Sydney Gardens diorama

Sydney Postcard copy

The route of Brunel’s 1840 constructed Great Western Railway emerged from two short tunnels under Bathwick hill, and entered the ornamental pleasure gardens on the eastern approach to Bath Spa, some half a mile or so to the north east of the city centre. 

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Many houses in this locality were owned by members of the Royal family, and members of the aristocracy, and so the young Brunel designed the railway in an elegant neo-classical style, blending the path of the line into the landscape.  A polished L.M.S. Jubilee ‘Bermuda’ adds an unusual splash of Crimson Lake to the scene.


From left to right, the ornamental thirty foot single span footbridge carries a footpath over the railway by three segmented cast iron arches, resting in ashlar limestone abutments, with decorative cast iron stanchions between parapets above. The piered retaining wall then joins the abutment to the eastern side of the cutting, with a thickness of five feet at its base, rising twenty seven feet at its tallest point, and with a gently curved profile, to a panelled vertical wall between cornices. A single span bridge carries Sydney Road over the lines to the right, in ashlar limestone bricks, with a segmental Voussoir arch, a pierced stone balustrade and cornices between the parapets above road level.


syd bw

A similar Achilles class locomotive, ‘Dreadnought’ , is heading south, past the same spot, pictured this time from the parapet of the Sydney Road overbridge.


In an effort to capture the atmosphere from this popular viewing point, the structures were referenced, and scaled from the original sketches drawn in pencil onto squared paper, and however elegant they may be, they do appear to have been designed individually, and then ‘made to fit’ by the masons, as the parapets and abutments somehow don’t quite align smoothly to one another. These apparent problem areas must have involved a great deal of head scratching and compromise to build, they certainly did for me!



Foreground standing figures are from Andy Stadden’s 1:43 Victorian range,  for me, these are without a doubt the most elegant available and to study these  further, do please find the direct link in the Partner Weblinks section.  The background figures are Preiser 1.87.

The movie link shows the process of creating the 3D file for the balustraded wall sections, with their positioning on the diorama.


Between the trees, and above the retaining wall, I have represented a building originally conceived and sketched by Brunel. This pavilion was to have been sited at rail level in the foreground area, surrounded by lawns, and with ornamental steps leading down to the rails! In the event this never progressed beyond the great man’s sketchbook, but I thought it might make an interesting feature instead of the actual structure occupying the site which was too large to accommodate.


Some of the mature trees seemed to survive along the top edge of the cut, as early Bourne prints show them in situ during the building work. Perhaps Brunel gave instructions they should be retained wherever possible.