West Meon is more or less at the head of the Meon Valley. Here the river turns and runs eastwards towards East Meon whilst the railway was to continue northwards towards Alton. It was necessary for the railway to cross the river, a mill stream and the road to East Meon at right angles. The original plan was for a traditional six arch concrete viaduct and this was what the builders started to construct. Unfortunately the ground conditions were such that this concrete viaduct started to sink almost as soon as it was started. The answer the engineers came up with was to build embankments as far as possible and then build a much lighter steel structure to actually span the river and diverted mill stream. The southern embankment is said to contain the remains of at least three of the original concrete spans.
About the Model: To mark the centenary of the opening of The Meon Valley Railway an exhibition was organised in the Westbury Manor Museum, Fareham. One night Denis Tilman (member of the Southwestern Circle, author of the most recent book on the Meon Valley Railway, and organiser of the exhibition) turned up in the clubroom with some plans we needed for Soberton and told us that the price for the plan we needed was to accept the plans for the viaduct as well. As he left he said “Oh, by the way, it would be good if you could provide a model for the exhibition. Soberton is a bit too long and anyway its double track so perhaps you could build a model of the viaduct instead…”
We had to try to overcome all these difficulties and still produce the model to a deadline.
Without giving it a second thought we said “sure we can do that”.
But once we got down to it it was actually not that simple.
- It was not possible to build it from styrene sheet and make the piers load bearing – the structure was too delicate.
- Our modules have the tracks offset towards the front of the boards but we wanted to have the viaduct in the centre to make the model look balanced.
- The real structure was nearly 70 feet high and so a dropped baseboard had to be designed and built to accommodate it.
- Oh, and by the way the structure is built on a very noticeable curve.
The model is actually capable of supporting a car because of the steel bar running through its deck. We estimate that it has over 10,000 (yes, ten thousand) individual pieces of styrene sheet in it and it took Ian Griffiths something like 8 months to complete.
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