Updated 17 Sept 2016



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Beer Heights Light Railway

Pictured below is ‘Much Natter',

the terminus station of the Beer Heights 7 ¼” gauge Light Railway,

situated at Pecorama

just outside Beer in North Devon.


Peco is the trade name of The Pritchard Patent Product Company,

producers of Model Railway equipment and accessories


and instigated by the late Mr. Sidney Pritchard,

author of the popular ‘Railway Modeller' magazine,

with which your writer has been aquainted since the early 1960's.

The company was originally situated in Seaton

but relocated to this more advantageous site,

where production continues to this day, selling goods worldwide.


Being located at the top of a steep hill,

the views across to the English Channel and surrounding area are "Unrivalled.”












An example of the wonderful views obtained from this panoramic location,

with steam trains just behind you and entertaining company,

what more could a railway fanatic desire?











Also on site is this prime example of a 1950's Pullman Car ‘Orion'

from the Golden Arrow train


and now in use as a tea room in luxurious surroundings.


( Yes, more cream teas, I am afraid! )












This view shows the inside ambience of Pullman Car 'Orion'.

Luxury, 1959 style!












The Builder's Plate mounted on the chassis of Pullman car 'Orion'.












With draincocks wide open to prevent steam condensing in the cylinders,

a load of happy parents and children arrive back in ‘Much Natter',


whilst the Station Master keeps a watchful eye for excited children,

( and/or parents! ) trying to alight

before the train comes to a complete stop












As the passengers alight from the train,

the driver replenishes the fire in preparation for the next journey.


Completed in August 2005

and named during the railway's 30th anniversary celebration weekend

by T.V. celebrity and rail enthusiast Pete Waterman,

Claudine is a unique 2-4-4 single Fairlie tank locomotive.


Beer Heights Light Railway Chief Engineer, John Macdougall, designed and built the loco,

which has an articulated power bogie and rear truck,

making her eminently suited to the line's sharp curves and steep gradients.


The boiler, motion and cylinders are all the same as those on “Mr P”

except, in this case, piston valves have been employed on the slightly inclined cylinders.


Claudine is named after the late Sydney Pritchard's wife,

who was a co-founder of the Peco group of companies in 1946,

and is finished in L.B.S.C. “improved engine green”; livery (yellow ochre).












Whilst the driver relaxes slightly and continues to ensure the good health of his charge,

the long-suffering Station Master pushes Claudine round by hand on the turntable,

in readiness for the next timetabled journey around this delightful garden site.


The track has been extended many times to form the present doubl- reverse loop

and your reviewer has been fortunate to sample each stage of its development over the years,

along with his wife and boys.












All his passengers having disembarked,

our driver now reverses his train over the crossover

in preparation for the next journey.


The double starter signals and coal wagon add interest to the scene.












Having now changed tracks, ‘Claudine' and driver

draw the carriages forward into the departure platform 2,

under the ever watchful eye of the dummy operator in the attractive signalbox.


Meanwhile, interested onlookers survey the scene below

from the typical GWR-styled footbridge,

whilst father make the most of the photographic opportunity.












Our train moves into Platform 2 to collect the waiting passengers


against the delightful background of the Devon hills












Against the background of colourful shrubs and with the wooden water tower much in evidence,

the Station Master, taking his duties very seriously but with good humour,

invites the new passengers to board the train for the next journey.


The driver meanwhile readies his steed for the challenge ahead,

ensuring a bright fire and a good head of steam.












The driver's office!


As he ensures the firebox door is firmly closed

to increase the draught through the fire,

steam slowly drifts from the safety valves,


indicating that all is well with this lovely machine







This extremely interesting Track Indication Panel on Platform 1,

complete with track circuit lights,

shows the ingenious layout of the system,

which has evolved over several years


and utilises the most running lines in the smallest space.












Alongside the white station fence and inserted under the relief road,

is an ash pit,


where, if the locomotive fire is becoming choked,

the driver is able to rod the fire grate

to remove clinker and ash

and restore the fire to its optimum steam raising capabilities.


The Union Jacks, fluttering in the warm summer sunshine,

add a ‘feel good' factor to the slightly carnival atmosphere

at this delightful location












This lovely railway is set in glorious surroundings

with colourful plants and shrubs in abundance.


The three tracks will eventually all be traversed in each direction,

creating much confusion and amusement amongst first time passengers.












This is the scene from the rear of the train

as we approach the engine shed on the left.


The left-hand ‘Home' signal on the bracket

has just returned to danger automatically as we pass.







Delivered in 1976, and built by David Curwen of Devizes, Wiltshire,

is a 0-4-2 tender engine,


the design being loosely based on the famous Douglas locomotive,

which operates on the Talyllyn 2ft 3in gauge railway in North Wales.


The loco has 9 inch driving wheels with two outside cylinders,

a bore of 3½ inches and a stroke of 4 inches,

with Walschaerts valve gear.


The boiler has a diameter of 10¾ inches

and it works at a steam pressure of 100lb per square inch.

“Dickie” was named by the comedian Richard Murdoch

and, having been re-boilered in 1992,

has seen continuous service for the past 30 years.












Passing the open end of the engine shed,

we gain a quick glimpse of further Hunslet steam engines

and the works diesel standing on the turntable.


Over the background fence,

we can just see the English Channel












We are now entering everyone's favourite railway item, the tunnel, for the first time.


Eventually, in the next shot,

we will return through the same tunnel in the opposite direction.


The stone-built tunnel portal and colourful shrubs 

enhance the scene once more.












Traversing one of the many curves on the line,

we emerge from the relative gloom of the overhanging trees,

and back into the summer sunshine.


On such a glorious day as this,

your writer finds it hard to imagine a more glorious pastime,

although his long suffering wife would probably disagree!












As the driver closes the regulator,

whilst we drift downhill through a deep cutting


and enter the tunnel for the second time in the opposite direction,

the safety valves lift on the locomotive and release excess steam pressure,

which is now not required to power the cylinders.


The red colour light signal has returned to danger once again

as we pass












Having travelled through White Falls Halt already on our way to the tunnel,

we now return toward ‘Much Natter Station' on an adjacent track,

passing this magnificent garden scene complete with pond and fountain.


Note the replica level crossing gate forming a barrier to the footpath on the opposite side.


The detail features around this railway are really wonderful.












This shot, taken from the footbridge,

illustrates once more this highly unusual and unique miniature railway

situated in glorious surroundings.












As on the full-sized railway, maintenance is a never ending process.


Here we can see a young volunteer carrying out ‘spot sleepering',

the replacement of rotten/life expired sleepers.


This was carried out even whilst the train was running.












Another view through the trees, as the young volunteer worker,

hurriedly removes his legs from the running line

in response to the driver's whistle.












Passing through White Falls Halt on a slight curve,

the driver glances behind, despite a light load of passengers, to ensure all is well.


The wisp of smoke from the chimney and steam from the safety valves

indicate that the locomotive is hardly being stressed along this section.


In the background, the Motive Power Depot and ‘Dickie,

now stand in shadow in the late summer sunshine.












Against the background of colourful shrubs

and with the wooden water tower much in evidence,

the Station Master, taking his duties very seriously but with good humour,

invites the new passengers to board the train for the next journey.


The driver meanwhile readies his steed for the challenge ahead,

ensuring a bright fire and a good head of steam.”












Finally, an overall view of ‘Much Natter Station',

a miniature reminder of how things once were.


Until the next time!


We will return - further extensions maybe?



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