Charnwood Forest Garden Railway

We're more than just a railway....

Running Saturdays, Sundays and Bank holidays throughout the year.

Proud Supporters of the GCR Model Show


About the CFR

  1. How long have you been here?

    The CFR has been here since 2000 (12 years) and we haven’t finished yet!

  2. Do you get any vandalism?

    We’re very lucky that we are in a very nice area and the only vandalism we get is little kids throwing stones in the week!

  3. What gauge is it?

    G scale, 45mm.

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Live Steam

  1. What does the term "live steam" really mean?

    A "live steam" engine is one which is actually driven by steam which has been produced by heating water until it boils, just like the real thing. This is quite different to an engine that has the outward appearance of a steam loco but has an electric or clockwork motor driving the wheels.

  2. What do the Live Steam locos run on?

    They work on butane gas, water and oil.

  3. How easy is it to operate a steam loco?

    There is a simple routine to preparing a loco for operation.

    Fill the boiler with the correct amount of water. This is done through a removable plug on the boiler and a syringe is supplied to make the task easy.

    Fill the gas tank with butane gas.

    Light the burner by holding a flame over the chimney whilst slowly opening the gas regulator.

    Lubricate the loco while you wait for the steam pressure to rise. A device called a displacement lubricator passes a special type of oil to the internal workings of the cylinders and is filled up before a run. All the external moving parts need a squirt round with conventional oil from an oil can.

    After five or six minutes working pressure is reached and you are ready to go so put the loco into gear (move the reversing lever for either forward or reverse) and open the regulator.

    The loco will run for around 30 minutes on one boiler filling and during that time, you have full control over starting, stopping, speed, direction and steam production. At the end of a run, after the gas tank is empty, the process can be repeated.

  4. What water do you use?

    Well, water is just water isn't it?.

    Actually no, it's not quite that simple.

    Our miniature steam boilers are made mostly of copper, with some bronze and silver solder and there are also brass steam fittings for the steam to negotiate before it exits to atmosphere. Although all these items are made from non-ferrous metals and therefore do not rust, they are subject to chemical attack in other ways. Here is a quick run down of the common sources of water with their pros and conn s.

    Tap water - in soft water areas, this is fine but in hard water areas it can quickly lead to a build up of 'lime scale' on the inner surfaces of the boiler, fittings and pipe work. The easiest way of establishing what your water is like is to look inside your kettle. If it's thick with white 'lime scale' deposits, avoid using it.

    Rain water - free of charge and quite good if you can get sufficient quantity. It must be filtered to get all the dirt, grit and other crap out of it and the filters used by home brewers and wine makers does an excellent job.

    De-ionized water - this is often sold for use in steam irons and the general opinion amongst the small scale live steam community is that it should not be used. Because of the way it is 'purified', it can cause long term problems by slowly removing zinc from the brass fittings - commonly called de-zincification.

    Purified water - tricky one this, as it is not always clear how purification has taken place. Shops that sell it will variously tell you it is de-ionized, or distilled. If you can't be sure that it is distilled, don't use it.

    De-humidifier water - another good source. A de-humidifier is a bit like a fridge in reverse, and the water that collects in the tank is quite safe to use.

    Refrigerator/deep freezer ice - good. It is basically moisture in the air that has frozen and once thawed out is good to use if you can get sufficient quantity.

    Distilled water - the best water you can use. Unfortunately, it is difficult to get hold of. If buying distilled water, be very sure that it actually is. Some retail outlets will sell 'purified' or 'de-ionized' water (for steam irons or car batteries) and tell you it is distilled but it is actually quite different.

    You will probably find that a combination of these will supply all your needs but if you store or stock pile collected water, be sure to filter it well before use and change the containers from time to time. If not, you will find algae and other deposits forming in the water which will cause steaming problems. Dirt, algae and other debris can cause the water to foam as it boils and this will cause priming to the cylinders and syphoning at the safety valve.

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Starting a Garden Railway

  1. How do I build a garden railway?

    If you ask this question of a dozen garden railroaders, you will probably get a dozen different answers as there are many ways to tackle the task of creating a railway for your steam loco to run on. The best way to tackle this is to look at what other people have done, see what options there are, how each may be applied to your own garden and see which suits your own needs best.

    As a start, there are several national associations, publications and video's that can help with ideas and practical information on basic construction, so pop over to our Making a Start page for more details.

  2. Where can you buy this gauge?

    A good supplier that we recommend is ‘Dragon G Scale’ in Wales. Have a look at his website. For shops more local, have a look at the links page on our website.

  3. What engines do you recommend?

    Take a look at our 'Making a start' Page. All the information you need to start is listed there.

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