I have had N gauge model railways in the loft of a couple of houses where we have lived. I suppose that the initial wish to have a garden railway came from the occasional article in Railway Modeller. But I wanted a layout that 'did something' and the gardens we had did not lend themselves to such a layout.
I thought that we might have an opportunity when we moved to a new house in July 1993. So I decided to investigate further and purchased the first three editions of Garden Rail (then published bi-monthly) but I still could not see how to fit in a railway and leave a lawn area for relaxing and grandchildren. So I put away the magazines and the idea of a garden railway. Some years later I purchased Cyril Freezer's book, The Garden Railway Manual, but still nothing came of it.
In July 2005 my wife, Jackie, and I celebrated our silver wedding by spending a few days in Cheshire. Whilst we were there we went to the Brookside Garden Centre at Poynton. This is not just a garden centre - it also has an extensive miniature railway and a cornucopia of railway memorabilia. We can recommend a visit just for this aspect alone.
There is also a model shop which dealt mainly in railway models (OO and LGB being the most prevalent), the owners of which had just completed an outdoor model railway. This was a basic figure-of-eight with a crossover. Jackie remarked, quite casually, "We could do something like that in our garden". I was quite taken aback and so replied "Well, yes, I suppose we could" but my mind was already thinking how I could design a layout that 'did something' on the lawn area. And the rest, as they say, is history.
When we returned home I started trying various layouts on paper but something was not quite right. I found out that Dave, who, like me, was a signalmen at Butterley, was also interested in garden railways and he suggested that I start off with a basic loop folded back on itself to give the impression of some double track. When I had drawn this I decided to join the loop together near the pond so as to create a bit more interest. The next stage was to put in a method of making the trains run in the opposite direction so I designed a sort of double slip near the decking. The LPA then suggested that we had a siding down the side of the pond. I immediately doubled this into two tracks. I then measured the garden exactly and sat down with pencil and paper to do a full design.
We decided to name our railway the SWR which is short for, obviously, the Silver Wedding Railway!