Building a Streetscape - Model Railways in OO Gauge
Abbingdon High Street
Introducing my Railway to the World
Welcome to the website of my life's work. Well not quite but this is where I have been going since my first train set at the age of seven. And yes it was a train set whilst this is a model railway. I always wanted way more than just the tracks and lineside buildings, I wanted something that had a life beyond the railway. To this extent there are views on my layout that do not show any tracks or trains at all !!!
Case in point the accompanying photo of Abbingdon. I will add more that shows how the high street is linked to the railway station but to me the epitome of what I have achieved is a world in miniature complete with modern coffee shops and stores recognised by people today.
Yes there are also features more common in the 1950s and 1960s but I get around this by saying first that first a layout is very personal and I add what pleases me. Second that the layout is located in a town where a look to the future is combined with a preservation of the past. There are a lot of characters who live in my town who resist change!! Welcome to Abbingdon.
To fiddle or not to fiddle
Unintentionally, my layout has two fiddle yards but they are not really, ahem, fiddly. What is a fiddle yard you ask. Well it's an area where the tracks go but there is no scenery, in effect a storage area for trains that are not part of the diorama, or somewhere for trains to 'go on their journey'. It's all semantics but I have always struggled with fiddle yards.
So mine will be large areas of sidings that were initially fiddle yards and ended up somewhere with engine sheds, goods sheds, trees and countryside. This, dear reader, is my Achilles heal, I cannot NOT decorate my fiddle yards. So, I ask your forbearance on this point. And truth to tell I can see my fiddle yards eventually going under a sea of greens and browns and buildings. A picture paints a thousand words so please see the images of my fiddle yards.
The central town of the layout
Abbingdon is where it's all happening, where most of my recent work has been concentrated. I did not want another country town, I wanted a proper British high street. Unfortunately to create this you either have to move into very expensive Hornby Skaledale or Bachmann fully finished models that can set you back £20-£30 each!. Metcalfe and Superquick only produce proper high street models in low relief that are meant to decorate the backdrop of a layout. I wanted my high street to live and breathe and be part of the layout with, as seen so often in real life, the railway lines as a backdrop. Completely the reverse to most layouts.
This is where my ingenuity was called upon. I am not a skilled modeller, there are layouts out there with incredible realism. But I look at it this way, if I can create a reasonably realistic diorama then that must provide encouragement for anyone else thinking of starting in this great hobby. The result, many paces where it is all about the town or the road without a railway line in sight. Very pleasing, I may even add a group of lager louts for an added dimension.
Abbingdon High Street
The Model Railway - Where to start
This list is just the bare minimum that you need. I hope to show you in this article just where your mind can take you as you create your miniature world. Model railroading is a lot of fun.
1 Remember this is about creating a piece of the real world in miniature so always keep an eye to the world around you. To start it is best to have a station in the middle that sits at the centre with track going off in both directions to fiddle yards. I recommend against creating a loop, it requires a lot of space, a means of climbing into the centre and there are always electrical issues.
2 You will need a station building and platform, a signal box, water tower, assortment of huts, it is also good to have a few non railway buildings, though not essential.
3 At least one locomotive although two is better plus a rake of wagons and a rake of coaches.
4 Lots of vegetation, bushes, trees,tarmac sheets for roads, fences and walls.
5 For the finishing touch don't forget post boxes, telephone boxes, cars and people !!!
So what is next?
So you have created your layout and you have your trains and you have decorated the layout with houses, people, cars and trees and bushes and you stare down and say to yourself ''What do I do next'' Two things come to mind.
1 One thing I love to do is scatter my engines to the four corners of the layout with all wrong coaches, wrong wagons you get the picture. Then I spend hours on re-sorting everything without resorting to lifting anything from the track. All done through moving the trains around on the layout. This can prove to be a lot of fun and teaches you a little of what the real railwaymen have to contend with.
2 I love to customise buildings. Scratch building can be a tough thing to do but you can really get into the spirit if you decide to build one of your favourite shops or restaurants. Such is the case with Cafe Nero ( they are serving their Christmas Amaretto Latte at the moment) and the result can be seen above right. I hope you like it and are inspired.
3 But sometimes I get into a really creative mode and start getting finicky with the scenery. The hole in the hedge where the boy scrambles through, road signs are hugely important, advertisements on the walls of buildings, the blue parking P pointing to the car park. I especially like examining photos of the real thing and see how I can approximate it. Of great fun is association. The post box, the post van and the postman removing the post from the box. There are many other things to consider, I have rubbish bins but quite often there is rubbish left at the side of these bins and you can cut pieces of card to represent this. You can really go to town.
4 One thing you will notice missing from my layout is a backdrop. I approach this with trepidation as I am no artist but at some point I must go for it and do it. The way I will leave it is that this lens, like some of my others, will continue to grow over the next few years as I add what I have done since the last time I published. In that vein I would ask you to check back in six months to follow along.
Abbingdon in action
Road transport is such an important part of a layout. Sdaly for years it was poorly served by the industry. For some reason 1:76 scale was not popular with manufacturers. Horny and Triang made a few single colour cars out of plastic but these were no more than hollow shells. Occasionally you could find a dinky or corgi bus or lorry that was close to OO scale but that pretty much summed it up. Then the continental makers started crating accurate cars with realistic windows, headlights, grills etc but sadly they were HO scale or 1:84. A word of warning yes you can tell the difference, an HO car in the hand looks rather small on the layout especially parked next to an OO scale person about to get in it.
Finally Oxford, Bachmann and Corgi have come to the rescue with superbly crafted OO gauge cars and trucks and I have filled my layout with these wonderful vehicles. Not that I advise this, they are also a good investment. Some cars I bought 2 years ago have doubled in value so take care of the boxes and the cars.
In conclusion I hope that I have encouraged you to think about model railways as a hobby. Believe me it becomes a passion and I still get a thrill as I open the new piece be it a new engine or a new trackside hut. The layout takes up a disproportionate amount of the house and my converted garage has become dominated by it. Still the hours of fun it gives is worth every penny and I love it. So it is time for me to go and play. Happy railroading (can't say railwaying)