As reported in What's New in August 06 two additional passenger cars were aquired for the Fox Hollow Light Railway. The circumstances of the aquisition were fortuitous to say the least. My Father recieved a call from a friend in the Heron model boat club who is also a member of the Canterbury and District Model Engineering Society. One of his neighbors was clearing her garage and asked if he could take some stuff to the tip for her in his trailer, amongst this were the two passenger trollies. Knowing our interest in railways he enquired if we would like to have them, the response to which was obviously yes! When they arrived they consisted of a complete bogie car of well configuration with a very elaborate cable operated braking system and a bare iron bogie chasis, all the wheels running on ball races. Intrigued as to their history I asked if I may be introduced to the former owner to find out more of their past. The following is a short account of two past garden railways.
The story starts in the 1970's when Peter Thornton (now sadly passed away) purchased a 5" gauge locomotive to the Martin Evans Simplex design which was constructed by Bill Cushing. The track was very similar to the Fox Hollow Light Railway in so far as it was constructed of 5/8" aluminium rail in sections of about 8' length on softwood sleepers. The track was temporary in nature and when the railway was in service was laid on the back lawn of Peter's House in Shorne. The above pictures show Paul Thornton (Peter's son) at the controls of the Simplex and a view of the Simplex stood on the lawn on a section of the track in 1979.
Bill Cushing a prolific and skilled model engineer and the builder of the locomotive coincidently was known to me in the 1980's. Bill together with his Father and Bob Leader (latterly a prolific model ship builder) in the late 1960's overhauled several of the RHDR locomotives and had a workshop at Otterham Quay, Rainham in Kent. It was through the RHDR that Bill met Peter who then with his familly were members of the RHDR supporters, having a holiday property near the line. Through this association the sale of the Simplex to Peter and the building of the railway was born. My own meeting with Bill was again very coincidental, he was looking to move to Norfolk and had placed his house in Rainham up for sale. I was working for the RNLI in the boat sheds at Otterham Quay refitting lifeboats. The manager of the site Charlie Spencer another model engineer was aware of my interest in small scale steam and took me up to meet Bill to view his property as there was an impressive raised 5" track around the house. Bill's railway was probably 250' in length right around the property with a very impressive dark tunnel on a curve with brick portals. There was a waterfall from on top of the tunnel down into a large pond. Whilst viewing the house and workshops Bill showed me his aclaimed fine scale model of a Bullied Pacific which had featured in the Model Engineer magazine and been driven by an ex driver of the full size locomotive, who reported the model behaved exactly as the real thing. Regrettably I was unable to purchase the property due to uncertainties with work and it was subsequently bulldozed to make way for a new development (another private miniature line lost!).
Peter sold the Simplex in the 1980's and its present wherabouts is unknown. The surviving parts of his railway left today are a few sections of track (currently screwed to the wall of the house to support runner beans) and the two passenger trollies now at Fox Hollow. The trolley pictured above with Paul currently requires new bearings on the axles as one has collapsed but still has it's original appearance and paintwork. The other is really just a bare frame with two bogies and currently unbraked. It is planned to refurbish this chassis hopefully over the winter, fitting brakes and sockets for footrests. The plan is to make it convertable for either raised or ground level operation with a removable body.
If any-one can provide further insight into the above lines or knows the wherabouts of the Simplex today please get in touch via the email link opposite.