Complete Working Railway in A Room by Robert Machray



A £10,000 TOY.

The seven beautiful illustrations which appear in this article are taken from photographs of what is without doubt one of the mechanical marvels of the day. They clearly set forth the most complete, and, at the same time, the most costly miniature model railway system in the world.

So perfect, indeed, is this line and its equipment that the first cursory glance at these pictures of it will certainly cause the beholder to imagine that he is looking at presentments of some portions of the London and North-Western Railway or of some other well-known, full-grown railway. But his eye, on gazing a little longer at these views, will take note of the curious circumstance that the entire system appears to be embraced within the four walls of a single room. Having discovered this, he will look still more closely, and then he will see other things which will immediately excite his interest, and he will forthwith "want to know" all about it.

This wonderful railway is owned, controlled, and operated by Mr. Percy H. Leigh of Brentwood, Worsley, one of the suburbs of Manchester. This gentleman has no professional connection with railroading, but for some years past he has amused himself with models of locomotives and their practical working. "Some men spend their money on racehorses, others on yachts, and so on," says Mr. Leigh, "but this railroad of mine is more to my fancy."

I am not permitted to state how much exactly this hobby of Mr. Leigh's has cost him, but I am not betraying any confidence when I say that in one way and another a sum not far short of ten thousand pounds has been spent on his Liliputian line. This large amount may be accounted for by the fact that Mr. Leigh was not to be satisfied with anything short of perfection in every detail. His instructions to the contractors who built and equipped the "road" were that there were to be no "dummies," and that everything was to be made accurately to scale. How faithfully and thoroughly Messrs Lucas and Davies, of Farringdon Road, have carried out his commands will be evident from the following statement with which they have been kind enough to supply me.

The country, if I may so term it, within which the railway runs, is a great, oblong, single-storied building, consisting of one chamber, ninety feet in length by thirty feet in breadth. It has been added on to Mr. Leigh's residence, and was specially constructed with a view to giving the line a sufficient range for its successful operation, and also to afford it protection from damp and other undesirable effects of the weather. The room is provided with a double floor—a wooden one, on which stand the trestles supporting the track itself, and, two or three feet below it, another of concrete. An even temperature all the year round is secured by means of two rows of hot-water pipes. When these precautions are considered, it will be seen that this railway system probably enjoys the most perfect climate in existence.

The line has not yet been given any comprehensive name. Perhaps it is almost too soon for that, for it is hardly more than finished; indeed, the goods-engine remains to be delivered by the builders. But it might be christened, from the names of the two stations on it, the Oakgreen and Beechvale Railway.

First of all, to describe the track. The road-bed is made of pitch pine, mounted on sixty-five trestles, three feet from the floor, and the track extends to 276 feet, of a double line of rails. Of the rails all together there are 1,200 feet; and some idea of what this means may be understood from the fact that when they came from Sheffield, where they were specially rolled for Mr. Leigh, they formed two solid heaps of metal, each as high as a man. The rails are of mild steel; they are double-headed, and about an inch in height; some of them are nearly twelve feet long. They are fastened down to 2,000 pitch pine sleepers by 4,000 malleable cast-iron chairs, held in place with hard-wood wedges and 16,000 screws. All the fish plates, bolts, and nuts used in joining the rails together are exact miniatures of those to be seen on an ordinary railway. The track is ballasted with nine hundredweight of limestone chips, and the gauge is six inches.

Details which involve a large number of figures are apt to be rather dry and tiresome; but in the present case, if frequent reference be made from the letterpress to the illustrations, it will be seen with what extreme care, and with what extraordinarily minute and even loving faithfulness, all the features of a first-class modern railway have been reproduced in miniature.


The line starts from Oakgreen, the principal station, where are located the offices of the management. In front of the buildings is a platform twenty-four feet long, provided with the usual seats and other conveniences for passengers, of whom a few may be noticed waiting for the express to convey them to their destination. The platform is sheltered from the elements by a glass roof, while the gates admitting to it are of the regular palisade type. At the further end is a passenger foot-bridge of trellis-work covered over; it stands high above the line, and is reached by two staircases, and everybody is warned not to venture to cross the railway by any other means. At the same time there are level crossings for the greatly daring.

Behind the station proper is the goods station and siding, forty feet long, the goods shed itself being four feet long.

Both of these stations, and indeed the other station and the whole line, are beautifully lighted up, when necessary, by electric lamps fitted with reflectors. There are in all fifty-eight of these soft, lovely lights; and a particularly tall one will be observed in the goods station for the purpose of affording sufficient light to that very busy portion of the company's undertakings. The lamps are supplied from storage batteries placed under the track, and their illuminating capacity is enough to light up the whole room without bringing the gas, with which it is also fitted up, into requisition.

The electric lamps also serve the purpose of lighting up both the signal cabins and the signal posts along the line. There are three of the former mounted at the side of the track, and they contain no less than twenty-six levers, from which stretch flexible wires and runners to the signal posts. The last-named, which are twelve in number, are three feet in height, and are fully equipped with semaphores, lamps showing red, green, and white, platforms and ladders. Besides these, there are also worked from the signal cabins sixteen sets of points, by means of rod connections and levers. Every particular with regard to the signalling and the shunting has been thought out and executed with the most laudable and painstaking thoroughness and accuracy. And these arrangements decidedly add a somewhat picturesque element to the line, while they also strengthen the effect of reality which is the chief impression given by this marvellous railway.




It is, of course, impossible to enumerate every matter of interest connected with the line itself, but it must be stated that there have been provided two turntables to take the locomotive and tender, and that the turntables have four levers for the points, and also that they have been furnished with spring buffers; and, further, that a tank, into which the boiler can be emptied, has been let into the track.

In the course of the length of the line, the train passes through a long cutting, forty feet in extent, and two feet deep. To heighten the illusion, the sides of the cutting are covered with grass, and on the top of both sides there is a dwarf hedge. This portion of the road supplies it with its chief scenic attraction. Some distance from the cutting there is a road bridge across the railway, three feet long by two feet wide. Before reaching the second station, Beechvale, a long and fearsome tunnel has to be negotiated—its actual length is eighteen feet. The station-house, platform, and other accessories of Beechvale are very similar to those at Oakgreen.


The locomotive, with its tender, is five feet long and about eighteen inches in height. It is of six-inch gauge, and is an exact duplicate on a small scale of an express of the London and North-Western Railway. It is a real working locomotive, most exquisitely made. The only points in which it differs from its model are such as come from its comparatively diminutive size. Thus, its boiler has not the usual number of tubes, it has no injector, and steam is got up in it by a charcoal fire, the charcoal being kept at a great heat by a "blast."


The cost of the engine and tender was £320 or a little more, and it was made entirely by Mr. Lucas, of Lucas and Davies. It took him nearly nine months to complete it, but from this period there would have to be deducted a good many hours when he was called away to attend to some other piece of business for his firm. And here I may remark that it took eighteen months to build the line, five months of which were occupied in fitting up the large room already mentioned.

The speed of the train on the straight portions of the line is six miles an hour, but it is considerably less on the curves at either end, which are twenty-six feet in diameter. The contractors experienced a great deal of difficulty in getting the curves exactly right, as the six-inch gauge of the railway, no other line being of any assistance in this particular, introduced an entirely new problem in railroad construction. The engine can travel six times round the entire length of the system without its being necessary to renew the charcoal fire.


There are both a passenger train and a goods train. The former consists of three carriages and a guard's van. One carriage is a first-class corridor, a second is a third-class corridor, and the third is a composite first-class and third-class carriage. Each of them is fitted with the usual upholstered seats found in compartments belonging to their classification; there are hat racks and blinds, mirrors and lavatories and so forth in every carriage; there are carpets, too, on the floors of the first-class. The guard's van has not been neglected, but in its dog-boxes and other appointments is a facsimile of the vans that go out daily from Euston. As a matter of fact, the whole train is panelled and painted throughout in the familiar colours of the London and North-Western Railway. The carriages are mounted on bogies, and have been completely equipped with carriage springs, grease boxes for the axles, spring buffers, draw-bars and screw couplings right and left. The two corridor carriages have the proper extending covered ways.

The goods train is quite as remarkable in its way as every other part of this railway. It is composed of ten trucks and vans, and has besides a guard's brake-van fitted with a screw-down brake of the usual sort. There are two high-side trucks, four medium, and two low; two covered-in vans and two cattle trucks, and, if a glance be taken at the illustration which exhibits the goods train most completely, it will be noticed that all of these trucks and vans are loaded with appropriate articles of freight—logs of wood, slates, casks of beer, marble, and other things, while the two bullock wagons are filled with animals.

All these trucks and vans are fitted with hand lever brakes, tarpaulins, chains, hooks, stanchions, and everything necessary for the handling of the no doubt enormous goods traffic of the road. They are all mounted on carriage springs, and have grease boxes, spring buffers, and every other device in use on the London and North-Western Railway—from which they have been copied, like everything else on this Liliputian line. The greatest railway in the world took a friendly interest in the smallest, and supplied it with the drawings and models from which it and its rolling stock have been imitated.


One tiny detail I think I must mention in conclusion, and it is that the management have thoughtfully provided fourteen hand lamps for the service of the line.

In acknowledging my indebtedness to Mr. Leigh, I should like to say that he has found in his miniature railway not only a source of continual amusement, but also a means of doing good to others, for he has on more than one occasion shown it in operation to large gatherings of people, who have flocked to see it both on account of the interest naturally excited by it, and also for the sake of "sweet charity," the proceeds realised from these exhibitions being devoted to some worthy object.

For the photographs which accompany this article we are indebted to Mr. J. Ambler, of Manchester.