Each Year on Onetree Railway we have a private charity fund raising event when Jeana and I make our railway and garden available. This year Loyal Monmouth Masonic Lodge had an event on behalf of “St David’s Hospice Care” and by request a couple of weeks later Hertford Lodge from Sutton Coldfield came. Their charity was “Holly Trust Bowel Cancer Care”. Every penny goes to the charities. About 55 attended each event this year.
Such is the popularity of these and Halloween night runs it has proved beneficial to construct an external toilet adjacent platform / steaming bays. Tasteful interior décor includes stove enamel signs, an array of unusual spanners, an ancient switchgear box, a huge white with-drawable porcelain fuse wire holder and a notice board which portrays various model engineering themes. It has been known for a queue to form while these are being studied.
Preparation takes about three days and transforms the garden. On the day, setting-up usually starts by 7am with things such as assemble our class 37, put in place one lift-out bridge, telegraph poles, signals, then do a lap of honour to check loading gauge with plants, bushes and the track generally. Telling passengers most of our plants are prickly, poisonous or both works very well keeping elbows and knees in. They also tend to sit up straight. Supports and covers are lifted out of the trench across our driveway. Uprights are dropped into concrete sockets for receipt of a tubular barrier onto which bunting and signs are added. One section is sideways sliding to open up for a wheelchair bridge or for direct loading onto the running track. Here the 37 is particularly useful and a bit of shunting can take place while everyone helps, arrives, steam is raised, bacon sandwiches consumed, a general chat and finding that odd something or other.
We enjoy model engineers running from about 10am onwards with formal event usually starting 2.30 until 5.30ish. Two or three locos often run at one time and come from all points of the compass. So far this year we have had visitors from Hereford, Newport, Lydney, Bath, Somerset, Sutton Coldfield and Kinver.
Scone mix has already been weighed into bags giving a known number of scones per oven capacity. Bacon, bread rolls and brown sauce are on standby. Billy-can and white enamel mugs come into use. Cakes are cut up as they arrive and put on the serving table along one wall of the still unfinished dining room, along with all the crockery, serviettes and where is that free standing rubbish bag? Cream is whipped and jam into dishes.
We have general running which everyone enjoys and gives a very busy railway for the punters. Not everyone wishes to take passengers and we have found a couple of instances where smaller locos have struggled. Our 37 usually takes one adult or two youngsters as passengers. We can take more but find this tends to be a good average through an event after initial surge. Also stopping on 1:50 aluminium rail works well on this basis.
As host there is never a moment when you are not involved with something, be it matching couplings, reaching for the second kettle, finding a nut this size or guiding someone along the front path past arrow signs directing them to the level crossing where Action Man in full High Viz outfit is on duty, rather than they get stuck trying to duck under the barrier tangled with their walking sticks and one foot down in the trench. No! I don’t care if you do think it would be quicker.
A length of display track is put on the garden sink worktop by our back door. A part assembled loco was of particular interest. Then there are the questions!
“How did you make the coal?”
“Are those really clay scale bricks in that wagon?”
There are very strange looks when explaining the brick wagon is weathered using a by-product of drilling holes to put up some shelves.
I have to leave your imagination what Monmouth French Twinning visitors thought, they had to be dragged away to an evening concert. “Delightful English eccentricity” was their awestruck accolade. (They still have difficulty understanding they are in Wales and haven’t yet twigged 2015 is 600th anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt or that Henry V was born here in Monmouth Castle)
When Cream Tea is served, trays are carried to the gazebos. This is when there is greatest attention to trains which are running and a lot of calling to drivers / passengers. To give drivers a chance with refreshments, sometimes I give someone a short up and down driving lesson on the viaduct. This enables guests to see what is going on alongside where they are sitting and I know they are safely remote. Walking alongside and explaining and monitoring keeps everything under my control For some it is their highlight of the event. Now Doggy-bag routine as they begin to depart.
After the Lord Mayor’s Show as they say, it is usually after 8pm when most things are put away and batteries put back on charge. Today our hobby has made a lot of people happy. Didn’t hear a raised voice or a cross word. Thanks to every one who helped.
Poignantly, knowing today’s charity – one visiting loco was unable to attend due to side effects of chemotherapy two days before.
This article courtesy of W.Bro. Bill Hall.