Back in April 2020, I wrote about Rydia Lacombe’s work in mapping all of Second Life’s railway networks (see: Mapping Second Life’s mainland railways). I ended the article by musing the idea of doing an occasional series about the Second Life Railroad (SLRR) network, even going so far at to contemplate a title for the series: From the Footplate. However, in June of 2020 the Lab launched a video series on the subject, prompting me to put the idea onto the back burner.
However, had I gone ahead with that series, I would have started with the Zany Zen Railway (ZZR), located in the heart of Jeogeot.
Created and operated by fellow “Brit” Zen Swords-Galway (ZenriaCo), it’s one of the most unique lines to be found in Second Life, being a) almost entirely scratch-built by Zen (with rolling stock scripting by Dizzi Sternberg, Janet Rossini and NightShade Fugu) and b) it is and narrow-gauge service, something of a rarity in SL. There’s also the fact it offers something of a celebration of UK in the most subtle of ways.
This last point can be seen on arrival at one of the two terminus points for the railway, Little Coverston, located in Gaori. Here, above a small Welsh coastal hamlet (complete with RNLI station) sits a stone built station, the entranceway to which is lined by posters advertising places to Ely, Whitby and the famous Rheilffordd Talyllyn – Talyllyn Railway, itself a narrow-gauge railway and Welsh tourist attraction that runs along the line that original carried slate from the quarries to the port of Tywyn. Incidentally, it was also the first narrow-gauge railway in the UK to be authorised by Act of Parliament for the transport of passengers.
It’s very much a passion project that grew into something I could never imagine. I’ve been lucky over the last few years to have some help with a few bits and bobs; the passenger carriage update last year couldn’t of been done with out a friend.
Zen discussing her Zany Zen Railway
Roughly three passenger trains an hour run along the ZZR, so if you arrive between services, you can take a wander along the street below and maybe pop into the Welsh Dragon to refresh yourself or, if it is open, the local corner shop to grab a sandwich or snack to enjoy on the train.
One of the reasons the service may appear slow is that – like many narrow gauge lines – the ZZR is predominantly a single track, one that is shared with goods trains. This means that passenger services often have to wait at the one double section of track to allow the freight service to pass. Not that this should be a problem; it simply gives passengers more time to appreciate their surroundings.
From Little Coverston the line runs east and then south, with a station at Seogyeo where that double section of line can be found, allowing trains to pass one another. The station is also home to the ZZR museum, offering a history of the line’s development that is very much worth hopping off the train to see – you can always catch the train once it has been down and back along the line to resume your journey. Also at Seogyeo is the chance to wander the streets of the local Welsh-themed village that is fully in keeping with the railway, and designed and built by RoaryCymru.
After Seogyeo, the line continues south, passing over an extensive viaduct and then through a cutting to arrive at Ahndang, a little country station typical of a bygone era here in the UK, before continuing on to Somdari – actually the point where the line originally started. The ZZR’s engine sheds are here, giving visitors the chance to see more of the engines – all of which are beautifully designed (and there may well be a couple in the sidings along the line).
Another of an aspects of the ZZR that make it so engaging is the level of scripted automation and detail: station signs neatly display arriving services, levers shift as points change, carriage doors opening as closing as the trains sit alongside platforms, and so on. The ride can admittedly be a little rickety – but anyone who has ridden a narrow gauge knows that can be the case – as can be the tightness of the curves.
Zany Zen’s isn’t the longest or the fastest railway, nor does it have the biggest trains; but that’s precisely the point. ZZR isn’t supposed to be big and bold and charging along; rather, it is an accurate interpretation of an English narrow gauge line that has been re-purposed from its original use to provide an engaging excursion people can enjoy – and one I recommend you try if you haven’t already.