00, Great Western Railway and British Railways (Western Region), 4 @ 4 foot

Merrivale Light Railway

In 1908 the Merrivale Light Railway was proposed to link the Prince Town Branch at Swell Tor Sidings to the hamlet of Merrivale and Tor Quarries. Work was gotten underway on the 1.72 miles (2.75km) line but wasn't finished. In 1923 there was an unsuccessful attempt to complete the light railway. The Branch closed in 1956 which would have wrung down the curtain on the Light Railway. If built like the branch the light railway might have been operated by the Great Western Railway [GWR], been taken over by the GWR in 1923 or earlier, or absorbed into British Railways, Western Region in 1948. The Light Railway put aside £150 for stations so I assume a passenger service was planned running between far from palatial stations. I've estimated traffic below and it suggest passenger service may have been withdrawn in the early 1930's.

Merrivale hamlet

The hamlet's population was mostly quarry workers so by 1903 should have exceeded 600. The hamlet supported a pub, now the Dartmoor Inn, from 1901 a Wesleyan chapel, shops, and a petrol station/garage. Many now demolished.
Tor Quarries were opened in 1875 by William Duke and were later renamed Merrivale Quarry. By 1903 the quarry employed at least 150 men and produced about 1,600 tons of cut granite. The quarry also processed stone from other quarries some from as far away as Scotland. Merrivale Quarry closed in the December of 1997 and was the last large quarry in the Dartmoor National Park.
In Edwardian times
Merrivale would have been slightly smaller than Raglan. This suggests an average day of 32 passengers, 21 parcels, milk churns, a coal wagon with an empty out and goods wagon in and another out. Currently Merrivale is served, Sundays excepted, by three buses each way daily run by Oakleys Coaches. Together these suggest three mixed trains each way a day. The quarry traffic is very difficult to estimate, as cut stone quarries tend to be feast or famine. You get an order for corbels for London Bridge and it's all hands to the pump at other times the quarry could be very quiet kept afloat by cutting stone from other quarries.

Tor Quarries/Merrivale Quarry

Choosing how to model Merrivale station provided challenging not helped by uncertainties above available space. At one point I looked at using the station board from Newbridge Mill giving it an easily reversible make over and adding a fiddle yard with a two road traverser or sector plate. I wasn't happy with this concept and luckily there wasn't space for it in the September exhibition. My next thought was Silver Creek with a curve in the middle. The layout had worked well at Kenavon after a doggy point was fixed and there's thoughts about introducing a passenger service. My first try was with Roco 250mm curves. This was a disaster the coaches hated the curves and some of the other stock wasn't happy. It was only when I realised I could keep the coach on a radius 1 curve and other stock on a 12"/300mm curve that I could develop a viable plan.
In its last half century the Branch was famous for being operated by the 44XX class prairies. In its early years it was operated by 850 Class saddle tanks, later rebuilt as pannier tanks, and 517 Class tanks often fitted with push-pull gear so pannier tanks and 14XX Class seem appropriate for the Light Railway. Given the light loading the mixed train would require a four wheel composite and a break van which would handle the parcels and milk traffic. The coach options are unattractive the Ratio kit is a poor runner and Hattons's offer is a generic coach in GWR colours. I therefore went for what I had in stock. Photos show 'Toad' break vans on the Branch so they would seem appropriate for the Light Railway. There are many suitable goods vehicles available. A point to bear in mind is that the curves make fitting stock will large couplings a smart move. A mixed train would comprise a loco, a coach & a wagon or two and a goods train loco, four wagons, & break van.

It is unlikely the layout will be built