We have a model railway in our garden. ‘Doesn’t everybody?’ I (probably) don’t hear you cry. Not only that, we also have a model village.
I blame the Resident Engineer’s father who once concocted a plan with his Best Man to buy adjacent semi-detached houses so they could knock the attics through and have a massive railway layout. Inevitably, his son went in for the full Hornby but when he reached sixteen he sold his entire collection; he thinks he bought a tennis racquet with the proceeds.
Over the years the Engineer’s gradually bought new engines and track and so on, and tried, but failed, to get our children and grandchildren, (and me), enthusiastic about it. When we moved to Hampshire he decided to build a new layout and very few people believed me when I told them we had a twelve foot stretch of railway track running the length of our bedroom. Nor did they believe me when I said the track went through a hole in the wall, followed a loop in the attic above the garage, and returned to our room. Only those who know him well had no trouble in accepting this, particularly when I mentioned that in winter the hole in the wall was blocked up with a pair of socks.
After a few years I went on strike and insisted that a railway in the bedroom wasn’t acceptable so it was moved to the attic and abandoned until he had the idea of building a garden railway. The track now circles round the conservatory, crosses the (very small) pond via a purpose-built viaduct, follows the line of the path until it reaches the rockery which it meanders round. A recent development sees the track crossing the paving stones to join a new stretch that will eventually climb up another viaduct (no water under this one) and into the shed through a train/cat flap. When inside the shed, only the Engineer knows what mysteries will be performed. Lest anyone thinks I just poke fun at him and his trains, I can tell you that the track is 0-16.5 and the whole is a model narrow gauge railway. See? I do take in some of it.
As for the village, that’s my preserve – it started as a joke and is composed of more-or-less 0 gauge-sized buildings though that’s not a requirement. My criteria for purchasing are less exacting – most of the buildings started life as ceramic biscuit barrels in M&S and other stores, along with some stoneware buildings, the first of which was made by Duncan (our eldest) in Pottery class at school. Almost all of the buildings have come from charity shops and the animals that inhabit the village must have been genetically modified because a lot of them are nearly as tall as the buildings. (The Engineer is too laid back to be obsessive about it all and I still think it’s funny.) Since an oak tree landed on the village in an April storm there’s been some renovation and rebuilding and the village is now sitting comfortably on its tasteful Astroturf village green. At Christmas, if I remember, there are lights strung round but so far I’ve resisted the suggestion from a daughter that we have a tape of carol singers playing, speeded up to suit the Borrower-sized villagers. (Not that we have any left, not since the nativity scene was ruined and Baby Jesus was washed away in a sudden downfall.)
Anyway, there’s still the toad. More complicated electronics are being invented/installed/cursed so the inside of the station is full of wires and plugs and things. It was also full of ants until recently; they colonised it and filled it with their recycled earth, which is when the toad moved in. We’ve always had at least one toad in the garden so I was delighted when it turned out he was living in the station until the Engineer lifted the building up and found one stuck toad! The innards (of the electronics, not the toad) had to be dismantled and one mildly irritated toad decanted into the crocosmia by the pond. We haven’t seen him lately so I suspect he’s still sulking under a stone somewhere. Pic: Front and back views – stuck toad.
The railway was reopened a year or so ago – after years of neglect – when the Engineer’s birthday happened to fall on August Bank Holiday Sunday. (Can you believe that when I met him he had no idea his birthday was the anniversary of the Battle of Bosworth? Unlike Richard Amitage who has the same birthday and knows all about it because he was named after Richard III.) And here he is again – just because – sometimes it’s nice to have wall-to-wall Richard Armitage.