The Culm Valley Line
The layout at Coldharbour Mill.
Cold Harbour Mill houses a 50’ long? 00 gauge layout of the Culm Valley Light Railway. The line has been modelled from Tiverton Junction Station in Willand to its terminus at Hemyock, with all the stations and halts along the route. Obviously it has had to be condensed somewhat otherwise it would have a scale length of some 150 metres to represent the 7 mile long Railway. All the major railway structures are modelled together with some of the buildings in the immediate vicinity of the stations. Visitors often remark on seeing their own house or their village pub in miniature.
The layout began life as a Millennium funded project to build the model railway and at the same time incorporate a model of Coldharbour Mill, which someone had very expertly made. The main organiser was Peter Reed and the initial modellers were Alan Bell (deceased), his two sons Ian and Graham, Ron Trowin and Nigel Bliss.
Later, as the initial group became a little depleted, Bill and Lee Hulatt joined the group of modellers. Around 2004 Alan Bell was the only modeller from the original group left but by that time Jeff Green had volunteered and at the same time drafted in Kevin Grant, Eric Lamb, Pat Young and John Crocker. Alan left the team just before it was decided by the Trust that the basement area where it was located was needed for a proposed lift. They decided it should be moved to its present location, on the 3rd floor (Level 4) Exhibition Gallery where they were also going to locate the Millennium Tapestry.
The modellers had been joined by Philip Worsfold and further additions and modifications were made to the layout to suit the new location. Visual scenic links (albeit foreshortened) were constructed between the Stations and Halts. With work still to be done modelling ceased around October 2006. The Mill Authorities decided, mainly for safety reasons, to fully close the mill premises during the darker evenings and restrict access, during the week, to daylight hours, making it impossible for the modellers to continue. Three months later the Culm Valley Model Railway Club was formed
The layout, as it stood, continued to be operated by willing volunteers but only occasionally. No further maintenance was carried out until, early in 2012, at the invitation of the Mill, some of the Culm Valley Model Railway Club members returned and started, on Steam-up Days, to refresh the scenery, finish off the Buildings and carry out maintenance to the Track & Rolling Stock. The original concept was for the engine to be automatically operated with reed switches suitably located to both stop and start the train throughout its journey along the line. This has been removed and instead a manually operated system is being used – much more fun for the operators.
Safety issues have again interrupted access to the layout; but is hoped that with the support of the Trust and its members the layout will again be enjoyed, connected to the Model Railway club’s new ‘Tiverton Junction’ layout, for many years to come, by all who visit the Mill on Steam-up Days.