Bekonscot Model Village
Bekonscot Model Village is a beautiful example of it's type, built in the late 1920s, and fitted out with a gauge 1 model railway, that was apparently originally installed or supplied by Bassett-Lowke Ltd.
Meccano Magazine, April 1934:
A Unique Village in Miniature: Bekonscot and its Model Railway
THE curious fascination of the miniature seems to be felt by all, young and old alike. Even the everyday things with which we are so familiar that we scarcely notice them take on a new interest when we see them reproduced in model form. Miniature structures no doubt appeal to different people in different ways – to some, for instance, the craftsmanship displayed is the outstanding feature; but generally it may be said that the fascination lies mainly in the fact that models enable us to grasp, as a complete whole, schemes that we can only see in part in actual life. The miniature village of Bekonscot, with its railway line and surrounding country, makes an instant appeal to the visitor, largely because even the first glance reveals so much in such small space. He sees, in fact, exactly what a modern Gulliver would see if he could look down on a typical English village and its pretty surrounding district.
Bekonscot is situated on the estate of Mr. R. Callingham at Beaconsfield, and it reproduces with wonderful fidelity the characteristic features of this delightful Buckinghamshire village. Mr. Callingham commenced the construction of his model village some five years ago, with the object mainly of giving expression to his keenness and skill in landscape gardening. The village therefore is an ideal one, and it illustrates clearly how modern building schemes can be developed in keeping with beautiful natural surroundings, and without introducing any of the hideous villas and bungalows that are now so rapidly ruining many parts of the English countryside. The railway system was added after part of the construction had been carried out, so that, as in actual practice, the surveying and planning of the line had to be carefully carried out with regard to the natural obstacles. For this reason the railway has a particularly natural appearance, not merely on account of its surroundings, but even more as a result of its position in relation to the various features about it. Quite clearly the scenery has not followed the railway, as is the case with most miniature layouts on such a scale; on the other hand, the railway has followed the scenery, which is the logical thing for any railway to do.
The village is situated in a beautiful rock garden covering an area of roughly 1,000 sq. yds., and it consists of the village, with church, shops, hotel and other public buildings; 1,200 ft. of railway line, complete with rolling stock and a variety of accessories, and with five stations; fields, water courses and woods. The construction is carried out on a scale of one inch to the foot, and the result is a most remarkable achievement, which must be seen to be fully appreciated. Photographs can convey a fairly adequate idea of different sections of the scheme, but they utterly fail to convey the peculiar "atmosphere” of the village. Foreign visitors to England, who have the time and inclination to leave the beaten track and pass through the real heart of the country, are always impressed by the fact that each country village seems to have its own distinct individuality. In some curious way Bekonscot also has acquired a personality of its own, which only a visit can reveal.
The dominating feature of the village is the Church, situated just off the High Street. This is a little masterpiece of Early English architecture, complete with stained glass windows. As one passes by, a peal of bells may be heard from the tower, or perhaps the organ may be playing and the choir singing. The effect is beautiful and rather uncanny, and it is just a little disappointing to learn that the effects are produced by relaying gramophone records of bells and organ and choir music from the power station that supplies the railway system.
Other notable buildings are the Town Hall and the Post Office, and the "Saracen's Head" Hotel built in the half-timbered Tudor style. In front of the hotel, and approached by a steep incline from the station, is the lake with its two islands, its lighthouse and pier. On the pier is a pavilion that seems to call for a band, and sure enough at times concerts are held there, produced by the same means as the music in the church.
Leaving the streets with their fascinating little shops, many of which bear the names of Beaconsfield shopkeepers, one comes to the outskirts of the village, in which picturesque residences are scattered about the fields and woodlands. Dwarf conifers are conspicuous, and here and there brilliant flowers give a touch of colour to the scene, which is reflected in the green water of the lake. Bridges span the space between the mainland and the islands. The village is electrically lighted, and in the evening forms an indescribably charming picture.
During the present winter season there has been added a Road House complete with verandah, restaurant, sun-bathing slopes and swimming pool, and several other smaller changes have also been made. Other new features will be added from time to time, and in particular we understand there is a rumour that curative waters have been discovered on the site, and that therefore the village at Bekonscot may ultimately become a Spa where the "small people" will gather to drink the waters!
There is no "jerry building' at Bekonscot. All the buildings are made to stand the ravages of the weather, and stone, brick, slate and cement are the main materials employed. Some of the roofs of the buildings are sheathed with lead, and pitch roofs are correctly tiled, either with oak weatherboarding or with asbestos tiles on proper rafters. Oak scantlings are pegged together for the beams, and the spaces between them are filled with real soft bricks, which have lines cut in them to represent scale-size bricks. Many styles and types of buildings are included, so that while each one blends harmoniously with the general scheme, there is no monotonous repetition.
The main roads through the village are equipped with miniature automatic traffic signals; telephone and post boxes are provided, and sign posts indicate the various roads. Visitors need feel no nervousness in walking through the village, for all the roads and bridges have been constructed to bear the weight of adults with safety.
The railway is laid to a gauge of 1¾ in., and the permanent way consists of properly chaired and sleepered track correctly laid on a well-ballasted road bed. It is very completely equipped, and represents an up-to-date main line connecting the Bekonscot district with the imaginary London terminus of Maryloo. This terminus has three main platforms, which are complete with all the usual offices. The whole of the 1,200 ft. of track is electrically operated by steam outline trains of various types. Double track is available throughout, with numerous points, crossings and connections, and the whole line is protected by three-aspect colour-light and other signals. The track is being continuously overhauled and improved and it is hoped that the small alterations in the general electrical system will facilitate the running of the trains during the coming Season.
Mr. Callingham has generously made his charming village available to the general public. Bekonscot is always open to visitors and it is hoped to run the trains (weather permitting) every Sunday, Bank Holiday and the first Saturday in each month from April to September, from 2 p.m. until dusk. The gardeners have instructions to show visitors round at any time during the rest of the week, although it is unlikely, except on special occasions, that the train service will be operated apart from the days mentioned. A charge of one shilling for admission is made, and after all the expenses and Entertainment Tax (if any) have been paid, the balance of the funds will be given to various charitable organisations.
Bekonscot is situated in Warwick Road, Beaconsfield, and is about three minutes' walk from the north side of the local station on the Great Western and London and North Eastern Joint Line. Travellers by road will be interested to hear that it can be conveniently approached by car from the Beaconsfield cross-roads where the main road from London passes the church, a distance of about 1½ miles.
— , -, , Meccano Magazine, , April 1934
History of Model and Miniature Railways, p.109:
A railway in a village
Let it be quite clear from the beginning, Bekonscot is a model village with a railway running through it: the village comes first, the railway is part of the landscape. Bekonscot is the brainchild of the late Roland Callingham, who built it all from a rough field back in 1929. Model villages are not unique to Britain but Bekonscot (named after Beaconsfield and Ascot, the respective homes of designer and owner) is one of the finest in Europe, and has been visited on six occasions by members of the Royal family. The village covers over 40,000 square feet, and contains seventy-five buildings, including churches, hotels, shops and houses: it also supports docks and a railway system. Many of the buildings are replicas of those found in and around Britain including the arcaded shopping Street copied form High Street Chester, the Town Hall a copy of that in Luton, and the Memorial Hostel based on the Jellico Memorial Sailor's Hostel in Southampton. There is a zoo and a cricket pitch, a race course and an aerodrome: it is a truly complete village in miniature.
The railway is coarse scale gauge 1, operated by electricity with centre rail collection at 30 volts DC. There are 1,200 feet of track laid with flat bottom rail. The system is automatic and electronically operated. The line is operated form a control room adjoining Maryloo station. Locomotives and rolling stock are mostly modern in outline and the majority are either diesel or electric types. There are thirty-six locomotives, over sixty coaches and fifty goods wagons. Sadly, the original stock which was largely historic Bassett-Lowke has gone, replaced by utilitarian and rather worn models which are there to please the public rather than the modeller.
In all, Bekonscot is a pleasing model village with working exhibits – some 6,000 yards of electric cable under the roads ensure that trains run, bells ring, lights flash and sacred music is relayed from the model churches. During a busy day's running the model trains can quite easily cover a distance of nearly a hundred miles.
Access to Bekonscot is easy by car, bus or train.
— , -, , History of Model and Miniature Railways, page 109-111, , ???
- Bekonscot Model Village & Railway homepage (bekonscot.co.uk)
- Blue Peter: Bekonscot Model Village (bbc.co.uk)
- More English than England itself: Bekonscot Model Village offers a truly rose-tinted day out for the family, Nicola Swanborough, 23 May 1997 (independent.co.uk)
- Bekonscot (wikipedia.org)