Walsall grandad spends 30 years & thousands of pounds on miniature railway in his back garden

Derek Burwell,83, from Walsall is a rail enthusiast and has spent 30 years creating his very own secret garden track

Watch more of our videos on Shots!
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now

A train-mad grandad has spent the last 30 years building a working miniature railway track - in his back garden.

Derek Burwell, 83, has forked out thousands of pounds since 1993 creating the incredible track at his home in Pelsall, Walsall.

The 272 yard line now runs around the edge of his 40ft (12m) wide garden, which he travels around on in eight mini engines he built himself.

Derek constructs everything from a workshop at the end of his garden where he can spend hours on end each day.

The track is made from timber and aluminium while he has a mixture of electric and battery-powered engines as well as petrol-driven hydraulic ones. His garden features a host of railway memorabilia - including a 100-year-old signal which he reclaimed from a level crossing and now sits in the middle of his lawn.

Grandfather-of-two Derek said he decided to build his own garden track as it had always been a life-long dream of his.

Derek constructs everything from a workshop at the end of his garden where he spends hours on end painstakinglyDerek constructs everything from a workshop at the end of his garden where he spends hours on end painstakingly
Derek constructs everything from a workshop at the end of his garden where he spends hours on end painstakingly

He said: “It gave the neighbours a bit of a surprise when they saw I had my own railway track but it’s something I’ve always wanted to do.

“I used to enjoy riding the train in the arboretum but that closed down due to health and safety issues in the late 80s.

“The council did not bother to to fix the problem and just closed it down, which was sad. So I thought I’d build one myself. Now I can now ride my train whenever I like because it’s in my back garden.”

The father-of-two’s obsession with locomotives began when he was a child when his dad took him to work at Birmingham Coach and Carriage Company.

Derek BurwellDerek Burwell
Derek Burwell

He then spent his working life repairing and restoring engines, rolling stock and carriages before he finally retired.

Derek added: “I have always been into locomotives. My dad would take me to work and I would get to sit in all these amazing engines. One was built for the late Queen.

“As I got older, I thought it would be a nice hobby and keep me busy. It’s better I’m doing this than being stuck in front of the TV all day.

“It keeps me really active and I enjoy it. Not many people can say they have a fully working railway in their back garden. There are some fabulous miniature railways across the country but you have to know where to find them. People like to keep them a secret.”

Derek lives alone after being widowed two years ago following the loss of his wife Margaret, who died aged 73.

He still sees his daughter and two grandchildren regularly and even gets grandson Thomas to help him out with odd jobs.

He said: “My grandson helps me out with my jobs, he can weld, and I have passed my love of trains on to him.

“We used to have birthday parties when the grandkids were children and give everyone a ride on the railway, we used to have great fun. My wife just put up with it really, she didn’t have much of a choice. She knew how much I enjoyed building this track.”.

Derek’s specialist skills are still called on by other miniature railways lovers and collectors eager to return their vehicles back to their former glory.

The garden trackThe garden track
The garden track

He added: “I’m supposed to be retired. But there is always someone wanting something or another doing, but I enjoy restoring things

“I’m currently working on a little bus which is from a fairground in Belgium for a friend of mine. It’s taking up a big chunk of the garden. I think this will be my last major job. I need to slow down eventually and focus on working on my own garden.”

Related topics: