RITES OF PASSAGE FOR A MODEL RAILWAY - Introducing the Series, Themes and Aspects

The 'saga' begins. It'll be like Homer's Iliad, looking here, delving there. The web helps a lot with research these days

You might be a member of a club in the throes of planning a large layout with Heritage diesels, as this Class 37 on the Llangollen Railway in Wales - or small as...
You might be a member of a club in the throes of planning a large layout with Heritage diesels, as this Class 37 on the Llangollen Railway in Wales - or small as... | Source
This Hunslet shunter is on the Middleton Railway near Leeds, West Yorkshire... Your own plans may be for a small, compact layout that you can put on the back seat of a saloon car.
This Hunslet shunter is on the Middleton Railway near Leeds, West Yorkshire... Your own plans may be for a small, compact layout that you can put on the back seat of a saloon car. | Source
Or you might want to model mid-20th Century British Railways steam... based on a motive power depot, or have a depot as part of a layout.
Or you might want to model mid-20th Century British Railways steam... based on a motive power depot, or have a depot as part of a layout.
... Or you may prefer to depict late 19th-early 20th Century pre-Grouping railways. Decide on your motive power
... Or you may prefer to depict late 19th-early 20th Century pre-Grouping railways. Decide on your motive power | Source

Why 'Rites of Passage'?

All hobby projects need an element of planning, otherwise money will be spent needlessly on items that might have to be sold off at a loss or stored away to gather dust. Whether you want to keep your model railway in your home and just show it to your friends, or take it to exhibitions - possibly together with like-minded friends - your model needs direction. Of course you can just muddle along haphazardly, it's your own after all if it's not meant to go anywhere. One day it might be packed away in a box to gather dust in your attic. Where's the sense in that? The more interest you have in your modelling, the more you get out of it and planning can help cut costs. A strategy is needed to make progress.

I've tailored this series for the discerning modeller and the hobbyist alike. You put as much time and money into it as you see fit. That's where the 'Passage' comes in. You want to make progress, don't you? There's nothing worse for morale than to be reminded of failure because things didn't go well in the early stages. Nothing ventured, nothing gained... And nothing completed, nothing gained. People muddle along with this and that. They build beautiful locomotives and carriages or wagons - or both - and have nowhere to run them. That's a shame. Or they might be collectors. Collectors are not railway modellers in the accepted sense. Everything's kept in glass cases and admired, and that's it.

What we want is the whole caboodle, don't we (Chorus: "Of course we do!") So this is how we go about building a model railway, to enjoy ourselves for a few hours a week - or even a day if you like - and get as much from this railway modelling lark as 24 hours a day allows.

The 'Rites' are the way we do things in a certain order. Scroll down, pick and choose from the 'menu' to get the drift, then work through numerically. There's a method in here somewhere by taking it step by step. You might be a beginner or a seasoned 'campaigner' who knows more than I do about certain elements of the hobby. There's nothing wrong with checking up on how others do things. I enjoyed putting these pages together, so relax and enjoy reading them, look through the images, diagrams, drawings.

There are links on the pages to special interest groups, relevant books via Amazon, and suppliers of tools, materials etc. Get those fingers mobile...

Find a track plan to work from... Find ways of making your model interesting

Track plans are ideal to work from. No need to copy them slavishly, unless you want to model a location as it was at a cerain time in its history. This is Battersby, North Yorkshire in 1959, thirty years after the exchange sidings were lifted
Track plans are ideal to work from. No need to copy them slavishly, unless you want to model a location as it was at a cerain time in its history. This is Battersby, North Yorkshire in 1959, thirty years after the exchange sidings were lifted
Hog Head Tunnel on the Stanhope & Tyne wagonway, at first a rope-worked incline with static steam engine at its peak in Central County Durham - later converted to a self-acting incline. A tunnel like this might be under a turnpike road or factory
Hog Head Tunnel on the Stanhope & Tyne wagonway, at first a rope-worked incline with static steam engine at its peak in Central County Durham - later converted to a self-acting incline. A tunnel like this might be under a turnpike road or factory

Passenger Train Operation - for the modeller (especially those who plan to exhibit) means planning. Planning a model railway that includes passenger operations calls for at least some research. Old photographs or printed copies, diagrams, timetabling, track and signalling, the types of locomotive or other power and railway vehicles involved, station and lineside buildings... They are all needed. You might find some of what you need in books about abandoned or re-opened railways. Let Bob Essery's experience guide you through the paper-trail. Trawl through magazines - there might even be something you can use in old family albums, where relatives were photographed being seen off on holiday, or going to market, going to work - even at work. Have you relatives who worked on the railway in some capacity? They might be in pictures of assembled staff, or seen at the stations, sheds, signal cabins where they worked before closure. The possibilities are endless. [I have a picture of Rounton Gates halt - Northallerton-Eaglescliffe - where some of my Grandad's family travelled from, to either Northallerton or Stockton-on-Tees market to sell produce. There was quite a variety in stations along the short route, from junction stations such as Picton - also used to divert trains from the East Coast Main Line, with expresses thundering through, hauled by Class A4 Pacifics - to simple through stations with a coal depot siding such as Yarm-on-Tees or with extensive sidings as at Brompton by Northallerton and just two request stop platforms as at Rounton].

You might invent a station, basing it on an area as I did with Thoraldby. Look into the character of the areas railways, what traffic passed through or stopped? Was it regularly used as a secondary main line or diversionary route? What sort of passenger/freight stock passed, and behind what engines, from which sheds? Enjoy reading Bob Essery's book and note the main points. Above all, enjoy your modelling, It's all a compromise, after all, a slice of the real world.

"Our routes pass your branches" (1960s London Transport Buses slogan)

Plan the course of your railway, or part of the course, embankments, cuttings, signalling, lineside buildings
Plan the course of your railway, or part of the course, embankments, cuttings, signalling, lineside buildings | Source
Not only wagon or passenger stock needs to be looked into. If your railway's going to be in a period setting, which period or where. Unlike in British Railways days, brake vans didn't stray far from the region they were built for.
Not only wagon or passenger stock needs to be looked into. If your railway's going to be in a period setting, which period or where. Unlike in British Railways days, brake vans didn't stray far from the region they were built for.
Some scenes don't look complete without them - snow ploughs were around near locomotive sheds, just in case
Some scenes don't look complete without them - snow ploughs were around near locomotive sheds, just in case
Create a scene: look at preserved railways or wherever your models are based and take in the landscape, natural or engineered. Your trains should look as if they are part of a whole
Create a scene: look at preserved railways or wherever your models are based and take in the landscape, natural or engineered. Your trains should look as if they are part of a whole | Source
... Make them 'feel at home' in their environment. Your models should belong where you put them.
... Make them 'feel at home' in their environment. Your models should belong where you put them. | Source

The parts of a whole...

Listed below are the twenty six pages of ideas and suggestions that might appeal to you or raise new questions in your approach to your model. Treat them as such. All railways were different, all built for different reasons and all developed differently, depending on how profitable traffic was or became. Some companies went to the wall or were taken over by others. Some were ruined by their more competitive or dominating neighbours, closed in a rash of age-old rivalry regardless of commercial sense. That's happened more than once in England alone.

To the first half of the pages then:

01. Area Research;

02. Starting Line;

03. Baseboards, Track, Trackside;

04. Signalling and Superstructure;

05. Motive Power - True to Prototype?;

06 Passenger Stock - Prototype vs Model;

07. Goods and Brake Vans;

08. Minerals, Processable Solids;

09. Low-sided, Flat and Bogie Freight, Engineering Department;

10. What Makes Railways Work? People;

11. Corridor and Suburban Passenger Stock;

12. Non-Passenger Vehicles in Passenger Trains;

13. Open Merchandise Wagons and Lift-out Loads

That's got you started. See below for the second half

What sort of traffic will you run?

You might want to model a rural backwater with specialist traffic. This is a Class J24 on the Rosedale Ironstone Mine Branch, where wagons like this provided a small amount of variety, most being mineral hoppers.
You might want to model a rural backwater with specialist traffic. This is a Class J24 on the Rosedale Ironstone Mine Branch, where wagons like this provided a small amount of variety, most being mineral hoppers.
Here's a North Eastern Railway Diagram S1 8 ton Ironstone hopper you would have seen on the railway above.
Here's a North Eastern Railway Diagram S1 8 ton Ironstone hopper you would have seen on the railway above.
Alternatively you might prefer a layout with passenger and freight traffic. This is D49/2 'The Garth' of Scarborough mpd at York.
Alternatively you might prefer a layout with passenger and freight traffic. This is D49/2 'The Garth' of Scarborough mpd at York.
Here's a J25 at York in a convincing scene,  kit-built by George Norton. The class were un-fitted goods/freight engines Shows what you can achieve with models
Here's a J25 at York in a convincing scene, kit-built by George Norton. The class were un-fitted goods/freight engines Shows what you can achieve with models
 From 1923 to 1947 this was the totem of the London& North Eastern Railway - affectionately known as the 'London & Nearly Everywhere Railway'
From 1923 to 1947 this was the totem of the London& North Eastern Railway - affectionately known as the 'London & Nearly Everywhere Railway'

Transitional headaches lay ahead in 1947 for the LNER, in metamorphosing into British Railways. When Clement Attlee's Labour government came to power in 1945, one of the cornerstones of their manifesto was the state takeover of the railway system. The electorate - including, or especially railway workers - voted them in on that part of their agenda, to secure safety standards and employment. What they were possibly unaware of was the massive shift in re-organisation necessitated.

Amongst other things was re-organisation of directorial management, regional control and traffic management. Traffic management in the aftermath of WWII depended on the state of the railway itself, the stock and locomotive fleet of the 'Big Four', run down after six years of war and lack of maintenance. In each case the companies concerned had inherited stock built in the late 19th Century.

That was particularly true of the London & North Eastern Railway (LNER). Some of the locomotives and rolling stock dated back to the 1890s, some parts of their system had not been updated significantly since before WWII. And then there were the Pacifics and V2 Class, large, strong beasts that formed the backbone of East Coast services between London and Edinburgh. The next decade would be needed to update the system, but the Labour government didn't have that time, superseded within the decade by a more aggressive Tory leadership under Winston Churchill.

The LNER network, like the LMS, stretched across the border into Scotland. Both companies were shorn of lines beyond the Tweed and Carlisle that would become the Scottish Region. The rest of the LNER was divided into two: Eastern, from London out to East Anglia and comprising the old Great Northern as far north as Doncaster, and Great Central from Lincolnshire in the east as far west as Aylesbury. North of Doncaster was the North Eastern Region that encompassed the pre-Grouping North Eastern Railway territory. The regions were responsible to their district HQ, in BR/NE's case that was York, with sub-sections at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Middlesbrough, Hull and Leeds (shared with the Midland Region).

This was the third Age of the Train (the first was the Railway Mania of the early years, the second was the Grouping),when paid holidays started off and seaside resorts were packed during Wakes Weeks or factory holidays ('furlough' across the Pond) just before car ownership and road transport whittled away at the railway's income.

This was the LNER In Transition.

Lineside features

There might be a goods depot on planned for your railway, whether an older period building or provender store - as here - where customers came to collect their consignments or railway van drivers began their delivery run
There might be a goods depot on planned for your railway, whether an older period building or provender store - as here - where customers came to collect their consignments or railway van drivers began their delivery run | Source
A level crossing might feature, look at period pictures for warning signs - what kind, where - and check out the vehicles in traffic, waiting to cross or passing over
A level crossing might feature, look at period pictures for warning signs - what kind, where - and check out the vehicles in traffic, waiting to cross or passing over | Source
Lineside buildings feature strongly on layouts. This one is between the old route and the Deviation route on the NYMR near Beck Hole
Lineside buildings feature strongly on layouts. This one is between the old route and the Deviation route on the NYMR near Beck Hole | Source

Ready for the rest? You might need a rest by the time you've got through them all...

14. Miniaturised Minerals, Coal, Ironstone, Lead and Tin etc;

15. Special Purpose Vehicles;

16. Tender Locomotive Models and soldering tips (if you need them);

17. Benchmark: Tank Locomotives, How do they measure up?

18. Thoraldby: concept, construction, locomotives, stock and traffic;

19. Buildings: Scratchbuilt versus Kits or Out-if-the-box?;

20. Detailing: The Ace in the Pack;

21. Here's One I Made Earlier - in true Blue Peter tradition, the forerunner of Thoraldby, a layout I built as a Christmas gift for my son;

22. Finishing the Scenery;

23. Snow Ploughs, Clearing the Permanent Way;

24. Autocars, Auto-coaches and Period Non-steam Traction;

25. Motive Power Depots, Stabling, Feeding and Watering the Beast;

26. Non-locomotive Operations, Self-acting Inclines

That should keep you busy until you're ready to get going. Inspired? That's the name of the game. We need some younger input in the hobby, Under-18 and women welcome (smaller fingers have their uses).

Good luck.

Finishing touches

There might be an inn somewhere on your railway. This is the Birch Hall Inn at Beck Hole near Goathland. The inn is beside the River Murk Esk and close to the original railway route of George Hudson's Whitby & Pickering Railway
There might be an inn somewhere on your railway. This is the Birch Hall Inn at Beck Hole near Goathland. The inn is beside the River Murk Esk and close to the original railway route of George Hudson's Whitby & Pickering Railway | Source
Platform shelters and so on: Regional variety was more marked in the early 20th Century before Grouping. In subsequent years painting and 'livery' changed. This is the paint scheme as during early British Railways years at Grosmont on the NYMR
Platform shelters and so on: Regional variety was more marked in the early 20th Century before Grouping. In subsequent years painting and 'livery' changed. This is the paint scheme as during early British Railways years at Grosmont on the NYMR | Source
And don't forget livestock. Here are a few pigs rooting under a small tree... what for? Your fields and surrounding land give clues
And don't forget livestock. Here are a few pigs rooting under a small tree... what for? Your fields and surrounding land give clues | Source

What makes a railway interesting? The scenery around it is as worthy of attention as the track and train services. Why should a model railway be any different? The model railways we build are a slice of history and surroundings. "Creating the Scenic Landscape" gives you hints and ideas on re-creating that slice of history and geography. It helps us understand regional differences in architecture, geology, scenery and so forth. From the railway cutting to the viaduct we see the reason why the railway was built in that location, and what the geography imposed on the railway engineers who were charged with building within the limitations of their knowledge. Trevor Booth allows us an insight into the way he interprets the work of the railway engineer and the landscape artist.

Whatever your locomotives, however well they and your rolling stock are built, they need fitting surroundings that will offset their quality, let them blend in with the buildings, the platforms and sidings. You can weather the rails, darken ballast if it is stone or draw an almost dry brush over them that's been dipped in a dusty brown over ash ballast. Add pools of varnish to represent puddles or oil drips. Don't overdo it, though, or you'll spoil all that hard work. On your through running tracks draw dark paint between the rails to represent oil drips or smears where they might be held at signals or by the platform. Again, consult photographs and books. There is a broad range of colour publications that show what effects you can aim for, soot on tunnel or bridge portals, along the fronts of platform canopies and on chimney pots on your lineside huts, signal cabins. As you walk around preserved railways look around you at poster boards. There will be soot residue on top edges and on signal posts. Knowing where to stop, that's the key!


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4 comments

billybuc profile image

billybuc 2 months ago from Olympia, WA

Of course I'm inspired. I'm also broke...busted....approaching poor. LOL This hobby requires a certain amount of money, as in anything over and above paying bills. So I'll continue to wait until that day my ship arrives and I'm flush with cash. :)


alancaster149 profile image

alancaster149 2 months ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) Author

Bill, as I've mentioned before there's no massive outlay needed. You do it a bit at a time, second hand from shops, exhibitions (they always have things like locos, wagons or or track) or online. Mail order people often have bargains when a product no longer sells well enough to warrant warehouse space. They also have second-hand items. Everybody has second-hand items. People have a habit of dying and their relatives don't know what to do with model railways. They don't have a clue what the things are worth and you can often find bargains.

Me, I'm at a stage where I'm waiting for things to be brought out.

Stick with it, my lad.


BlossomSB profile image

BlossomSB 2 months ago from Victoria, Australia

Another delightful article and full of good advice and great photos. Now the family has grown up I'm not active in this field any more, but I just love reading about it - quite nostalgic!


alancaster149 profile image

alancaster149 2 months ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) Author

'Ello again Blossom, notice the piggies in the bottom field? Must be something nice amongst the roots...

You could always dabble a bit, there'll be groups around who would be thankful for somebody with smaller fingers for those cramped spaces - or to make the tea at meetings. When I go to DOGA meetings one of the caretakers does the drinks'n'snacks. Funny, we don't get any women at the meetings (except one who's switched from being Nick to Nicki, not the same though).

Keep fit.

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