Category:Bassett-Lowke Garden Railways

From The Brighton Toy and Model Index
Jump to: navigation, search

Bassett-Lowke's Garden Railways locos and accessories were another major product line for the company, and although the market for these very large model locomotives kept shrinking, they were an area where B-L didn't have a lot of competition. As a result many of the miniature railways around Britain and the rest of the world that are in use as tourist attractions were either made by Bassett-Lowke, by Henry Greenly (who worked with Bassett-Lowke), or ... since B-L were willing to sell individual castings or complete sets for their locos ... were made with the help of B-L parts.

Miniature Railways of Great Britain

In 1904, Bassett-Lowke set up an offshoot company, "Miniature Railways of Great Britain", to build 15"-gauge model railways for exhibitions and fairgrounds, with engineering by Henry Greenly and James Mackensie managing the works.

Model railways were built for Blackpool, Rhyl, Southport, Parc des Eau Vives in Geneva, the Nancy Exhibition, Barmouth, the Ravensglass and Eskdale line, and the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch miniature railway, along with a specially-commissioned model for the LNWR for the 1908 Franco-British exhibition.

Garden Railway timeline


Formation of subsidiary company, Miniature Railways of Great Britain, for the operation of passenger-carrying railways up to 15 inch gauge.


  • 15 inch gauge steam locomotive and rolling stock supplied to the Duke of Westminster at Eaton Hall.
  • 7 ¼ inch gauge Great Central Railway locomotive built for Mr. Coates, of Paisley.
  • 15 inch gauge 4-4-4 petrol driven locomotive made to the order of Mr. C.W. Bartholomew at Blakesley Hall.


  • Locomotives and rolling stock supplied for the 15 inch gauge railway at Rhyl, North Wales.
  • 15 inch gauge model "Atlantic" locomotive supplied for the Southport Miniature Railway.


  • 15 inch gauge complete model railway built and despatched to the King of Siam, Bangkok.
  • 15 inch gauge complete model railway supplied to Sir Robert Walker at Sand Hutton.
  • Complete 15 inch gauge passenger-carrying railway with Pacific type locomotive constructed for Luna Park, Geneva.


  • 9 ½ inch gauge model railway installed at the Children’s Welfare Exhibition at Olympia.


  • Equipment constructed prior to the war was installed to convert the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway to 15 inch gauge.


  • Treasure Island Railway, 7 ¼ inch gauge (second year of the Wembley Exhibition). King George V and Queen Mary visit the Exhibition and ride on the railway.


  • Two-inch scale garden railway built for the Maharajah of Jodhpur.


  • 2 inch scale garden railway built for Sir Edward Nicholl of Littleton Park.
  • 1 ½ inch scale garden railway installed on roof of Pontings, London.
  • 2 inch scale garden railway supplied to the Maharajah of Patiala.


  • 2 inch scale railway installed at Southsea.


  • 2 inch scale Garden Railway for Captain Ward Jones.


  • 2 ¼ inch scale, 10 ¼ inch gauge "Royal Scot" locomotive supplied to Lord Downshire.


Bassett-Lowke's high-pressure 2 1/2" gauge locomotives were technically capable of hauling people around an outdoor layout (with a suitably raised track), but the company didn't really approve of this practice, and recommended either 7 1/4-inch gauge or 9 1/2-inch gauge locos "For any real passenger carrying trains in the garden or around the estate".

Customer buying these very large and very expensive locomotives were invited to have a cordial chat at a Bassett-Lowke showroom where their needs could be explored, and where they could negotiate having a loco, train, or full layout built for them, to their specifications.

Reference examples

Although the company emphasised that there was no set catalogue for these large pieces, they did publish photos and specifications of three examples of garden locos (with pricings) for potential customers to ponder:

  • A 7 1/4-inch gauge 4-4-0 LMS George the Fifth 5320
  • A 7 1/4-inch gauge LMS 4-6-0 Royal Scot 6100, and,
  • A larger 9 1/2-inch gauge 4-4-2 LNER loco, 4442.


Approximate prices listed in the 1937 catalogue were ~£250 for the George V loco and tender, ~£500 for the Royal Scot, and ~£450 for the larger 4-4-2 loco.

If we assumed a very crude "40×" scaling factor to take into account inflation (ignoring the fact that inflation affects different commodities differently), we'd arrive at a price in "modern money" of around twenty thousand pounds for just the loco and tender.

Museum collections

The museum doesn't currently keep any locomotive larger than 5" gauge. This is partly due to storage space, expense, and the lack of any proper way to display the larger locos, but it's also due to the fact that these bigger-gauge engines are arguably not toys or models but working outdoor locomotives - as such, they have their own specialised support infrastructure in the shape of a number of miniature railways around the UK, and these organisations have the service personnel to keep the larger locos in functioning order, and running ... and as outdoor attractions, they also have the shed space to show any non-working examples in a more fitting environment than an indoor museum.

External links