On Sunday, I got to play trains on something that is mildly different for me. This is a layout called Selsey Town which depicts the same on one of the best named railways you can imagine – the Hundred of Manhood and Selsey Tramway (you couldn’t make it up could you?).
This line was one of Colonel Stephen’s light railways; this being engineered by him, managed by him and largely owened by him at the end. The line was incorporated in 1896 and opened the following year. It ran from Chichester, which was on the LBSC coast line about 25 miles west of Brighton down to Selsey which was on the coast. It ran across predominantly flat ground but this was quite marshy (indeed, floods severed the line on a number of occassions).
In typical Colonel Stephens style, the line was a real hotch potch of cobbled together equipment that was patch, patched again and then patched some more to get it to go. The line operated without Board of Trade approval for its first thirty years on the basis that it operated exclusively on private land. My knowledge of the controls is that this can’t be true, but it certainly did not have approvals in place until much later in its life.
The line was famous for the first use of petrol railcars; something of a calling card for Colonel Stephen’s lines. These came in several different forms and on the layout a pair of them work back to back. There are apparently plans for a further pair; one of which will be a flat bad lorry. To bad if the compartment is full!
One rather curious procedure that happened on the real line was the some waht unorthadox mixed trains. On the outward journey from Chichester the wagons would be tucked behind the coaches but on the return journey they were sometimes propelled by the train, whilst the remainder of the train was pulled. Somehow, I don’t think the Board of Trade would have approved!
The layout was built by Keith Smith; although he was convalescing so was not actually there – thats why they needed a bit of assistance and how I bummed my invite! Keith’s pleasure is making the scenary and there are large number of very well executed people and cameos on the layout. Here are a couple; an artist being interrogated by a shepherd and a little boy going through a rather more severe interrogation from a police office – I wonder if Dixon of Dock Green will see the caterpolt behind the boy’s back?
And finally, here are a couple of postcards of what the line lloked like in real life; with those Ford Railcars out in action. The line was famous for the poor condition of its trackwork; a point that can’t be disputed by the first photograph at least! The line eventually closed in 1935, a few years after Colonal Stephens died and now there is very little remaining of it.