Contents Prev    Next


At the very end of 2015 (December 30th) I visited a property that was going to be put on sale. This property has a garden railway round the perimeter and I was considering buying the brass rail. Back in the early '70s I visited when the trains were running (there were two locos then) and sometimes I drove one of the locos. No trains had run here for almost 20 years and most of the track was buried under leaves and sticks and dirt. There were three locos in the roundhouse and all showed the signs of many years in a damp environment.

Construction of this railway was started in the '50s by the late Phil Belbin with much help over the years from family and friends. The last link in the circular track was the triple-span bridge in the early '90s. Interest and activity declined soon after and I believe the last run was for a children's party in 1995. I'm told there is at least one video of this railway on Youtube. Search for "Belbin Garden Railway" to see how things used to be.

In 2016 I started clearing the track and realised that with some repairs it might be possible to run a train again. It seemed a shame to rip up the track without doing a final run and I spoke to one of the owners and after much convincing he agreed to try for a run and also that someone might want to buy the property with the track intact. We spent time testing and repairing two of the locos. The other loco was very rusty and has a steel boiler and didn't seem worth any attention.

The first loco (3601) is a copper-boiler model of an NSWGR round-top C36. The second loco (3701) is a steel-boiler freelance 4-6-0. Originally it had a six-wheel tender and this was replaced with a bogie tender later on. The third loco (3901) is a copper-boiler freelance 4-6-2.

The unique features of this railway are that the gauge is 5.25" and that it has brass rail (proper rail profile) and wooden sleepers. I don't know why anybody chose the strange gauge. One guess is that 5.25" is 50% bigger than 3.5" which was a popular gauge. Or, possibly the first loco here was 5.25" gauge and the track was made to suit it.

I spent most of 2016 working on this property. It was full of privet and other weeds and had an enormous clump of 25m bamboo. The house is ramshackle and work so far has been limited to electrical and plumbing repairs. The yard is slowly being cleared and most of the work is still on the railway.

After we got 3901 running I offered to buy the property to save the railway and after much work and fund-raising I finally settled on 16th January 2017. A shock that afternoon was that one of the owners had taken 3601 the night before. So we only had one working loco. The blessing from this unexpected act is that it motivated us to fix 3701.

The 4-6-0 called 3701 was dismantled and repainted in April 2017 and during this process we discovered its original name plates which show it was called 1054. Perhaps it was completed in October 1954 (10/54). Now the plates have been re-fitted and the loco is known as 1054.

The following pages show the early days getting a train operational, clearing the enormous bamboo, some test runs, and the restoration of 1054. Finally there is a page on the geared Meyer loco that now runs on this track.

The unresolved issue is that the railway is uninsurable. So for now we just live with the risk. But we can't have public runs especially with youngsters. Also we have to consider the neighbours and keep smoke and noise to a minimum.

The Belbin garden railway is now called Banool Garden Railway. It is still basically the same as the original railway and I see no reason to change it. A lot of good ideas and effort were put into this facility. This name is a bit misleading because the railway is in St Ives, NSW rather than Banool, Victoria. Also, it's not garden gauge (45mm) and the site is more a forest than a garden. At least it is a (toy) railway and we do run trains occasionally.

Last modified 2024-01-15

Contents Prev    Next