Building a Model Modern Footbridge in OO Gauge
Anyone who has read some of my articles will have gathered that I am making a modern OO gauge layout. When I started, I realised that many modern items are not readily available in kit form or ready-to-run. While I am not a natural scratch builder, to complete my layout I had no choice but to develop this skill. This time it is a modern footbridge which is not produced by any manufacterer to date.
The German firm Faller make a contemporary footbridge but it lacks the brick elevator towers that is an essential modern component on UK stations and it looks, well, European and out of place.
So here is my scratch built modern UK FOOTBRIDGE.
Modern Footbridge - Alvechurch
The biggest recent change in footbridge design in the UK was driven by the modern need for accessability. The challenge was to make it possible for all people to use the bridge including the elderly, the infirm or anyone loaded down with a lot of luggage. So most new footbridges incorporate a lift tower.
Fortunately this structure is fairly simple. Just four pieces of plastic card joined together in a rectangle as shown. While dimensions vary, a good guide is 8cm long, 5 or 6cm wide and 14cm tall. You can go out with a tape and measure the real thing for accuracy or create a cardboard template and play with your own layout to see what looks good.
The tricky bit is that the upper half houses the lift framework while the lower half also has to support the stairs. As such the actual structure is L shaped. To decide where this point rests, it is best to use your intended staircase and find the height (roughly 7cm in my case) where the steps look right or are horizontal. More on the stairs or steps later.
Creating the Towers.
The Crucial Steps
Building realistic steps is beyond my modelling skillset so I had to use a ready built option. This is not easy, most steps are found with full footbridge kit. I was lucky to have a Hornby R076 kit to hand. These cost anything from £7 to £20 on Ebay, so it is best to rummage around or keep an eye open for a bargain.
At this point I took the supports off the footbridge and replaced them with my towers. I had the satisfaction of instantly getting an image of what my footbridge will look like albeit very rudimentary. There was one remaining problem, modern steps are considerably wider than 20th century designs. So I either had to settle for narrow unrealistic stairs or buy a second Hornby kit.
As I mentioned earlier, the Hornby kit is quite expensive and needing two could be prohibitive. I was lucky and was able to buy one for a reasonable price. The kit comes up quite regularly on Ebay and sometimes even as component pieces sold separately. There may also be other auction sites but in this regard I will have to leave the reader to his own devices.
Crossing the Tracks
I am a fan of modern design as long as it is done well. I think the modern footbridge of itself is quite attractive except for the section that actually crosses the tracks. Here it seems inspiration failed and they are simply a steel corridor. No lattice or windows plus they are usually six feet high so that there is no view of the railway whilst crossing the bridge !
But there is a silver lining, the simple design makes for a simple model and for that I am grateful. I created mine by placing the two towers on my platform and laying a strip of plastic across. When it looked correct, I made a mark and cut the plastic. The side walls were cut in a similar way to a height of six foot or 2.5cm.
Please be aware that the lift doors are slightly set back from the main causeway and are not flush with the bridge path itself. See photo below.
Across the tracks
Putting the Pieces Together
Without any glue, now is the time to assemble your model. I had already joined my two steps together and reapplied the handrails to each side as per the original Hornby model.
Important : The steps have a section of plastic at the top that can rest on the platform in front of the lift doors. These can rest on the towers underneath the bridge section for a flush look.
Once you are happy with the look (and appearances are everything in modelling) start to glue in place. Even at this stage the bridge is starting to look attractive.
The Modern Steps
I have here included a photo of some elevator (Lift) doors for convenience. You will need four copies at a size that matches OO gauge (around 3cm). I used my local library colour photocopier in black and white mode until I had the right size and then printed in colour.
It is amazing how the copier retains the detail as you shrink the image !
Elevator (Lift) Modelling and Recessing
The elevator doors need to go at the top of the steps and at the bottom at the back of the towers. I attached the paper prints to the towers and then added plastic over the top to give a sense of depth or indentation
Elevator Ground Floor
Completing the model.
The last task is to cover the white plastic with brickwork or concrete. Again, I find there is little available in the commercial market that reflects the materials used in the real bridges. Fortunately my example at Alvechurch is made out of standard red brick but if anything ever comes to market of a more modern design, I may be tempted to recover ! Either that or go to Milton Keynes again and photograph the concrete and print it out at the library !
Ready to Run the Trains
Anyone who has stood on a modern platform will be familiar with electric multiple units whining in and out of the station. It may not compete with steam but has a magic of its own especially when two arrive at the same time. It is particularly effective when they arrive under the dominating skyline of a modern footbridge. I have managed to recreate this scene on my railway and I am well pleased.
I hope this article gives you inspiration if you are interested in modern railways and helps you decide on what you would like to create. For me, even if my models are not 100% accurate, I was able to create the overall atmosphere and that is all I can ask.