Shunting ad infinitum

You may recall that I found this plan of a small urban goods yard in Brighton, and commented on its suitability for a model. (All maps from the National Library of Scotland site, under creative commons.)

Wandering around south London, I have come across a good number of other small yards.  My interest started as I noticed the number of north London railway companies – such as the Midland or LNWR – with coal yards south of the river.  Coal trains from the mining areas of the midlands and north were run south of the river to provide domestic and industrial coal – and smog.

I’ve presented a number of these yard below, mostly both as they were in 1900 and in 1950.  I think they provide some interesting yard layouts, though modelling them purely as a coal depot may lack a little operating interest, despite the interesting private owner wagons that could be modelled.

We’ll start with Knight’s Hill, not far from Crystal Palace.  This appears to belong to the London & North Western Railway.  It would make an interesting model, with the tunnel and steep slopes down to the road bridges.  The yard could be straightened up a bit to make the scene a little narrower.

The growth of suburbia is obvious in the second plan – but both would make good models.

Nearby at Nunhead was the Great Northern Railway coal depot.  A far simpler design, but including some complex pointwork.

Moving in towards central London, Wandsworth was home to the Midland Railway.  It was already largely urban in 1900.  It is interesting to see how the yard has grown by 1950, and the war damaged streets to the west.

The Midland Railway depot in Brixton was very compact, using wagon turntables, but had all but disappeared by 1950.

And finally the LNWR depot at Clapham, on the end of the West London Extension Railway.  The multiple main lines into Waterloo are to the north of the depot, and Clapham Junction is just to the west.  Everyone seems to have a yard around Clapham – there was even a Great Western Railway broad-gauge yard prior to 1900.

I might try and find some yards further afield – there are some amazing places in East London, but hopefully those above will provoke the designer’s juices!

Posted in Hints and tips, Inspiration, Layout design, Out and about | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Commuter spots seven nuns at Seven Sisters

Something special from the Daily Telegraph….

A commuter was astonished when he saw seven nuns waiting for a train at Seven Sisters Tube station in London.

The entertaining coincidence appeared not to have been noticed by the nuns as they sat and chatted in a group.

Ben Patey, 33, said: “I had just had a long day and I was waiting to jump on the train when I looked across and saw the nuns and the sign. “I had to do a double-take. It was one of those strange but amusing moments.”

Seven Sisters is believed to take its name from a group of seven elm trees that were planted around a willow tree in the 14th century.

Can anyone suggest any alternative cameos for your layout?  (Not too rude, please…..)

Posted in Inspiration, Out and about, Prototype, Weird and wonderful | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Book review – Creating cameo layouts’

We all get older.  Even Iain Rice gets older.  That young whipper-snapper with radical ideas on P4 modelling and on layout design is now an elder statesman of the hobby.  Fortunately he writes in just the same style as he ever did – and this makes his books a joy to read even about the more boring bits of modelling – but perhaps with a modicum more experience.  His latest book explores the world of cameo layouts.

You may first note the price – a significant £24.95.  It seems expensive, but all books are these days.  And it is still less than a new Farish coach, and probably a lot more useful.

And what is a ‘Cameo Layout’?  The author says that:

It is this sense of something that encapsulates a subject concisely and within a complementary setting that I seek to apply the term ‘cameo’ to a model railway.  That is, a representation which conveys the nature and character of a prototype in a small space while being executed to a high standard, the modelling being set off by a visually pleasing presentation.  To which aesthetic criteria I have added the  practical ones that the whole thing should be structurally and functionally self-contained, easy to move and store, and readily adaptable to different circumstances.

Perhaps we might define it as a small layout, perhaps up to 8′ in length, of a small piece of prototype railway.  This may well be a branch line terminus, or a light railway, but could equally be industrial, urban, or part of a goods yard or loco depot.  It will probably be foldable and easily transported to shows.  And it may well be operated from the front, have an integral backscene and ‘proscenium arch’ to frame the layout, and an integral fiddle yard and electrics.

The covers of the book illustrate the idea from Rice’s own layouts – front and back cover show Trerice, ‘P4′ china clay in 6’ plus a fiddle yard.  And the front cover has the two level LNWR and L&YR urban layout ‘ Longwood Edge’.  Here’s a short video of Trerice.

And this is a typical Rice small layout – originally as a three level, ‘stacked’ design where you used the cassette to move from one level, and station, to another.  But it would make an interesting small goods exchange station in its own right.

The book is full of good advice and techniques for design, baseboards, through to couplings and operation.  Indeed, the section on couplings is most worthwhile, although it is aimed at 4mm scale, as it carefully compares a range of different couplers.

At the end of the book, there are a number of worked examples of ‘cameo’ layouts.  All of interest, though my one criticism of the book is that these examples only includes one ‘urban’ one, and none from East London, where I feel some of Rice’s best designs originate.

Again, another recommended purchase to add to your armchair modelling books.



This blog (and the next few) come from Singapore.  I’m lucky enough to be here for 10 days – though I will be working for the weekdays and trying to finish other projects over the weekend.  No chance of trainspotting, though….

Posted in Hints and tips, Inspiration, Layout design, The trade | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Crisis – what crisis?

The September 1982 copy of ‘Modern Railways’ has the cover sub-title of “British Rail in crisis.”  This seems to be mainly due to a prolonged strike by the ASLEF drivers.  It seems to have been due to a proposal to take guards off freight trains.  Some things are truly timeless…..

An article, “ASLEF Dispute Diary” says:

In a statement accompanying its strike call ASLEF repeated that the purpose of the strike was to retain the guaranteed 8 hour day and to resist the worsening of conditions of its members.  Referring to calling-off the separate strike by the National Union of Railwaymen the previous day – in terms of a concurrent World Cup football metaphor – a member of the ASLEF Executive said: ‘Now Sir Peter Parker is playing against Brazil instead of Kuwait.’

Or should it be Iceland?  In Germany, there is no union action, but a….

War on draughts  Some travellers in DB’s air-conditioned coaches still complain of draughts and are surprised that there is no simple remedy like shutting a window or ventilator.  The DB research laboratories in Minden are therefore undertaking a detailed study of air movement in compartment and open vehicles, in motion and at rest…..

I had to read it to see why DB were banning board games.  A column by Alan Williams is rather provocative….

Britain’s railways are in a mess, that much few people would deny.  And depending where you sit it is fashionable to blame either the Luddite lefty unions or the wicked, capitalist pro-free-enterprise (ie: pro-road) Government.  Certainly neither side is exactly blameless; Ray Buckton’s antics over flexible rostering have been more than matched by the Transport Secretary’s vacillations, known in Whitehall as flexible posturing.  But what sort of management gets itself into eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation in the first place?  Bad management, that’s what….

It was interesting, but rather depressing, to see BR management in action – or perhaps inaction – during what the media love to call the ‘rail crisis’ – strikes now being rather passe, simplistic confrontations over such minor things as pay.  On such bits of British Rail I confronted during the crisis, the action was decidedly patchy.  At some stations, staff were clearly busy scrubbing, cleaning and planting flowers to such effect that one wondered vaguely if some phantom Royal Train was about to appear.  But at far too many the platforms were deserted and the staff, though presumably still being paid, appeared to have retired permanently to the local hostelry, leaving the station entirely unmanned…..

These days it seems a lost art to write a piece that doesn’t take sides, and has a go at absolutely everyone.  Our journalists should remember that rarely is one side alone to blame.  Elsewhere in this edition, there’s an article that looks rather optimistic in hindsight:

The electrification of Paddington’s suburban services

The British Railways Board’s Corporate Plan of 1980 sanguinely envisaged completion of a Paddington suburban electrification scheme to Didcot and Oxford by 1987, at a cost of £32 million.  But that date had gone by the board long before the Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers & Firemen put all electrification in jeopardy…

As in so many other areas of BR, therefore, the case for the Paddington suburban electrification is one of sheer need to renew worn-out assets in the most far-sighted way if the service is to survive much beyond the life of a Government which, uniquely in Europe, treats public transport as expendable…

Remember that the DTp has recently committed over four times the likely cost of Stage I [electrification] to the M40 [motorway] extension, chiefly to save road transport a quarter-of-an-hour on the West Midlands-Southampton haul.

34 years on, some work is being carried out, but we’re still waiting for the first electrified train.  And we still have strikes.  But there is positive change in other areas.  The privatized railways are a victim of their own success, carrying more passengers than ever before, often with relatively new rolling stock.  Perhaps it’s a case of the yokel’s instruction to the lost tourist: “If you want to get to there, I wouldn’t start from here.”

Still, other snippets put this firmly into the 1980’s….

“Baghdad Metro plans outlined”.  Yes it got built and is operating again.

“London Transport is to accept Visa and Access credit cards in payment for Underground season tickets and longer-period bus passes.  To avoid delays at ticket office counters the facility will apply only to postal and telephone purchases.”  Well, now there are no ticket offices.

“Vauxhall Motors has announced that is has not decided to renew its contracts to distribute cars by rail, and will rely exclusively on road transport instead.  An official statement denied that this reflected on BR’s record of reliability; the decision had more to do with the poor or non-existent rail access to the company’s plants.”

Posted in Out and about, Prototype, Weird and wonderful | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Off my trolley – North Hollywood yet again

Noticed recently that the restoration of the old Pacific Electric / Southern Pacific depot at North Hollywood has been completed and reopened as a commuter café on the Metro Orange Line.  This article gives the details, including:

The official grand opening of the Groundwork Coffee Co. cafe drew dozens of hipsters and transit officials to the Victorian-era station at South Chandler and Lankershim boulevards, at the terminus of the Metro Orange Line busway.

The hipsters must have mingled well with the transit officials…..

I culled a range of photographs of the restoration from the internet and have included them below – the ones of the café interior are useful as they show the roof structure.

Posted in Inspiration, Layout design, Prototype, Traction | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Book review – Model Railroad Planning 2017′

The new year has come around again and it’s time for this year’s ‘Model Railroad Planning’ from Kalmbach.  I get this annual publication every year, and it is almost always worth a read.  There are usually too many (for me) basement sized layouts, but these are usually balanced by a few small ‘British size’ layouts.

This year seems to be a good edition.  The cover layout and featured plan is a shortline switching layout that comes in two sizes, the smallest 8′ (in HO) plus an add on staging siding.  There is also an attractive trolley line.  As the Model Railroader site describes it:

Adding traction to a steam railroad

Thinking of adding a trolley line to your layout? Well, that can be a fascinating addition to an existing model railroad. It can be simple or as complex as you might want. Just be aware of one hidden risk: A trolley operation can become addictive – sometimes to the point that it becomes more intriguing than a traditional steam railroad.

That’s because it can be scaled to your available space more easily than most other types of railways. Most electric lines were short, with ultra-sharp curves, steep grades, simple but frequent operations, and short trains – often just a single car. Scale-length trains are practical. Adding even more realism is that, like their prototypes, the models are powered by electricity!

Perhaps the most interesting thing about this edition is the fact that it contains two British based, but American outline, layouts.  The first, the ‘O’ gauge Laramie loco depot is described as:

A slice of Wyoming in the U.K.

Why would someone who lives in rural Gloucestershire, England, model part of a Union Pacific engine terminal in Wyoming? For many, a layout is an unashamed trip back to their childhood. On reflection, I guess there’s an element of this here: I have a clear recollection of the son of two of my parents’ friends having an HO model of a UP 4-8-8-4 Big Boy, and of being insanely jealous of this amazing beast.

This fine layout was at the Stevenage show earlier in the year.

The second UK layout is a gem.  But I would say that, as it is ‘N’ gauge and based on the railways of the North-east.  It even has an abandoned Lehigh Valley line in the background!

An N scale traveling layout

Although I’m a member of the Erie Lackawanna Historical Society and model the EL in HO, I have always wanted to see what I could achieve in a small space in N scale. I started designing a layout capable of being taken to exhibitions and where the main size constraint was the back of my Volkswagen Golf with the seats folded flat. This gave a maximum size of 40″ by 70″ to work in.

I’ve always had an interest in Eastern railroads – especially in Pennsylvania – and have collected reference books for influence. My main interest is the Erie Lackawanna, but I also gathered information on other roads such as the Reading, Lehigh Valley, Lehigh & New England, Pennsylvania, and Central RR of New Jersey.

I scanned this plan from the magazine, to share what a good small design (5′ 10″ x 3′ 4″) this is:

To add interest to a small layout with a small staging yard, Ian Wilson modelled one end of the fiddle yard as visible, so the locomotives and cabooses of trains can be stopped in open view, then moved into the yard as an extra operational movement.  The end of yard tracks are in the foreground below, and a train is leaving past the depot and junction.

Very much recommended!

Posted in Hints and tips, Inspiration, Layout design, The trade | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

1971 – March – Personalities

Between the February and March editions of Railway Magazine, the price had changed from 4s (20p) to 20p (4s).  Yes, the UK had been decimalised.

From “Some thoughts on the end of steam” by the prosaically named “62741”.

Personalities of the last years

And what of the personalities on the steam scene in the last years – a largely neglected aspect of steam lore?  Mercifully, many bore nicknames so I may chronicle them here without giving offence….

The most noteworthy group was undoubtedly that incredible timing fraternity – more than fifty strong – at Waterloo, who can claim the distinction of introducing BR’s first payment-by-results speed bonus scheme for footplate staff.  (No doubt the Bournemouth electrification resulted in loss of earnings for some of the more enterprising drivers, though not perhaps the famous “Bournemouth Gnomes”!)

What memories the names of this intrepid bank conjure up: “Lurch” (who was nearly out of gauge); “Diddy Man” (round about 4ft, of which the top half was hair); “Squire Huntley” (ever sporting a cravat); “Pest” (since believed to have gone into the Common Market); and last but not least, “Reg Idiot” – the man who always had a faster run.  This led to the coining of the word “Redged” which has passed into the English language wherever Steam is spoken.  For the uninitiated, its meaning is basically “thwarted” (as when discovered by “Gripper” without a ticket, or with one which, by the widest stretch of the imagination and the maximum degree of plausibility, is unusable at the spot where “G” has struck).  There are overtones too of having been “out-done” and being consequently “deflated.”…..

The profound changes in the habits of the steam enthusiasts of this country since 1968 would have made an interesting study.  Some sociologist, preferably female, has missed the thesis subject of a lifetime!

I suppose railway enthusiasts are odd.  But are they odder than any other hobbyist or sportsman?  That I doubt.  Mind you, my younger daughter once asked me, “Are all the German model railway fans in Stuttgart as strange as your friends?”  I defended ESNG, “Oh, far stranger, dear!”

Posted in Out and about, Prototype, Weird and wonderful | Tagged , , | Leave a comment