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Editorial to Part 6

I HAVE been not a little surprised to receive so many letters about miniature and model railways. Both the adult and juvenile populations of this country, it would seem, are far more interested in the running of miniature railways and the building and running of model locomotives than is generally imagined - due no doubt to the fact that there always has been and always will be a romantic interest in everything pertaining to trains.

The spark of interest is, I think, at once kindled by the very first railway journey we make in our youth; and this spark never really goes out. In some of us it blazes into bright flame; in others it merely glows into a moderate interest, while in a few instances it remains more or less quiescent. Judging from the success of Railway Wonders of the World, the initial spark shows no sign of ever being extinguished.

It has been impossible to deal earlier with miniature and model railways; but in Part 7, to be published next Friday, there will be a chapter dealing with the miniature lines of this country.

There are many of them.

HOW and why these lines were built will be explained, and there is no denying that there is considerable fascination to be found in services that are run on lines with as small a gauge as 15-in. Although the locomotives used on miniature lines are only approximately one-third the size of the average engine used on standard gauge lines, many hundreds of passengers are carried regularly on miniature railways in various parts of the country. The work of these miniature railways, however, is not confined entirely to tourist traffic, nor to conveying holiday-makers from one beauty spot to another. Some of these railways constitute very important links between outlying points and the main railway routes. Goods of all kinds, including His Majesty’s mails, are transferred at little wayside stations for conveyance on these light railways. There are many instances in this country where stone quarries and engineering works in out-of-the-way places are served by such lines.

In a number of places, also, miniature railways have been built for use in large country houses and estates, where the distance from the local station is considerable, or where the owner of the property is mechanically minded, and wishes to run a railway for his own recreation. There are many such lines in this country, and quite a number of notable people are adept at driving the locomotives which have sometimes, in fact, been built by themselves. It would surprise you if you could see some of the well-equipped workshops where these little locomotives are built.

This leads me to the subject of models, which, although running on rails of 2½ inch gauge or less (compare this with the 4 ft 8½-in gauges of the “big” railways) are quite capable of hauling passengers - sometimes as many as six adults or a dozen children at a time. Such models, burning coal as fuel, are, in fact, locomotives in miniature, and these will be considered in a later number of this production.

Part 7 will also contain a chapter describing the great testing plant at Vitry, in France, which is used for recording locomotive performances. The locomotives remain stationary while running on rollers, so that the railway engineers can more easily acquire the data that is so important an aid to the improvement of design. Testing a locomotive is one of the most interesting of railway tasks and calls for a high degree of skill and knowledge. It is very special work and without it we could not hope for the progress that everyone demands from the world’s railways.

ANOTHER interesting chapter will be that dealing with the railways of Japan, for considerable strides have been made on Japanese railway work during the past few years. We shall also continue the section (begun in the Part which you now have before you) that presents so fascinating a picture of the railway in Eastern Africa. How few of us realize what the pioneers did to make transport possible through lion-infested country. How few of us can imagine the extraordinary courage demanded of those men who laid the track through the Sudan and Kenya and Uganda, from Wadi Haifa to Mombasa.

The construction of a railway in conditions of ever-present danger is a drama in itself, one of the greatest dramas in the whole history of railway construction. We shall begin, too, the wonderful story of the Canadian National line that spans the Canadian continent, the railway that unlocked the door to this great Dominion. Several Canadian correspondents have written to ask me when this great achievement was to receive due honour, for there is no one more railway-proud than the Canadian - and with every justification.

My correspondence proves to me that everyone is just as interested in the railways of his own country as in the railways of distant lands. And here I must ask those readers who have experienced a slight delay in receiving replies to their interesting letters to be a little patient, since my “railway mail” seems to be growing larger and larger every week, and I have to deal with them in rotation.