A Back-story for the Railway
Many modellers produce a back-story for their railway. In cases where a real location is modelled, hours of research will be required to assemble all the details, noting all the changes of track layout, the details of the railway buildings, the goods carried, the train timetables and destinations, and plenty more detail besides.
Other back-stories rely more on imagination. A fictional back-story may, for instance, invent a railway in a place that never had one. Again many hours of research may be required to see how a railway may have developed in the area, what goods needed to brought in to support local communities and businesses and what finished products might be transported out of the area.
Fictional back-stories may allow for a railway to continue in use long after it had actually been closed. The back-story may explain details of the model that might otherwise be hard to understand.
The best back-stories often blend fact and fiction. I leave you to judge where the facts stop and fiction starts in the following back-story. Cordale Hall Railway - A Brief HistoryMinimum Gauge Railways
In the late 1800s, Sir Arthur Heywood, who had developed an interest in railways early in life, created what he termed a ‘minimum gauge’ railway in the steeply banked grounds of his home, Duffield Bank, close to Derby. This was a fully functional railway that aimed to maximise carrying capacity of both passengers and goods on the smallest track gauge that would provide enough stability. Having previously built a working 9” gauge railway for the pleasure of his younger siblings, Heywood settled on a 15” track gauge for Duffield Bank.
Duffield Bank Railway: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duffield_Bank_Railway
Narrow gauge lines were already in use in military camps and ammunition depots for transporting small but heavy ordnance. The Royal Engineers were, at the same time, experimenting with railway systems that could operate in battlefield situations, bringing goods from supply depots to front-line troops.
Sir Arthur demonstrated his railway to entrepreneurs, land owners and military planners. At Duffield Park, he created a works that could supply all the equipment required for a small railway system. Despite his efforts, Heywood only managed to interest two wealthy aristocrats, both of whom placed orders for their country estates - the Duke of Westminster for his family seat at Eaton Hall in Cheshire and Stephen Grosmont, the 3rd Duke of Kensington, whose home and lands were further north in Cordale.
The Eaton Hall Railway was built in 1896, and Duffield Works supplied all the track plus one 0-4-0 steam locomotive, 30 open goods wagons, an open 16 seat passenger coach and an enclosed 12 seat passenger coach. Two more steam locomotives (0-6-0) were supplied later, in 1904 and 1916.
Eaton Hall Railway: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eaton_Hall_RailwayCordale Hall Railway - The Early Years
The Cordale Hall Railway was constructed three years later, in 1899. All track and pointwork was supplied by Duffield Works, along with a single 0-4-0 saddle tank locomotive and goods wagons. Small passenger coaches were built in the Cordale Estate’s own workshop. The line provided connections between Cordale Hall and the various parts of the estate - the forest for wood supplies to heat the hall, the farm for dairy produce and the substantial fruit and vegetable growing areas at the southern edge of the estate. There was also a connection to the mainline station at Corgrave (the principal town in Cordale), four and a half miles away from the Hall. The Duke used this connection as his link to the outside world, in particular his London residence, Radley House in Kengstington. Most guests of the Duke arrived and departed on the estate railway to Corgrave, whether they had arrived there by train or horse carriage.
Locomotive No 1, built in 1899, was an 0-4-0 saddletank and was named ‘Ymir’. In Norse mythology, Ymir is the primeval entity, from whom all other mythical entities were created: gods, giants and other fantastical creatures.
Locomotive No 2 was built four years later in 1903. Again an 0-4-0 wheel arrangement, this was built with more conventional side tanks and was fitted with a tall brass dome. The Duke gave this engine the name ‘Odin’, the king of all Norse gods.
Locomotive No 3 was added to the roster in 1905, in order to meet expanding production of the estate’s fruit and vegetables. This was an exasct copy of No 2. In keeping with tradition, No 3 was named ‘Frigg’, wife of Odin.
The railway operated continuously until just after WW2, when the 8th Duke decided that it was time to modernise the estate, and as with most steam railways, it was superseded by the internal combustion engine - cars for the passengers and lorries for the goods. The link with Corgrave railway station was removed and town expansion has obliterated all traces of the route. The track and rolling stock were all stored in the stone outbuildings of Cordale Hall Farm, but time and rust took its toll on all the equipment.Cordale Hall Railway - Modern Times
In 1980, Simon, heir to the 11th Duke of Kensington and correctly styled ‘Earl Grosmont’, went up to Trinity College, Oxford, reading Philosopy, Politics and Economics (PPE). The Earl was a gifted scholar and managed to combine successfully academic study during the day with the life of a rich playboy at night. Naturally, he was a fine sportsman, receiving his Blue in both rugby and cricket. Marriage to Lady Margaret Smithson put a stop to the wild nights and in due course the lineage was secured with the birth of David Stephen Grosmont. Mary Margaret Smithson-Grosmont followed her brother into the world two years later.
Simon pursued a career in merchant banking, and the Grosmont family fortune increased hugely under his expert guidance. Fast cars provided the excitement in Simon’s life. A successful and happy future for the family seemed assured.
But all that changed in 2005. The 11th Duke passed away suddenly and Simon, now the 12th Duke, rushed north from Radley House to Cordale. Tired from the long journey, he fell asleep at the wheel of his car on the outskirts of Corgrave. Collision with a tree put Simon in a coma for three weeks. During the long recovery that followed, it became apparent the the new Duke was a changed man. He turned his back on Margaret and the children, yearning to return to his former wild playboy lifestyle. But gone was the interest in the latest super cars, one of which had almost taken his life. Instead, it was replaced with the stylish glamour of veteran and vintage vehicles, which held a surprising attraction for the bevy of young beauties attracted to Simon’s money and title. With no place in the Duke’s changed life, Margaret took David, now Earl Grosmont, and Mary back to the Smithson estate in the south west of the country.
Only one former friend, Robert Heywood, managed to stay close to the Duke. A fictional tale would have Robert as a descendant of Sir Arthur Heywood, but in reality, the name was just a remarkable coincidence. Walking one day around the grounds of Cordale Hall, both nursing hang-overs from a big party the previous night, the two men stumbled upon the stored, rusting remains of the old trains. Over the next few days, Robert convinced the Duke that it might be ‘a grand thing’ to resurrect part of the estate railway. After all, however much money was required for the restoration, it would hardly dent the finances of the Dukedom. Robert hoped the project might help the Duke back to ‘normality’ and even a reconciliation with the Duchess.