RITES OF PASSAGE FOR A MODEL RAILWAY - 2: Starting Line -Where Do We Go From Here?

Some of you might remember this, the joy of opening that first train set...

Most post-war generation kids I knew were given either Hornby Dublo or Triang Rovex OO/HO sets for Christmas. I was given a Rovex Goods Train set at Christmas, '55. The engine, a 'Jinty' in BR lined black, came with four wagons and short brake van
Most post-war generation kids I knew were given either Hornby Dublo or Triang Rovex OO/HO sets for Christmas. I was given a Rovex Goods Train set at Christmas, '55. The engine, a 'Jinty' in BR lined black, came with four wagons and short brake van | Source

Which model?

The locomotive, a B1 4-6-0 tender type built in their hundreds to a design by Gresley's successor Edward Thompson in 1941. It is available from Bachmann Branchline and second-hand versions by Replica are also still available.
The locomotive, a B1 4-6-0 tender type built in their hundreds to a design by Gresley's successor Edward Thompson in 1941. It is available from Bachmann Branchline and second-hand versions by Replica are also still available.
The Hornby D49/1 4-4-0  is available still in ready-to-run. I have two,'Yorkshire' and 'Warwickshire'  and one converted model to D49/2 'The Garth' by means of a kit (no longer available)
The Hornby D49/1 4-4-0 is available still in ready-to-run. I have two,'Yorkshire' and 'Warwickshire' and one converted model to D49/2 'The Garth' by means of a kit (no longer available)

Where do I start?

'Start at the very beginning, it's a very good place to start!' (or words to that effect), as Maria the singing nun tells us in 'The Sound of Music'.

Where is the beginning when starting a model project that could mushroom? I hear you ask. The answer to that could be blowing in the wind if you are floundering, strapped for ideas. Look through books, magazines or on the Internet. See an idea or region that suits you? OK, how about mobility? Do you want a portable layout, or something more permanent, such as in the attic, spare room or garden railway? There are reams of pages written on all these subjects, with experts such as Cyril Freezer (genuine name) who must have written dozens of books on the subject. More recent names to bandy about are Iain Rice, Trevor Booth, Nigel Adams, Martyn Welch and Bob Essery (better known for his books on the real railways). In the model press look out for Hornby Magazine, British Railway Modelling (who also own their own web site), Model Rail, Railway Modeller (good for finding products, lots of ads), and the Model Railway Journal (MRJ) that caters more for finescale modellers. As in life, learn to walk first before you start running. Each of these magazines has its own experts, whose own experience of railway modelling is varied and in different scales. Better to narrow it down to what you've got the cash, motivation or skill level for.

If you're a novice perhaps look in on a club for ideas. Membership of clubs or societies has its limitations, but as many or more benefits. You get ideas flung at you if you're not careful. It's a bit like fielding in baseball or cricket , so be careful - and catch hold of what appeals to you, it might never be repeated. Visit exhibitions. In the season of long nights, cold damp days... and long faces if you let yourself get bored, get around scouting for ideas. Inspiration takes a little longer than just staring at someone else's achievements.

Can I make a suggestion? Take out a subscription to a model magazine or take yourself to a decent model shop and look through the magazines. You might see some reduced in price, that's a good introduction if you can locate second-hand literature... books as well. Some old copies of Cyril Freezer's books on model-making are still kicking about, some practically new (I've seen them). Last time I was at Pickering on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway (NYMR) I had a look through the old magazines they have (for less than the price of a packet of peanuts) to see if they had anything I was interested in and came away with a couple. Other preserved or re-opened railways have similar sources, such as at Leyburn on the Wenseydale Railway.

i have a pile of stuff, magazines, research files, books on sheds, books on locomotives, books on lost lines and period literature. I am a member of the Double-O Gauge Association, a member of the North Eastern Railway Association, shares in the Wensleydale Railway and the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, as well as an abiding interest in preservation (membership of the North Eastern Locomotive Preservation Group, 1903 North Eastern Petrol-Electric Railcar group and there's a new group building a North Eastern Class O/LNER/BR Class G5 0-4-4 tank loco on Tyneside, and don't forget the new Class A1 60163 'Tornado'! Some of my cash is in that, too).

So there's some grounding for interest. I you're already a member of a preservation group, perhaps you wish to replicate the locos you're involved with in scale form. There's a choice of scales from Z and N (2mm) gauges (table-top) to O gauge (7mm) and garden railway scale. Of course, if you're unable or haven't the technical know-how to build engines yourself, the bigger the scale, the bigger the price tag. If the loco isn't available as 'ready-to-run' you have to either build it yourself or have it built for you. Even 4mm scale models are costly at this level if what you want isn't available off the shelf/r-t-r. Ranging from about £250 for a relatively small model such as Class O in North Eastern livery to perhaps £1,000 for the same engine in 'O'-gauge! Mostly I buy ready-to-run, but I have a few kitbuilt engines, such as my Q6 0-8-0 and Sentinel 0-4-0 shunter that cost a little over-the-odds. Some r-t-r models are pricey, too, such as the limited edition of 60163 'Tornado' at about £300. Once they start changing hands, depending on the quality of the finish, the price can soar. But take heart, you can go to shows, buy second-hand and modify. That goes for stock as well, carriages or wagons. Some models gather rarity value, such as early Hornby and Triang.

As far as track is concerned, you need to decide your level of involvement with the hobby. An end-to-end layout for a spare room or for exhibiting can be of box-file dimensions (recently the Double O-Gauge Association [DOGA] held a 'box-file railway' competition. You'd be amazed at what you can get in that size)! There's a happy medium. You could buy a few points/turnouts and flexible track as well as set pieces to join up between them and come out with change from £100 for a 10 foot (about 3 metres). Pointwork is getting expensive as well these days, and again for the technically able there are alternatives, such as C&L pointwork that you can put down yourself with the aid of templates. Again, the magazines list alternatives to Hornby, Peco or other proprietary makes. (You could acquire a heap of literature before embarking on a layout, that's where membership of clubs or associations pays off).


Somewhere to base your model railway? Many branchlines fell by the wayside before Dr Beeching's cuts in the mid-1960s pruned Britain's railway system even further. Take your pick, enjoy the research as much as the model-making

Lost Lines - Joint Railways

You might to want to model a rural backwater to hone your skills...(see the book above)

Away from the mainstream pre-Grouping companies such as the Midland, North Eastern, Great Western, Great Eastern etc. There were also companies that teetered on the rim of the Big Ones, such as in the east the Midland & Great Northern ('the Muddle & Go Nowhere') that ran between the industrial Midlands and the eastern shires, the Norfolk Broads, the North Norfolk coast at Sheringham and Cromer with its works at Mildenhall in Suffolk. There was also the Somerset & Dorset Joint Railway (S&DJR not to be confused with the S&DR = Stockton & Darlington) that ran north-south across the Great Western between the London & North Western (L&NWR) Railway and the London & South Western (L&SWR) Railway. There was also the Great Central (GCR) Railway that began life as the Manchester, Sheffield & Lincolnshire (MS&LR) Railway and extended south via Nottingham, Leicester and Rugby to St Marylebone Station in north-west London, the long way around!

The M&GNR was absorbed at Grouping (January,1923) into the London & North Eastern (LNER, also known as the 'London & Nearly Everywhere Railway), with running powers over some Midland routes and then in 1948 into the Eastern Region. The Midland Region got hold of it in the 1950s reshuffle (see below) and chopped it to bits. The last.bit is what is now the preserved North Norfolk Railway with its base at Sheringham. Another 'bit' is near Peterborough, close to the A1, the Nene Valley Railway.

The S&DJR (deemed by the GWR to be 'a thorn in its side) was first absorbed into the Southern Railway and then the Southern Region of BR before being 'handed over' in the mid-1950's to the Western, who sought to first isolate it and then 'decapitate' it, making connections difficult between the Midlands and South West, finally closing it because of lack of sufficient passenger revenue. Check - mate!

A similar fate met the Great Central, loathed by the Midland and the Great Northern railways, forced to take a widely deviating route from Leicester to the capital. Absorbed into the LNER in 1923, British Railways' Eastern Region in 1948 and dished up (in the same mid-50's regional re-organisation as the S&D) to the Midland Region who did the same as the WR to the S&D. There is the preserved Great Central Railway that survives between Leicester South and Loughborough. Quite a good stretch, where the A1 Pacific 60163 'Tornado' was run in before acquiring its first British Railways livery in Darlington Railway Green.

A look at the ready-to-run options

Boxed Hornby Orient Express set with Pullman cars and Southern Railway Pacific
Boxed Hornby Orient Express set with Pullman cars and Southern Railway Pacific | Source
Bachmann 2013-2014 Catalogue and model boxes
Bachmann 2013-2014 Catalogue and model boxes | Source
Graham Farish N Gauge Longmoor Military Railway train set
Graham Farish N Gauge Longmoor Military Railway train set | Source
Hornby 2015 Catalogue features their new K1  2-6-0 mixed traffic locomotive (just like NELPG's 62005!)
Hornby 2015 Catalogue features their new K1 2-6-0 mixed traffic locomotive (just like NELPG's 62005!) | Source
Peco Guide to layout construction
Peco Guide to layout construction | Source

Getting going with the help of an old hand, Cyril Freezer. Let his experience guide you on your way to your chosen destination. The equipment and materials may have changed over the years, but know-how doesn't.

Associations and Societies

There are many nationwide railway modelling groups:

Beginning with the Double 'O' Gauge Association - (being a member myself, it's only fair to give them an airing here).

Visit www.doubleogauge.com, to have a look around, see what's what. To subscribe send a message to majordomo@robots.ox.ac.uk with the text subscribe doga-online (no need to complete the subject line). An answer will be sent from the mailing list software which will include the following:

Auth< unique-key>subscribe doga-online< (your e-mail address) >

Hit the reply key and then copy and paste the above info to the top of the message, then send. Having done this, you will receive a message confirming your membership, after which you can send/receive messages: doga-online@robots.ox.ac.uk . Any problems you have direct to doga-online-approval@robots.ox.ac.uk - DOGA will endeavour to set things right.

There is a quarterly A5 sized magazine, the DOGA JOURNAL, and all members are encouraged to contribute copy - and images if available. There are two meetings per year, one in late spring/early summer, another late November/early December. In the first meeting (with the AGM) there is a modellers' competition in several different categories, with trophies for the best in class and photographs are taken for the JOURNAL and website. The DOGA Shop can be accessed through the Sales Officer for such items as kits and modelling aids. During the exhibition season DOGA attends several between the South-east and London and York etc., which you can attend as a club member operating its layouts or helping potential members with their enquiries. There are different levels of involvement, you choose where you want to step in. Standards are agreed with the proprietary manufacturers such as Bachmann and Hornby, and you can take your modelling to a level with which you are comfortable. As you go on you may progress, and there are senior members who can help you with your queries.

There is also the EM Gauge Society, www.emgs.org who offer a wide range of kits. Log onto their website for a 'taster' before you make up your mind about joining. They also have a Journal issue during the year. Their gauge is eighteen millimetres, closer to 'Protofour' than 'OO', and much of the stock is converted, but with similar methods to Scalefour in the way of compensation. Locomotives are usually converted with the use of chassis kits, as with Scalefour, and modelling standards are fairly high.

For something different, try the 3mm Society, formerly TT Gauge, www.3mmsociety.org.uk here much has to be kit- or scratch-built. Visit exhibitions, especially those advertised as Finescale exhibitions and ask questions, the members I've spoken to about their layouts are very helpful.

The Scalefour Society, www.scalefour.org, is another national finescale group, with sales and and spares contact, regular magazine and much coverage in the Model Railway Journal - remember Bramblewick? I was a member of this group and contributed once or twice to its journal pages. Personally, I'm better suited to DOGA, not being as technically 'pure' as many former fellow members. For perfectionists this is a good society to be with, and their layouts are very good. The 'ethos' is exactly 4mm to the foot in all respects, their track gauge being 18.83mm (equal to 4'-8.5" standard gauge).

There is the N-Gauge Society, www.ngaugesociety.com, who cater for the needs of 2mm modellers, who will give you as much encouragement as your local club could in 2mm modelling. There is also a 2mm Finescale Society, (you thought you couldn't get much finer in such a small scale?), contact www.2mm.org.uk

In 7mm modelling you also have more than one society, basic 'O' Gauge with the Gauge 'O' Guild, www.gaugeOguild.com, and for finescale modelling there is Scaleseven, www.scaleseven.org., the 7mm version of Scalefour Society.

Beyond (and bigger than) this is the Garden Railway scene, with live steam, there are three I can point you to,

www.track-shack.com; www.dreamsteam.co.uk; and last but not least www.brandbright.co.uk.

Contact these good people and take your modelling aspirations further. Try also your local village or town group, who will probably be engaged on several scale fronts. Visit their exhibitions and see what grabs you! It's potentially a social thing, this railway modelling lark. Enjoy it!

Special Interest Groups for Background and Research


You may choose to model a particular area or region. Without knowing your interests I can only direct you to look for websites etc in your chosen region. If by some dint of fate you model the North Eastern Railway, its fore-runners or successors, can I suggest the North Eastern Railway Association?: See below for the link:

Warley, the NEC near Birmingham draws thousands. Would you like to show off your layout or club layout here? Start small, start local and work up - or join a national association like DOGA
Warley, the NEC near Birmingham draws thousands. Would you like to show off your layout or club layout here? Start small, start local and work up - or join a national association like DOGA | Source
A model railway 'fiddleyard' to organise your trains before running them is a must
A model railway 'fiddleyard' to organise your trains before running them is a must | Source
New faces - this is ultimately what it's all about, get the kids in and they'll find their own level, be it steam, diesel, electric...
New faces - this is ultimately what it's all about, get the kids in and they'll find their own level, be it steam, diesel, electric... | Source

Where? When? What?

Before you embark on buying a model railway, whatever gauge, and you feel you want to 'make a go' into serious railway modelling you might make a few decisions on the following considerations:

Q:Where?

A favourite part of the country where you holidayed, or an industrial area with plenty of shunting activity.

Q: When?

We all have a period of railway development that we prefer, steam, diesel or electric, or a mixture of all three (as in South Yorkshire such as the Woodhead route to Manchester, where post-war electric locos ran side by side with the new diesels and gradually phased-out Great Central steam).

Q: What?

Branch line, main line or junction that lets you have bigger engines alongside smaller ones (how about a pre-war LNER 'W' Class 4-8-4 side by side with an 0-4-0 dock tank Y1? Then you see the definition of 'little and large').

Track plans are available on the Internet, in books and in magazines. Look in the Model Railway Journal Volume (MRJ) 102, 1998 at 'Bramblewick - the long and winding road', modelled by Tom Harland with track, locomotives and stock built by P4 modellers (such as Steve Barnfield, who builds locos to a high standard from kits on a commission basis). P4 stands for 'Proto Four', now known as 'Scalefour', the track gauge is 18.83mm = 4mm to the foot, or .83mm wider than EM gauge and 2.32mm wider than Double O. Scalefour modellers tend to call Double O 'narrow gauge', but if you're a Double O modeller your learn to ignore these snide remarks, but the worksmanship is undeniably good - when finished. I know a number of Scalefour modellers who spend a lot of time working to perfection on a very limited number of projects. This is as opposed to most Double O modellers I know who get much more out of the hobby and can reach good standards for all the limitations. The Double O Gauge Association has the 'ear' of modelmakers like Bachmann and Hornby, who raise the standards of 'off-the-shelf' products. Unfortunately the 'Bramblewick' layout has been retired from the exhibition circuit, so we're limited to gazing at b/w photographs. There has also been a special colour edition of MRJ's coverage of 'Bramblewick', if you can find it. (I loaned mine out to someone and have never seen it since).

It stands to reason, of course, that the smaller the scale you choose, the more you get in limited space. It would be silly to expect to fit an 'O' gauge railway onto a coffee table. If you owned Buckingham Palace you could fit in Kings Cross Station in 'O' gauge without stinting, but that would stay a pipe dream to most of us.

Best stick with what we CAN get. My own layout, 'Thoraldby' is an end-to-end job in the cellar, around 26 feet long with a passing loop at the main station, single track elsewhere, with 'fiddleyards' at either end and a locomotive shed fitted to run into the side of one of the 'fiddleyards'. It's signalled throughout, but there are details I need to add still - and I daresay a perfectionist would get an attack of the collywobbles looking at my signals, but they look the part, and work... which has to be the main thing. The atmosphere is North Eastern, the period is around 1953-4 with locomotives and stock to represent building eras from pre-WWI onwards that were still running in the early 1950s from sheds between Darlington and York.

Build a model railway of your own in your garden, your loft, spare room or garage. Handy hints for assembly, track laying, scenery and stock. A publication you shouldn't miss out on. Go on, treat yourself!

Layout design

You can base your station layout - unless you're modelling industrial scenes - on the real thing, using photographs. These show you a variety of things such as stock (the d.m.u at thr platform)...
You can base your station layout - unless you're modelling industrial scenes - on the real thing, using photographs. These show you a variety of things such as stock (the d.m.u at thr platform)...
or signalling. These North Eastern prototypes are typical of the region
or signalling. These North Eastern prototypes are typical of the region

Track & Signalling diagrams

This is Nunthorpe Station's signalling diagram around 1960 before Dr Beeching's cuts started to bite, complete with coal depot, warehouse and sidings, compare it with...
This is Nunthorpe Station's signalling diagram around 1960 before Dr Beeching's cuts started to bite, complete with coal depot, warehouse and sidings, compare it with...
Staintondale on the Whitby & Scarborough Railway, the signalling diagram. This is more or less what Nunthorpe looked like before closure (minus the sidings) in January, 1965
Staintondale on the Whitby & Scarborough Railway, the signalling diagram. This is more or less what Nunthorpe looked like before closure (minus the sidings) in January, 1965

Track diagrams, an introduction...

Nunthorpe was the archetypal North Eastern Railway station, but it had its origins with the Stockton & Darlington Rly under the auspices of Edward Pease. A southward extension from Guisborough Junction, now just beyond Whitehouse Signal Cabin on the easternmost reaches of Middlesbrough. (Since then Thomas Prosser's 1877 station was built on what became the main running lines).

Originally the platforms were lower but due to a parliamentary bill necessitating the raising of all station platforms for safety's sake, what you see on photographs is the result, with window ledges at knee height. That was not the only change, as in subsequent years more changes were made, Nunthorpe lost its coal depot and goods warehouse. The sidings were left in situ for a little longer until someone (possibly at York or Darlington) decided the rails were needed elsewhere, or to have the rails 'recycled'.

Staintondale was never more elaborate than two platforms and a set of sidings on the north side with small coal depot and goods shed. Now there are only the buildings, since the station was closed to passengers in January, 1965, and to goods a little later. The short platform canopy between the two ends (the building is an 'H' shape) is still there and station clock is still situated on the platform side of the station building, but not in working order.

Of course the aim of the game would be to replicate either station in its heyday, together with full working signals, and a set of gates to guard against drivers rolling over the tracks when a train was due. The gates would have been opened/closed manually by a lad porter, and for a small profit the same lad porter would have helped the stationmaster bag coal for sale to local denizens (for which the Stationmaster would have profited to perhaps 3X his annual salary). A porter signalman would have helped from time to time - fair do's for all! - to supplement his income.

In terms of buildings such as at Staintondale even up to closure they would not have had electricity installed, nor running water in many places. A loco tender tank would have been filled with fresh water and brought into a siding for the water supply.

There would have been wagons standing around, awaiting collection, unloading or just plain rotting out of the away. The coal depot at Nunthorpe was behind the down platform, hidden by a high wall but the tops of some of the bigger wagons would have been visible, the goods warehouse on the other side of the level crossing, more or less opposite the signal cabin. Staintondale's goods facilities would have been primitive by comparison, especially by the time of closure, with traffic declining due to cheaper and more direct bus routes from Whitby to Scarborough.

[Soapbox time: From Ernie Marples' time (he was Harold MacMillan's Transport Secretary) road transport robbed the railways of much of their income. Our Ernie had vested interests, he had been the boss of a road haulage firm and had to give it up for the sake of his political career. He kept his bias, though. The railways were obliged to charge a set rate for goods, but the road transport industry were able to undercut them. Nowadays rail freight is run as a separate concern from passenger traffic and small consignments are not encouraged except through parcels, and even then Parcel Force (nicknamed 'Parcel Farce') the parcels offshoot of the Post Office gets the lion's share].

Next time around: Base boards, laying track and creating basic scenics

Reading List:-

A shorter list this time:

BASEBOARD BASICS and MAKING TRACKS by Trevor Booth, publ. Silver Link Library of Railway Modelling 1993, last reprinted 2001, ISBN 1-85794-006-7 :- black & white period images, photographs of layouts in progress, sketches of the planning stage and roughs for buildings, with cutaway drawings;

LAYOUTS FOR LIMITED SPACES by Nigel Adams, publ. Silver Link 1996, latest reprint (according to my edition) 2001, ISBN 1-85794-055-5 :- Choice, design, construction, operation with copious photographs - as above - track diagrams, close-ups, drawings of storage units;

RAILWAY OPERATION FOR THE MODELLER by Bob Essery, publ. Midland Publishing ISBN 1-85780-168-7 - this author is well known to modellers for exhaustive research and covers this particular subject with photographs, signalling and trackwork diagrams and timetables. There are drawings of period signalling devices, marshalling arrangements and images of railway models that look so realistic you only realise they are models from looking at the backdrops;

There is a series of free supplements with Hornby Magazine beginning with the March 2011 edition on BUILDING A LAYOUT with articles on different aspects of assembly and design by Mike Wild.

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