Dream comes true as enthusiast opens his very own railway line

The history of railways in Shetland may not be well known but, at one time, there were a number of narrow gauge railways in the isles.

One man striving to keep the history alive is enthusiast Jim Ivens, who has built a replica railway in his garden in Gott.

Mr Ivens explained that the Shetland railways were mainly constructed to serve the fishing industry of the herring boom days, as well as quarries, such as the Hagdale Chromate Railway in Unst which ran from the Hagdale quarry to the pier at Baltasound.

There was even a proposal for a railway from Scalloway to Lerwick, which never came to fruition.

While these railways are now long defunct, Mr Ivens’ interest in the subject led him to build the replica model.

As an ex-fireman at the Ffes­tiniog railway in north Wales, he said he had always wanted to build a replica railway but had never found the time or money to do it.

Mr Ivens said: “All railways start with an Act of Parliament – well mine began with an Act of Pamliament: my wife is called Pam, and it could only go ahead with her say so.”

Mr Ivens said his wife would only give the go ahead if he finished work on their garden path first, so, after first completing the path, he began the arduous task of landscaping the garden to prepare it for the track.

It all had to be levelled perfectly so that there were no inclines, which can make running a railway difficult. He said the work was all done with picks and shovels as there was no way to get power tools to that area of the garden. However, after a year of ground work, the garden was ready for the tracks to be laid.

The tracks were sourced from south and were sent up ready to be bent and fitted into place, and the locomotives themselves can be bought in kit form or ready built. Either way they all require some work to be done to get them working perfectly.

A variety of scales and gauges are available in the world of miniature railways, but Mr Ivens’ system features a SM32 gauge which is at a scale of 16mm: 1ft and runs on a 32mm gauge track, replicating a 2ft gauge railway. The locomotives them­selves are live steam engines and are powered by butane gas canisters.

He has been helped by fellow enthusiast Roger Pascal, who also sources and builds locomotives to use on the railway.

It has taken two years since beginning for the tracks to be laid and the work, so far, on the railway to be completed, but Mr Ivens said he intends continuing with it.

He said: “It’s good fun, and it’s not finished. There’s a lot more to do. I think it will never really be finished.”

Mr Ivens said there is quite a lot of interest in model railways in Shetland and that should anyone be interested in coming to see his railway they are welcome to do so. He can be contacted at the Rod & Line fishing tackle shop in Harbour Street on (01595) 695055.

A meeting of railway enthusiasts will be held on Wednesday at 7.30pm in the Hoswick Visitor Centre, where a video of the opening day of Mr Ivens’ Gott railway will be shown.


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