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I'm afraid I have a bit of a thing about books. If I don't buy it, I get it from the local public library. And here in Winchester, we are extremely fortunate in that the library has an extensive Railway Collection which, over the years, has possibly saved me a fortune. On the other hand, I keep seeing books there that I think I'd like to own, so perhaps it hasn't!

So, with 16mm scale, 32mm gauge (SM32) and live steam uppermost in mind, here is a (so far, small) selection of more-or-less useful books.

Click a link above to jump to a particular section; click any top link to jump back here.

Garden Railways


Steam in Your Garden by Tag Gorton

“An introduction to live steam narrow gauge railways for the smaller garden.”

79pp, 1996
Atlantic Transport Publishers, Trevithick House, West End, Penryn, Cornwall, TR10 8HE, England.
In association with GardenRail Magazine.
ISBN 0-906899-67-2       Dewey 625.19

If this one doesn't enthuse you to get started, nothing will!

“It's a slow, drowsy sort of summer afternoon as we sit drinking tea...” The author's opening sentence sets the tone of the whole book and throughout he evokes the whole magic of oil and steam and everything 16mm. The equally evocative pictures (not surprisingly concentrating on the author's own Longlands and Western Railway as well as the South Hams Light Railway, belonging to his West Country ‘neighbour’, Graham Wilkins) simply add to the magic.

From the back cover:

“It is scarcely surprising that garden railways are an expanding facet of the model railway hobby. Sheer delight is provided by the sight, sound and smell of a ‘live steam’ engine trundling through the rockery or working hard against the grade with a train in tow.

“For a large number of enthusiasts the desire for steam motive power has been the prime reason for constructing a line in the great outdoors. Once this sort of project would have required considerable engineering skills, a capacious pocket and a lot of garden space. Today the advent of narrow gauge steam locomotives, suited for light curves and simple pointwork, means that a line can be fined into all but the very smallest garden.

“Tag Gorton writes from first-hand experience, imparting learning lightly as he discusses the many and varied aspects of live steam locomotives and the creation of a railway on which they can look truly at home. As he concludes in his introduction: ‘One of the great strengths of narrow gauge railway modelling in the garden is the rugged individualism of it practitioners. I would hope that this book will provide a framework for you to clothe with your imagination and ingenuity, to produce a steam railway unique to yourself.’ ”


Garden Railways in Focus by Tag Gorton (Editor)

100 pp, 2005
Atlantic Publishers
ISBN 1-902827-12-0

“Everything in the garden’s lovely . . .

“Garden railways can provide a great deal of enjoyment to the spectator. Showing railways of a variety of types, scales and gauges, the editor of Garden Rail magazine has produced a superb visual celebration of the work of the most imaginative garden railway builders.

“Rather than being a ‘how-to’ book about the construction of garden railways, this is a wonderful photographic collection that is certain to appeal to modellers. The railways and locations featured range from the expansive wide-open spaces of the mountain road on the Southern Cross to the industrial narrow gauge and homely little steam engines of the Sylvan Heights Tramway, from the mountain regions of South America to the standard gauge Southern Railway in Gauge One and the 16mm-scale narrow gauge in Majorca and Wales.

“Each of the railways contained here is entirely individual to its builder and all are very different to each other, but each nonetheless has its own very special charm and attraction.”


Railways in Your Garden by David Pratt & David Joy

Contributors: Michael Adamson / David Gray / David Joy / David Pinniger / Becky Pinniger / David Pratt / Derek Shepherd.

80pp, 1994
GardenRail, PO Box 42, Skipton, N.Yorks, BD23 5UZ, England
In association with Garden Railway Specialists, Station Studio, Princes Risborough, Bucks, HP27 9DT, England.
ISBN 0-9523766-0-1       Dewey 625.19

Revised edition:
96pp, 2001
Great Northern Books
ISBN 1-9028270-1-5

From the back cover:

“Garden railways have seen a major revival in recent years, as more and more people have come to recognise that building a model railway in the garden is one of the most satisfying and diverse hobbies it is possible to find. An outdoor railway in a pleasing garden setting can be an activity involving all the family as well as a joy to contemplate.

“There has long been a need for an up-to-date introduction to the hobby. Railways in Your Garden has been devised to meet this demand by providing a general source and reference work into which readers can dip, as their knowledge and layouts grow, for advice, information and enjoyment. The empliasis is on what have become known as the scenic scales - G scale and 16mm - and on lines integrated with their surroundings.

“Compiled by a team of expert garden railway modellers, the text looks at such subjects as planning, construction, tmckwork, steam, battery and electric motive power, as well as suitable plants. The numerous photographs, induding many in colour, give visual inspiration on how to create or develop your own garden railway - probably the closest you can come to the real thing!”

An interesting book for what it is, but it does feel suspiciously like a ‘G Scale’ manual; not too much specifically for the 16mm scale, 32mm gauge, live steam modeller. But never mind, it's worth a read; there's still a fair bit in common!


The Garden Railway Manual by C.J. Freezer

"A step-by-step guide to building and opperating an outdoor model railway."

160pp, 1995
Patrick Stephens Ltd; an imprint of Haynes Publishing, Sparkford, Nr Yeovil, Somerset, BA22 7JJ, England.
ISBN 1-85260-465-4       Dewey 625.19

Cyril Freezer is the well-known past editor of the RAILWAY MODELLER and author of those useful little Shows You How booklets (for those of us with long enough memories). This book is packed with useful information in lots of short articles. The book comes over as somewhat ‘theoretical’; not too surprising since, as the author admits, he is writing mostly from his experience of others' garden railways rather than of his own. Nevertheless, a usefull book to have a look at. There are plenty of pictures and digrams (though none in colour) including some interesting photos of Peter Denny's various garden excursions.


Model Railway Constructor Special: 8 - Garden Railways
by Peter Jones

48pp, 1987
Ian Allan Ltd, Sheperton, Surrey, England.
ISBN 0-7110-1623-2       Dewey 625.19

“There is only one difficult job in building a garden railway; and that is digging the first spadeful - after that the rest is easy.”

Published in 1987, this book is getting a little out of date, particularly in regards to model locomotive manufacturers, but even that fact makes interesting reading in itself. Some sections have a real historical flavour!

Nevertheless the book is full of useful information and ideas (much of which never goes out of date) and well worth reading.

Just to whet your appetite, the book includes pictures of the 16mm efforts of (amongst others):

  • Dave Pinniger (Ambledown Valley Railway)
  • Peter Jones (Compton Down Railway)
  • Jack Wheldon (Border Counties Railway)
  • Stanley Jones (Terranden Light Railway)
  • John Wenlock (Clwd & Dee Railway)
  • Peter Dobson (Bishop's Gobion Station)



A Regional History of the Railways of Great Britain: Vol. 4 - The North East by K. Hoole

(general eds: David StJohn Thomas, J. Allan Patmore)

260pp, 1991 (my reference copy was the 3rd edn, 1986)
David & Charles, Newton Abbot, Devon, England.
ISBN 0-946537-31-3       Dewey 385.09428

Perhaps the definitive work on the history of the region in which the real Haggerleases Branch once lived. I have used this volume extensively to concoct my version of the history of the line and the subsequent (fictional!), phoenix-like, rise of the HLR. If you want the truth, you'd better read this book rather than this Web site!

Here's just one little story from the book. One day in August 1850, Queen Victoria alighted from the royal train at Castle Howard station (actually some way to the south of the HLR). To mark the visit, one A.G. Tyson wrote a brief poem, with a mere 231 verses. Here are just three of them:

Vulcan! thou lord of forging skill
Now warrant well thine arts,
And bid the rails, and bolts and springs
Act well their destin'd parts.

The gorgeous engine strong and free
Puffs out and fumes amain,
So loathe to stand that scarce can she
Her swelling steam restrain.

Then steadily along the curves
The locomotive starts
And quickly soon along the line
She like lightening darts.

The aforementioned ‘gorgeous engine’ sounds just like our Tin-Tacks, before I learned the trick of how to turn the gas down low enough; too much steam, won't stand still!


First in the world : the Stockton and Darlington Railway by John Wall

224 pp, 2001
Sutton Publishing Ltd
ISBN 0750927291       Dewey 385.09428

“A detailed account of the Stockton to Darlington line, recalling a momentous step in technical progress. The author ranges widely over the social, economical and technical aspects of the history, while also focusing on the political manoeuvrings and personality clashes that played such an important role. He gives a telling portrait of the powerful individuals who drove the project forward - locomotive pioneer George Stephenson, for example, and businessman Edward Pease, whose combined efforts created the line. The book shows how the Stockton and Darlington line developed and surmounted the extraordinary obstacles that confront such an original enterprise. In doing so, it set the standards that have become the basis of practice and procedure throughout the railway industry, serving as a model for railways in Britain and across the world.” (Amazon's synopsis)

There's some useful information here about Timothy Hackworth (which I made liberal use of for the History section!), as well as it being a good source of illustrations (though many are also available elsewhere), but some more maps would have clarified what became, by the end of the story, quite a confusing network of lines.


Railways in the North Eastern Landscape by Ken Hoole

70pp, 1978
Harvester Publishers.
ISBN 0855270756       Dewey 385.09428


Railway Memories No.2: Darlington and South West Durham
by Stephen J. Chapman

85pp, 1990
Bellcode Books.
ISBN 1871233011       Dewey 385.094286

“A survey of railways in an area which once boasted everything from prestige main lines to colliery tracks, where a constant procession of lumbering coal trains weaved its way between glamorous expresses pulled by the most famous locomotives in the land, and where there were numerous freight yards and up to five locomotive depots. The book includes maps, track layouts, personal recollections and operating information.” (Amazon's synopsis)


The Locomotives of the Stockton & Darlington Railway by T.R. Pearce

192pp, 1996
Historical Model Railway Society.
ISBN 0902835149       Dewey 625.261094285

Narrow gauge


Narrow Gauge Railways of the British Isles
by P.B. Whitehouse & J.B. Snell

160pp, 1984
David & Charles Publishers plc, Brunel House, Newton Abbot, Devon.
ISBN 0-7153-8523-2       Dewey 385.50941

From the cover:

“The origin of narrow gauge railways is lost in the mists of antiquity... What is known is that railways with gauges around 2' were in use for carrying coal and minerals for just as long as what we know as standard gauge - the 4' 8½" developed by Stephenson... All these narrow gauge railways had a charm and character of their own, largely because the gauges varied fromm line to line, their locomotives and stock were distinctive and their operating methods and staff were unique.

“Pat Whitehouse & John Snell write from a wealth of first-hand experience about these delightful railways and illustrate them with outstanding photographs bringing them vividly into focus.”


The Narrow Gauge in Britain and Ireland by Cliff Thomas

168pp, 2002
Atlantic Transport Publishers, Trevithick House, West End, Penryn, Cornwall, TR10 8HE, England.
ISBN 1-902827-05-8       Dewey 385.50941

A relatively new volume which attempts to give an overview of all the narrow gauge railways that have existed in these isles, and describe their current state. As the cover states:

“The emphasis is on passenger-carrying raileways and the more significant museum collections.Special prominence is given to the stunning progress made since the 1950s - not merely the survival of near-derelict railways that are now flourishing, but also the establishment of many new projects [like the HLR!] that provide a safe home for locomotives and other equipment from closed lines.”

Inevitably, a book like this will quickly go out of date as new endeavours occur; developments with the Lynton & Barnstaple, Welsh Highland and Corris Railways immediately spring to mind. But nevertheless, this will remain a definitive guide for quite some while to come.



The Country Railway by David St John Thomas

160pp, 1991
Oxford Publishing Co., an imprint of Haynes Publishing, Sparkford, near Yeovil, Somerset BA22 7JJ.
ISBN 0-946537-08-9       Dewey 385.0941

A quite charming book absolutely full of anecdotes from the days before Beeching when the country railway was a key part of the area through which it ran.

I have a particular soft spot for this book because I first read it in one sitting when I was once stuck at Heathrow Airport waiting for a long-delayed flight to Limerick. I eventually got to Ireland hours after the meeting I should have been in, but this book kept me enraptured (and fairly even tempered) during a very long and tiresome day!


The Great Days of the Country Railway
by David St John Thomas & Patrick Whitehouse

208pp, 1986
David & Charles Publishers plc, Brunel House, Newton Abbot, Devon.
ISBN 0-7153-8775-8       Dewey 385.0941

From the back cover:

“The very sounds and smells of the country railway, the busy interludes at wayside junctionsbetween long silences, the events that brought special activity deep into the valley, the engines, carriages, single line tokens and how they were exchanged, the stations and the men who operated them, the loads in the guards' vans, times of strife, oddities that survived into later generations... they are all here, along with an equally rich range of illustrations.”


Country Railways by Paul Atterbury, photographs by Ian Burgum

160pp, 1996
George Weidenfeld & Nicolson Ltd, The Orion Publishing Group, Orion House, 5 Upper St Martin's Lane, London WC2H 9EA.
ISBN 1-85799-919-3       Dewey 385.0941

Covering the whole of Great Britain, this book takes a nostalgic look at the traditional railway, combining photography, history and anecdote.

Paul Atterbury is both a railway and waterways enthusiast, but is probably best known on BBC Television's Antiques Roadshow, specialising in 19th and 20th century Art and Design, particularly ceramics.



Landscapes in Miniature by John Constable

128pp, 1984
Lutterworth Press, Guildford & Sheldon Press, London
ISBN 0-7188-2602-7       Dewey 745.5928

John Constable writes with obvious enthusiasm about the whole business of creating miniature landscapes outdoors. Although he normally works in 1:32 scale (about 9½mm to 1') and garden railways only get the briefest mention, this book must be essential reading for any ‘scenic’ 16mm nodeller.

He includes descriptions of suitable plants, instructions for creating and maintaining the landscape, as well as detailed plans for making all sorts of things that indicate human habitation including rather fine thatched cottages - as illustrated on the front cover.

There's a list of recommended plants from this book on the Vegetation page.


The Engine Driver’s Manual by Brian Topping

“How to prepare, fire and drive a steam locomotive.”

192pp, 1998
Oxford Publishing Co.; an imprint of Haynes Publishing, Sparkford, Nr Yeovil, Somerset, BA22 7JJ, England.
ISBN 0-86093-539-6       Dewey 625.261

“Whether you are an established driver wishing to brush up on your locomotive knowledge, an armchair enthusiast, or a would-be preservation volunteer keen to get your hands dirty, this is an indispensible aid to safe and successful steam locomotive driving and management.”

This book is certainly way over-the-top if you're the very new owner of a still-shiny, gas-fired 16mm scale model of the real thing and all you want to do is run it in the garden. But it's still fun to know how you would do it for real. We can all pretend!


Two Centuries of Railway Signalling by Geoffrey Kichenside & Alan Williams

248pp, 1998
Oxford Publishing Co.; an imprint of Haynes Publishing, Sparkford, Nr Yeovil, Somerset, BA22 7JJ, England.
ISBN 0-86093-541-8       Dewey 625.165

A full and complete history of all aspects of signalling from the very start of the railways to the present day with descriptions of how the different systems work. What could have been a very dry book is, in fact, writen in an interesting, as well as informative, style.

Like The Engine Driver's Manual above, this book is also completely over-the-top for our purposes. One-engine-in-steam doesn't leave much necessity for signalling. But one of these days, I will undoubtedly have a massive roster available and there will no doubt be many visitors... Hmm! Better build it first!


Oil on the Rails by Alan Coppin

162pp, 1999
The Historical Model Railway Society.
ISBN 0-902835-17-3       Dewey 385.240941

From the back cover:

“The oil companies formed a significant proportion of the Private Owners of railway wagons, particularly following Nationalisation when so much freight was forsaking rail for road transport. But who were these companies, where were they located, and when did they operate? What were their products and where were they sent? This book attempts to answer these questions as well as describing the planning, design and operating of oil depots and the construction and evolution of tank wagons.”

A bit like those above, this is a book that answers lots of questions I was never asking. But although the subjects are entirely standard gauge, it certainly has plenty of pictures and descriptions of tankers; very helpful when trying to build one, albeit freelance and narrow gauge. And whilst browsing through the book, I also spotted this interesting little tanker, which just might turn up on the HLR one of these days!