What Will I Model Next ?


I definitely want to build another layout, but what will I model ?

After mulling that over for the last 6 months I realise there are three things that attract me.

A common carrier.

I love rural common carriers. Railways running through beautiful countryside, transporting the local agricultural produce from one small town to another. Definitely not industrial, certainly not profitable and probably rather run down. Think Welshpool and Llanfair or the Leek and Manifold… Hmmmm…

This idea really appeals. It would fit well with my aim of building a modular layout that can grow. I can imagine starting with a country terminus and adding other scenic boards over time. There could be a lot of variety: fields, rivers, bridges, cottages, farms, wayside halts, passing stations and so on. There is lots of potential to sustain my interest. I really like the prototypes. Having said that I probably wouldn’t model a particular prototype. I would rather model a fictitious, but plausible line. That would give me more freedom.

A factory layout.

The cobbled courtyard of an engineering works, with lines going in and out of the various buildings. Lots of grime and discarded detritus to add detail and atmosphere to the layout. Small industrial petrol and diesel locos taking short, heavily loaded trains of raw materials into the factory and emerging to whisk shiny, newly manufactured products off to be transferred to a standard gauge transfer yard.

This idea appeals too, but there are a couple of sticking points. I’ve tried sketching lots of track plans but I haven’t been able to create one that includes all the elements I want and would be good to operate. Also, I can’t see this being a modular layout. At most I see two boards, one for the factory, one for the transfer.

To add more confusion, it occurred to me that this would be a great 09 layout. Not in the 15 inch gauge miniature railway style but as an 18 inch gauge industrial line. (OK, I realise 09 isn’t strictly 18 inch gauge but you could model it to give that impression). Strangely, I like this idea. Yet, I’m not sure now is the time to change scale. I’d be starting all over again.

A Pre-WWI French 60cm line.

Ladies in Edwardian dresses, waiting to board long, mixed trains with elegant carriages. Beautiful Weidknecht locos running through the streets of dusty French towns, out into the country and even to the seaside. Elegant, slightly dilapidated French buildings. The smell of fresh baguette and strong coffee. OK, I’m getting carried away now… But browse through the many, early postcards available online and it’s easy to get carried away.

There’s quite a lot of ready to run 009 / H0e stock available for post-WW1 French lines. However, I find the pre-war atmosphere, locos and rolling stock much more appealing. Here lies the problem. There are only a few kits available for pre-war material. This is very much a scratch building project, and I’m not sure I’m ready for that. Yet.

The conclusion…

This is a long blog but it’s been useful for me to get my thoughts straight. What’s it told me?

  1. My next layout should be the common carrier, it appeals to me and it fits well with the type of layout I want to create.
  2. I will probably build that 09 factory layout. Not now, but sometime.
  3. I’ll keep dreaming about the French layout.. and eating baguettes…

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Scanné par Claude_villetaneuse (Collection personnelle) [Public domain], (PD-1923)

What’s Next ?

Whats the Next Train

Now I’ve decided that ‘First’ is finished, the question is: what’s next?

What features would I like in my next layout. Let’s make a list…

After Narrow Gauge South I realised I like layouts that have:

  • A plausible premise (actual or fictional)
  • Realistic scenery
  • High level of detail

So these criteria are on the list.

What else? The tight curves in ‘First’ mean it is suited to small locos and four wheeled wagons and it is really a ‘one loco in steam’ layout. Let’s add:

  • Run larger locos and bogie coaches
  • Run longer trains
  • Easy to run multiple locos

There are various ‘aspirational’ criteria

  • Modular – can be built in manageable installments and can grow into a bigger layout
  • Could become a home layout
  • Could go to the occasional members day or exhibition

Wait, after the aspirations, let’s come back to earth. There are some practical considerations

  • Easy to store – there’s probably not enough space at home to set it up permanently
  • Planned then built – not built without a plan (like ‘First’ 🙂 )
  • Good fiddle space with easy access – no reverse curves to access the fiddle (like ‘First’ 🙂 )
  • Relatively quick to build each module
  • Will maintain my interest

That’s a good list of what I want from the layout.

What will I model? That’s the next blog…

Image by Pi.1415926535 used under a Creative Commons License




Marvellous Mansfield

Avyn-A-Lyin Andy Bailey 1Last weekend was the 009 Society’s East Midlands Group Members Day. I went two years ago and it was one of the things that started my 009 modelling.

I was very pleased to go back again this year. There was a wide selection of layouts – 26(!) – with many different styles and themes. The atmosphere is relaxed and the modellers are friendly and helpful. The venue is great, with plenty of space to view the layouts. It was a very enjoyable day.

Here are a few things that caught my eye.

Avyn-A-Llyin (at the top of this blog) is a super layout representing a seaside resort. The town is really nicely modelled on several levels…

Avyn-A-Lyin Andy Bailey 2

… the beach and pier are fantastic.

Avyn-A-Lyin Andy Bailey 3

The Bailey Brothers have added a soundtrack of breaking waves and seagulls. When I viewed the layout from baseboard level I really felt I was at the seaside.

Avyn-A-Lyin Andy Bailey 4

While the pier is impressive, there are lots of other well modeled details. I like this house.

Avyn-A-Lyin Andy Bailey 6

Brandgeight is a clever figure-of-eight layout by Peter Hardy.

Brandgeight Peter Hardy 1

There are lots of interesting scenes throughout the layout, including soap suds on the E Type Jag. Oh, I was too slow to freeze the Fairlie!

Brandgeight Peter Hardy 2

I got chatting with Peter and mentioned I was thinking of using Seep point motors. By coincidence he used them throughout this layout and he gave me some useful tips and tricks to get the best from them. Thanks Peter.

Tan-y-bwlch is a modern era Ffestiniog layout by Nigel Smith.

Tan-y-Bwylch Nigel Smith 1

The modelling is very atmospheric.

Tan-y-Bwylch Nigel Smith 2

Nigel’s presented the layout at close to eye level. This gives interesting, natural-looking, viewpoints. Here the train and loco are partly obscured by the trees and water tank. Very realistic.

Tan-y-Bwylch Nigel Smith 3

From big to small. East Archil by Alan Martin has a loop and a terminus on a small board and is very neatly done. Nice to see a pig farm on a layout!

East Archil by Alan Martin

Back to one of the larger layouts, Tan-yr-Allt by Roger Christian. It is part of a larger Ffestiniog layout. It is a very nice layout and I spent a long time looking at it. I’d like to see the whole thing! Roger and Stan Williams were running ‘themed passenger trains’ from the L&B, GVT and Ffestiniog, which was enjoyable to watch.

Tan-yr-Allt Roger Christian 1

Here the L&B train speeds past a car surrounded by a herd of sheep.

Tan-yr-Allt Roger Christian 2

This mountain, bridge and stream are very atmospheric.

Tan-yr-Allt Roger Christian 3

Regular readers will know I like a layout with nice detailing. I was impressed by the work that had gone into creating this coal shoot. The modelling is so good and so natural. I wonder how many people don’t notice this great detailing when they look at the layout.

Tan-yr-Allt Roger Christian 4

One of the nice things about Member’s Days is people bring their partly completed projects. This is Bridges by Hugh Milwards, a layout with two interconnected levels, dual gauge track in the foreground and some compact, complex point work on the upper level.

Bridges Hugh Milwards 1

How did Hugh fit such a lot into such a small space? Take a look at this handmade track. Amazing!

Bridges Hugh Milwards 2

It was really interesting and instructive to see the layout at this stage, before the scenery disguises the construction details. A great opportunity to learn from an expert.

As well as 26 layouts there were five traders! I found several irresistible things in the 009 Society Sales rummage boxes and on the A1 Models stand – but that’s a story for another day!

Well done to the East Midlands Group for organising such a great event.

Let There Be Light

First with Lamppost

My modelling has been a little slow recently. However, I’ve made a lamp for the station platform. It’s a Langley kit, and was easy to build.

After a little bit of weathering I fixed it in place on the platform. I think it looks good and hopefully it doesn’t give away that it was an afterthought!

I think my ‘First’ layout may be finished. There are two reasons:

  1. I cannot think of anything more that I want to add to the layout. Yes, there’s some more stock I want to build (a permanent way train, some cattle wagons and a quarry loco), but the layout itself feels complete.
  2. I’m thinking about what to do next. I’ve learned a lot from building ‘First’ and I feel it’s time to move on…

Can a layout really be finished? I think in this case it can.


Cycling the Leek and Manifold

Hulme End Station SignOn a sunny day in early June the whole family set off to cycle the Leek and Manifold railway.

After the railway closed in 1934 the LMS donated the track bed to Staffordshire County Council. Although several people in the area lobbied for a road, the Council, to their credit, resisted this pressure and a footpath was opened in 1937. Today it’s possible to walk or cycle the whole length of the original line, except a few hundred metres in Waterhouses.

We started at the Ashbourne Road in Waterhouses near the old level crossing, originally just to the right of this photo. The old line and the cycle way cross this bridge.

Near Ashbourne Road

In the next couple of miles, the line passes through the most spectacular valley, the river snakes under the old railway line and there are numerous bridges. At this time of year the riverbed is dry, even so I had to admire the tenacity and skill of the engineers.


Soon we reached Thor’s Cave, parked the bikes and hiked up the hill to explore.

Thors Cave

The views and the countryside were spectacular. This bend in the line was often photographed. It is very close to the original Thor’s Cave Station.

Near Thors Cave Station

Back to the bikes and on to the South entrance of Swainsley tunnel. Cycling through the dimly lit 150m metre long tunnel was great fun.

South Entrance Swainsley Tunnel

We continued past Wetton Mill and on to Hulme End Station. This is Hulme End today.

Hulme End Station

The ‘engine shed’ isn’t the original, it has been rebuilt to resemble the original. Inside is a cafe and shop with very friendly and helpful staff. I recommend the sausage and chutney bap, and the Victoria Sponge cake – delicious.

Next we explored the station building. It is the original building, and has been extensively renovated and restored by Staffordshire County Council. It looks great, but it is all that remains of the original station. Sadly, the platform, carriage sheds and water tower are all gone.

Hulme End Station BuildingHulme End Station Building 2LMLR Bench

The rear of the building could do with a coat of paint.

Hulme End Station Building 3Hulme End Station Building 4

Inside the station building is a very good model of Hulme End that captures the atmosphere of the line. What a sight it must have been to see the yellow coaches running down the beautiful valley. Quite understandably, the model is in a glass case so my apologies for the odd reflections.

Model Railway Hulme End

Suitably refreshed we headed back. Here is the north entrance of the Swainsley tunnel, an impressive structure. The mouth of the tunnel is large, a reminder that the railway had a generous loading gauge and was capable of carrying standard gauge wagons on narrow gauge transporter wagons.

North Entrance Swainsley Tunnel

At Waterhouses we explored the former station area. It is surprising to think that there was once a station for the narrow gauge and the standard gauge branchline here. All that remains is the old goods shed. It is well preserved.

Waterhouses Goods Shed

It’s a substantial structure…

Waterhouses Goods Shed 2

… with some nice details.

Goods Shed Details

I liked the interior. An old goods shed, full of bicycles. Note the (iron?) structural supports.

Inside Waterhouses Good Shed

Cycling the Manifold Way is a great day out. The scenery is beautiful, there are no steep gradients, the path is well surfaced and there are plenty of cafes along the route. It is an easy eight miles each way, and our two 10 year olds really enjoyed it.

Add it to your ‘To Do’ list, it is definitely worth a visit!

Decauville Catalogue 1916

Decauville Catalogue 1916

Purchased today in my local Oxfam Bookshop, this has to be the best ‘find’ this year. A copy of the 1916 Decauville Catalogue.

The quality of the reproduction is superb and there is some very tasty rolling stock in here.

I am writing a list titled ‘What I would buy’.

Let’s start with this rather beautiful 15 Tonne loco…

15 Tonne Loco

The Final Detailing?

Cottage GardenFor some time I have wanted to complete the gardens around the cottages. I had intended to add colourful flowers and beehives to create picturesque cottage gardens.

When I looked at it more carefully I realised that the colours would draw the viewers eye straight to the gardens… and away from the trains. So I decided to take a more understated approach and use green bushes and foliage to blend the cottages into the scenery.

My only concession to colour is a flower pot, next to the door!

I had intended this to be the last job on ‘First’. However, rummaging through my bits box I found a Langley Street Lamp. In the dark winter evenings the passengers will need some light to guide them to the station platform, won’t they?

And they say layouts are never finished…

Cottage Garden 2