Product Idea |

Brickleigh Valley Railway

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The Idea

Steam railways are beloved by many and I have captured the magic of a heritage railway in everyone's favourite plastic bricks.

The Inspiration

The build is not based on any particular place, however it is inspired by the many heritage railways dotted around the UK, running preserved trains and down picturesque countryside landscapes. 

Although the locomotive is an 0-4-0 saddle tank similar to the ones used as shunters in the West Country and Wales, it is not based on any existing model. However, if you do like to be properly immersed into a fantasy world like I do, read the (made-up) history section below. The dining coach is similarly based on British pre-grouping coaches and also has a backstory of its own below.

The (Made-up) History

Brickleigh Valley Railway was originally built as a horse-drawn plateway in the early 19th century to bring slate from the mine at Brickleigh to the docks at Brickton. 

Upon the expansion of the mine, the plateway was converted to a double-track standard gauge railway and a middle station was added in the village of Lower Brickleigh. This upgrade allowed not only for a much more lucrative slate business, but also for workers from all three settlements to commute between their homes and the mine or docks with the introduction of mixed traffic trains.

As Brickleigh and Lower Brickleigh could only be reached by rail or by horse through the forest bridle paths at this point in time, mail was also delivered by the BVR Company via the mail van being brought up from Brickton each morning.

In the early 20th century, the village of Lower Brickleigh saw an influx of tourists attracted by the picturesque countryside and it slowly developed into a resort popular with campers, wildlife lovers and fishing enthusiasts. As most people would know the idyllic place as Brickleigh Valley due to the railway that brought them there, the village was renamed Brickleigh Valley, a name which it still carries today.

In the second half of the 20th century, with the closure of the slate mine, the railway began to see less and less use every year. Commuters from the two villages also switched to riding to Brickton on the bus via the newly-paved forest road, meaning that the only passengers using the BVR were now tourists. Unfortunately this was not enough to maintain the railway and the BVR Company was forced to sell its buildings, locomotives and rolling stock.

This is not the end of the story however, as a dedicated group of volunteers formed the BVR Preservation Society in the early 2000s. They started by buying back the old station buildings at Brickton and Brickleigh Valley from the local council, however the one at Brickleigh had already been turned into a holiday cottage and could not be rebought. As the tracks up to Brickleigh were also badly damaged by a landslide, the volunteers decided to focus their efforts on the downstream half of the old railway. Working with the county council, they assisted with turning the old tracks up to Brickleigh, as well as one of the tracks on the lower half, into dedicated bike lanes. The No.1 and No.2 engines were unfortunately sold off many years before and the society was unable to retrieve them. 

Brickleigh Valley once again returned to being a popular destination with tourists and the old station became a lively hub for campers, cyclists, nature lovers and rail fans to meet, admire the nature and share their stories. The station is also often visited by a local famer's chicken named Olga and Chestnut, a red squirrel who has befriended the staff and loves hanging around the platform. It is this station that is depicted in my build, as it is in modern times, with a platform full of people out to enjoy nature.

'Wanderer' was built by the Studford Steam Works in the early 20th century, intended to be used as a dock shunter in Brickton. It was an experimental design 0-4-0ST with inboard cylinders and valve gear. It was also originally built with an open cab to provide better visibility at the docks. As it was a prototype, it did not originally have a name. Instead, the designation it carried back then was P-96.

Although the design proved to be quite capable for its size, ultimately it did not suit the needs of the Brickton Harbour Company and was sold to a local scrap yard after a few years. The yardmen found the tiny engine endearing and could not bring themselves to actually scrap it so they used it at the yard for a few years, maintaining it in their spare time.

When the BVR Preservation Society was formed, they found P-96 in a shed at the scrap yard and restored it to its former glory, with a few improvements. A covered cab was added to provide better protection from the weather, the livery was changed from the BHC's dull grey to a beautiful lined dark blue and the locomotive received its new name: Wanderer! 

The dining coach seen behind Wanderer was not always as it is today. A new shell was built on top of the old chassis from scratch. Only two doors were built, one on each end and both facing towards the same side, therefore providing more space for seating.

The mail van is the only piece of surviving rolling stock from the old railway. Even though it maintains its original livery and mail insignia, this van is no longer used for mail by the modern BVR. It is however used to transport the passengers' luggage, bikes and camping gear, as well as supplies for Brickleigh Valley station.

The Build

The train is 8 studs wide at its widest point. The loco was built to resemble an 0-4-0ST 'pug' style locomotive, however with a few modifications. For example, as it's difficult to portray the valve gear accurately with stock Lego pieces, Wanderer has inboard valve gear (it's experimental, you know!). I did however want to have connecting rods on the wheels, hence why technic wheels were used instead of standard train wheels. This allowed me to keep them smaller than the driver wheels found in the larger train sets, while also looking pretty industrial (fit for a dock shunter!). Due to its small size, the locomotive is unpowered. However, the train does move thanks to...

THE MAIL VAN! This was added purely so that it could contain and hide the PoweredUp components needed for the train to operate. It does however have a backstory so it's not just shoehorned in there. The train motor is om the bottom and the PoweredUp battery module sits directly on top of it, providing the weight needed for traction.

The station sits on two 16x16 plates, which gave me enough space to cram in a lot of detail. Outside there is a platform with two benches, a small picnic area to the side, a litter bin, a postbox, flowers all over and a couple of animals (Olga and Chestnut) for that cozy countryside feel. There's plenty of opportunities for the minifigs to interact with the build, with one another and with the animals. On the inside of the station you'll find the ticket office, an indoor waiting area, a wood-burning stove, a vending machine and a magazine stand. Custom maps for the Brickleigh Valley Bike Trail are also available from this stand and there's also a map of the entire railway, framed and proudly displayed on the wall.

The set comes with an oval of track, perfect for every lego city or living room floor!

The End

If you've read everything so far, I already need to thank you for your time!

I enjoyed coming up with this set quite a lot. It's my second Ideas submission and the first Lego build I designed with so many small details in it.

I wanted to have a lot of detail in this build so I used a lot of interesting building techniques that I'd never tried before, as well as a lot of printed parts, most of which are designed by myself rather than off-the-shelf Lego prints. I'm very proud by the look of the station and especially Wanderer's deep blue livery!

I hope you like this build too and, if you'd like to see it on the shelves of your local Lego store someday, please support my idea! 

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