While in the area I had to find time to explore the narrow gauge tracks at Norden, currently the inland terminus (and Park and Ride) for the Swanage Railway. A fellow blogger Steven posted some pictures from here on his blog back in July. This was where a number of narrow gauge tramways from local clay pits met the "main line". Actually the original lines pre-dated the standard gauge, and were built to 3' 9" gauge, although later a reduced size system was relaid to 2' gauge to utilise commonly available equipment.
The history of the systems is quite complex, but a number of boards around the site explained what was where, so it was well worth an explore, although there isn't actually a lot to see. Even some of the trackbed is hard to spot, but there is some track on a concrete base where an engine shed used to stand, and some bridge abutments where the line crossed a track - later used to tip clay into road lorries. The main visible feature though is the bridge where the original line was crossed by the standard gauge.
This wagon was one of the original 3'9" gauge lines, and although sheeted some interesting features were visible. The braking was achieved by pushing a sled or bar onto the rail between the wheels (see Steven's picture); and while one end of the wagon has dumb (solid wood) buffers, this end has an unusual transverse leaf spring behind a floating buffer beam!
It is an interesting structure, an early use of concrete, it was originally an incline into a clay pit hence built with a distinct slope. Later it was rebuilt on the level as the line was used to connect to another pit and for tipping waste. The preservation group plan to lay some track around the site for rides and demonstration trains, and even re-open this bridge.
Meanwhile the preservation group are building this transfer shed and a demonstration "mine" (more like a cave!), where wagons will be hauled from the mine into the structure and tipped into more wagons below.
For now they have a museum in this restored foreman's hut (sadly it is only open Sundays, and I was there on a Wednesday!) and some wagons from this and other similar locations.
These clay lines have already inspired models. Earlier this year I saw a model of Eldons Sidings (as the transfer sidings at Norden used to be known) by Peter Hollins in 7mm scale, he has modelled the narrow gauge at 3'9" and has some faithful models of the stock. I recall this was in Railway Modeller a while back.
John Thorne has built a freelance model (with some prototype features) based on the Purbeck clay mining industry in 009, last year I took some pictures at Narrow Gauge South:
Steve also published some pictures of John's model, which has also featured in Railway Modeller. I also recall a 7mm scale (O14?) model in RM a couple of years ago, which I think may have been for display in the museum in the foremans hut.