sung by Hilda and Phil Thomas. It was surprisingly enjoyable.

Michael Ling.


2 USA model railroad clubs by Ian Payne.

The first Ian described was to a club in Greeley, Colorado, some 30 miles north of Denver.  The “clubhouse” was an industrial looking building labelled “Greeley Freight Station Museum” – a rather confusing title which Ian speculated may have something to do with the avoidance of rates.  Inside the building was far from industrial with a very pleasant environment that contained an enormous HO gauge layout, able to be viewed from ground level and a mezzanine walkway.  The quality of the modelling was excellent, as was its operating potential – requiring several operators to optimise this potential.  This was a truly impressive set-up that would be envied by the majority of British MRCs.

The next visit was to the “Gadsen Pacific Toy Train Operating Museum” in Tucson.  This included a huge O gauge layout which, unfortunately, hadn’t progressed to 2-rail – being based on Lionel 3-rail track that is still being made and sold in the US.  It definitely had a “toy-like” feel to it, perhaps giving rise to the inclusion of “Toy Train” in its title, and had little of the railway modelling quality of the first club.  This, Ian suggested, could be partly due to the quantity of propriety models available in the US covering all elements of a model railway – why model it when you can buy it off the shelf?!  Membership to this club was around 60$ a year with funds being boosted by the regular organisation of “swapmeets”.

The final visit was to the “McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park” in Scottsdale, Arizona.  This was a huge undertaking, incorporating full-size as well as model railway exhibits celebrating railways generally, on land donated to the local authority by a local farming family for the benefit of the local community. The “Park” included 3 separate model railway clubs and featured model railways in N, HO ,O, 71/2” and 15” scales, the latter being an extensive sit and ride installation, all to a reasonable standard of railway modelling.

Overall, this was a fascinating insight in to American railway modelling and the American approach and attitudes toward it.  In America an interest in railway modelling is something to put on your CV not something you wouldn’t disclose unless forced - perhaps I’m not as odd after all as I thought!

David K.  


3 The Sligo, Leitrim and Northern Counties Railway.  Eric Challoner.

Rounding off the evening, Eric gave an illustrated talk on the S, L & NCR. This was a 5'3" gauge line which ran from Sligo on the MGWR to Enniskillen when it joined the old GNRI between Londonderry and Portadown. It opened in 1880 and when it closed in 1957, it was the last privately owned common carrier railway in Europe, having escaped the mergers of the 1920s. Apparently no one wanted to take it on and it was kept alive with government grants. One of its main purposes was to transport cattle from the West of Ireland and on to Belfast and thence to England. It was characterised by old rolling stock. The locos never carried numbers, just names. They were painted two tone dark and light olive green. The coaches were archaic and unheated, though they did have very up to date diesel railcars built by the Wigan firm of Walker Brothers.

Eric's life-long interest in Irish railways dates back to his childhood when he travelled the railways while visiting his mother's family in Northern Ireland. The talk will be continued on another evening; we look forward to it!

Nick Coppin