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Steaming in the Caribbean:

Gauge 1 layout construction - old and new

by Yves Guillaume as told to Jim Pitts

Photos of the original layout by Bob and Carol Simpson and the new layout by Charles Guillaume.

Drawings by K.S. Holder, registered architect and interior design consultant.


 “The old order changeth, yielding place to the new.”  King Arthur in Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem Morte D’Arthur

The idea of Gauge 1 outdoor railway in the Caribbean has ethereal appeal.  Yves Guillaume, works in Port of Spain and weekends in Blanchisseuse, Trinidad.  He reports that in his region of the world, live steam is a lonely hobby.  Yves is the only Gauge 1 live steamer in Trinidad!  


His initial layout was built in 1993; a kidney shaped, single circuit, waist high elevated track, 119 feet in length with a 12 foot radius.  Track was Aster with Tenmille and Marcway switches and crossovers. The construction of the track’s base were 8” x 8” concrete columns approximately waist height and 3 feet apart.  To connect the columns on either side were dressed 2” x 4” Douglas fir lumber, fixed to the side with Hilti anchors.  On the top side of the 2 x 4’s and following the shape of the track, dressed 1’ x 3” battens were fixed in place, spaced ¾’ “ apart.  On top of this base construction, 5/16’ compressed fiber board sheeting was cut to shape, silicone treated, then fixed in place with stainless steel screws to the battens.  Attached to the ends of the battens, following the shape, 5/16” thick x 2” wide protective railing joined at intervals at the top by a thin ¼’ aluminum channel to keep the railing rigid.  The materials used in the 1993 construction were selected on availability at the time for extreme climate conditions.  Today, Yves would recommend Greenheart lumber for future outdoor projects. 

The original layout was constructed to accommodate dual track and the feeder line system was all installed including crossover to serve the two circuits. Running on the inside circuit was intended to be anti-clockwise and a clockwise direction for trains running on the outer circuit. Yves states, “The inner circuit was never completed as there was no one really to keep me company.  Hopefully that will now change!”

Upon the advice of his physician to stay out of the tropical sun, Yves decided it was time for a new layout.  Thus, planning on a sheltered track system began several years ago for Gare du Nord in Blanchisseuse.  Situated on the North Coast of Trinidad, twenty five miles from the capital Port of Spain, Blanchisseuse is a fishing village with a population of 800.   


Yves’ all Aster locomotive roster includes: JNR C62-2, SNCF U1 Baltic, Union Pacific Big Boy and Chesapeake and Ohio H8 Allegheny.  Perched on a cliff with an elevated coast line, the line offers a windy vista. 

Therefore his choice of fuel is a combination of anthracite, bituminous coal and charcoal proportions depending on which locomotive he’s firing up. Not just any charcoal, but good, hard charcoal from the Tonka bean tree. It gives a longer, hotter burn. His roster is exclusively coal fired. Rolling stock consists of a dozen Aster JNR passenger coaches (6 brown and 6 blue), eight J&M Train Bleu coaches and added to this mix is an assortment of goods, freight carriages and a caboose.

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