The Best of Bishop

Saturday 19th August was the Bishop Stortford Railway Society Exhibition.

There were no narrow gauge layouts but I was struck by this standard gauge one. Acacia Avenue is a 00 scale BR 1970s-80s era, parcel depot and goods sidings layout by Julie and Colin Palmer. It does not represent a particular location, yet I was very struck by the run down, industrial atmosphere the layout creates. I had a good chat with Colin and he even gave me a copy of Narrow Gauge World. Nice bloke. Thanks Colin.

For me, the best part of the show was the traders. There is always a good selection at the Stortford exhibition, and this year was no exception. I had a good rummage around all the stalls and I went home with some laser cut wood kits from KS Laser Designs. I got three O scale kits: a cafe, a small garden shed and some wooden gates. I have a layout in mind (don’t we all?) and these could fit in well.

KS Laser design make kits in N, OO and O scale, including some impressive engine sheds and depot accessories. Check out their website at:


Celebrating the Unusual at the Beds n Bucks Open Day

The Beds and Bucks Narrow Gauge Modellers Open Day was on the 14th May this year.

I have to admit I had very mixed feelings as I drove there. It was the first Open Day since the death of Mark Howe who was the backbone of the Beds and Bucks group and organised our Open Day for many years. It was going to be strange to have the event without him. Just before the show opened we held a minutes silence for Mark. This moment of reflection and respect made me feel better. I knew Mark would have wanted everyone to enjoy the day….

… and everyone did.

It was a great team effort from everyone in the group (and in many cases their families too), and the day went very well indeed.

There were many super layouts and I could include photos of each of them. Instead, I’ve decided to focus on three layouts, each one unusual in some way.

Green Pond Mine by Lyn and Jim Owers is a micro layout 60 x 40 cm (24 x 16 inches), that combines HO9 and HOf, and is completely automated. The electrics were displayed behind the layout.

The 9mm HO9 track sits alongside the 6.5mm HOf to create a 2 foot 6 inch gauge line and two 15 inch spurs. All of the trains start, move and stop automatically in sequence. The operators sit by the layout and talk to the visitors – nice!

It’s a really unusual concept built to a high standard, creating a very attractive layout.

Morton Stanley by Chris Ford and Nigel Hill is a very well modelled, compact O-16.5 layout.

While many modellers try to pack in lots of interesting vignettes or scenes throughout their layouts Chris and Nigel have taken a different approach. Morton Stanley is almost ‘minimalist’. There isn’t a lot happening and this really evokes a sleepy narrow gauge line, where trains are infrequent, and profits are a long way away.

I really liked this approach and I enjoyed chatting with Chris and Mike.

From ‘minimalist’ to ‘maximalist’ (if such a word exists). This is the Grasslands and Wetlands Railway by Glyn Bennett, an indoor narrow gauge line in G scale. Now, you don’t see that very often!

The layout is very well modelled…

…and there are some lovely scenes.

Glyn very kindly offered to let me operate – I jumped at the chance! The locos and stock are very well built and run very smoothly at low speed.  The wire in tube point operation was very positive, and the electrics really simple to understand (which is always good in my book!). I had a great time and I could have done it for hours. Many thanks to you Glyn, it was a real pleasure to operate your layout!

The next Beds and Buck Open Day is on Sunday 13th May 2018.  We are already planning it…

I Do Like a Good Rummage Box

The Cambridge Model Railway Club Exhibition was a couple of weekends ago. For me the best part of the exhibition was the retailers.

I was impressed by the wooden model kits from Laser Cut Railway Models. Very nice kits with good detailing. I couldn’t resist buying one. No idea what to do with it, but I’m still pleased with it.

Several other retailers had rummage boxes, and I do like a good rummage box. I picked up some useful secondhand bits and bobs for future scratch building projects….

Beds and Bucks Narrow Gauge Modellers Open Day 14 May 2017

The Beds and Buck Narrow Gauge modellers Open Day is on Sunday 14th May 2017. We have a super selection of layouts in a range of scales and gauges including:

  • Bowleggett Manor (009), West Midlands Group.
  • Elkington on Sea Tramways (0-16.5), Roger Elkin.
  • Grasslands and Wetlands Railway (G scale), Glyn Bennett.
  • Scrubbs Lane Yard and The Maltings (009), Ken Paul.
  • Morton Stanley (0-16.5), Chris Ford & Nigel Hill.
  • Brandgeight (009), Peter Hardy.
  • Fowlers Lake (0n30), Mike Bartlett.
  • Green Pond Mine (H0e/H0f), Lyn & Jim Owers.
  • Purbeck (009), John Thorne.
  • Symonds Green Brewery (009), David & Lynda Coates.
  • Green End (009), David Gander.
  • Old Oak (009), John Rees.
  • Ellerbank (009) Graham and Caroline Watling
  • and a modelling display by Chris Krupa.

Plus we have the following top traders:

  • Model Roads and Tramways – Modelling and electrical goods for model roads, tramways and railways.
  • Narrow Planet – Narrow Planet offers a custom etching service for unique name and works number plates, as well as a growing number of kits.
  • 12 volts DC – A wide range of bulbs; LEDs; street, platform and yard lights; effect modules; point motors; CDUs and switches.
  • James Corsi  – Interesting items for the 7mm scale modeller

As usual it’s at the Barton le Clay Village Hall, Hexton Road, Barton Le Clay, Bedfordshire, MK45 4JY. The hall has full disabled access, adequate car parking and tasty range of refreshments

The exhibition is open from 10.30 to 16.30. For 009 Society Members admission is £4.00 and it’s £4.50 for non members. For that you get 13 layouts, four trade stands and the chance to chat with like minded narrow gauge modellers for up to 6 hours. It’s a total bargain!

I hope to see you there…


Narrow Gauge South West 2017 – The Last Hurrah


The Small and Delightful group held the 25th, and final, Narrow Gauge South West in February this year. With over 75 layouts, many traders and an excellent selection of cakes it was a heaven for narrow gauge modelers.

Here are a few layouts that caught my eye.

The Buttermere Mining Company by Bill Flude is a charming, dual sided O9 layout. I was very struck by the colour and tones of the model. They are much lighter that I would have expected, yet they work very well and evoked a hot summers day on a dusty mining line.

buttermere-mining-company-bill-flude-1The image below is, one side of the layout and the image at the start of the blog shows the other. Two very different scenes on one layout and very nice modelling.


Let’s continue the mining theme with Afon Adit Gold Mine in O9 by Martin Rich. The layout captures the different layers in the landscape very well.


It is based on a real prototype in mid-Wales that operated until the 1980s.


The layout even features the underground workings and the locos move seamlessly from overground to underground. An unusual and interesting feature. (Sorry about the blurry photo).


Changing scale to OO9. Two layouts exhibited next to one another started me thinking about layout presentation. Both have a single line of track on the viewing side, well modeled scenery and a frame around the viewing area to set off the scene. I was very struck by how effective this (apparently) simple approach was.

Tal Coed, exhibited by Phil Farr Cox, with it’s attractive green coloured surround to frame the scene.tal-coed-phil-farr-cox-1

Cleverly, the single line appears to climb from left to right.



The scenic modelling is great with slate fences surrounding the fields.


Tipyn O Bopeth (which I think means ‘a bit of nothing’ in Welsh) uses a very similar approach. It started as a test track, and evolved into a fully scenic layout. Ed Florey has made a nice job of the transformation. tipyn-o-bopeth-ed-florey-1

The style of modelling is very different from Tal Coed, but the approach is similar and it was interesting to see how effective this ‘simplicity’ can be.


I was looking forward to seeing Enigma Quay by Richard Williams, I’d seen it online but never in real life. The layout is (roughly) triangular in shape and is cleverly designed to sit on top of an IKEA corner desk unit. If I had a layout like this on my desk I would never get anything done!


Built in 7mm scale (O9) the quay features an interesting mixture of buildings, in different styles that suggest the dockside has developed and changed over time.



Richard has some lovely stock, I particularly like this passenger coach. It is reminiscent of the First Class coaches of the 18 inch gauge Royal Arsenal Railway in Woolwich.


Finally, a very attractive 0-16.5 layout by Mike Baker: The Bath and District Amalgamated Fullers Earth Company. If there had been a prize for the longest layout name in the exhibition this would have been a strong contender. Also, I think it was a contender for the best modeling in the exhibition. The layout is a compact, industrial scene.


There are two buildings…



.. and the modelling is great. Just look at the detail, textures and colours in this small scene.


Many thanks to all of the Small and Delightful team for making this such an excellent and enjoyable day: the car park team, the reception desk, the organisers, the members helping in the exhibition and the catering team.

The organisers wanted Narrow Gauge South West to go out with a bang and they definitely succeeded!

A Great Day Out in Beccles


Last weekend I showed ‘First’ at the Norfolk and Suffolk Narrow Gauge Modellers Open Day. It was an excellent day. There was an extra room of layouts this year. This created space for more layouts and a lot more space around the layouts. Richard Doe and the N&SNG team run a well organised event and create a very relaxed, friendly atmosphere. It was great to chat to people and make new friends.

It wasn’t all plain sailing, I had a surprise just before the exhibition opened. I arrived in Beccles in plenty of time and set up the layout. Twenty minutes before the doors opened I was starting to run some trains when one of the point motors stopped working. I removed the stock and started poking around under the layout to see what the problem was. Luckily, Tony Clarke offered to help and we figured out the problem was likely to be a dodgy switch. I replaced the point switch, and had something running as the first visitors came in (just). Many thanks to Tony for his help.

The layouts were great. I spent most of the day operating and I wish I’d had more time to study them. I had a few minutes to grab some pictures of the layouts closest to me at the end of the day.

Chris O’Donoghue exhibited Compass Point.  His highly detailed OO9 layout is full of interesting scenes and cameos. It was very popular with the visitors.


Chris’s attention to detail is astounding. The mooring ropes of the two boats in the estuary are stretched tight because they would have been pulled taught as the boats were dragged seawards by the descending tide. (Gasp!).


Chris had a very eclectic mix of stock in his fiddle yard. There’s even an aquatic Jeep.

It was great to chat with Chris and he gave me some good ideas for how I can improve the presentation of ‘First’. Thanks Chris.


Green End by David Gander is another example of excellent modelling. The style is very different from Compass Point, the layout is much less populated and captures the feel of a sleepy, rural narrow gauge line.


Green End is inspired by the Welshpool and Llanfair. It was nice to see a ‘J L L Peate and Sons’ private wagon. I’ve always liked the livery – very showy for a coal merchant.


I was impressed by the stock on Bill Knight’s 1:16 scale layout Knights Yard.


Full of character, well detailed, well weathered… and entirely made of card. Yes you read that right, made of card.


Bill has detailed the interiors of the buildings too. Here’s the yard office. The books and ledgers have individual pages. You can open a book and flip through the pages.


As I visit more exhibitions, I’m realising that layouts don’t need to be complex to be good. Here are three simple, effective layouts and each one has only one point.

Hawkins Tower by Phillip Moore (OO9) is a Victorian park complete with a folly.


I particularly like the wrought iron table and chairs outside the ‘Current Bun’ cafe.


Also from the Victorian era, Priory Waterworks by Chris Seago. Chris is really good at modelling these lovely industrial buildings. A great example of keeping it simple, it’s a working layout using one point and three lengths of track. I like the knob to change the point. Chris wont be let down by dodgy electrics.


Finally, possibly my favourite layout of the day was Ship Inn by Barry Weston. It’s G scale with 16.5mm track to represent a 15 inch gauge line. I think what attracted me was the sheer simplicity of the track plan and the wonderful character of the modelling.


The railway delivers to the inn…


…and to the quay. And that’s about it, but I could look at it for hours.


The ladies of the Great Yarmouth Brass band organised the refreshments. Unfortunately, I only got one slice of Victoria sponge this year, it had sold out by the time I went back for seconds. Obviously word is getting around about how good the cakes are!

For each of the exhibitors Stuart Hughes created these cast aluminium plaques. They are about 8cm (3 inches) long and are very impressive.


At the end of the day several of us adjourned to the pub for a meal, a pint and a good natter. A great way to finish a very enjoyable day. Many thanks to Richard and the team for another excellent Open Day.

Preparing for the ‘Beccles’ Open Day

Wheel ClenaingMy layout, ‘First’, will be appearing at the Norfolk and Suffolk Narrow Gauge Modellers Open Day in Beccles on Saturday 4th of March. Full details of the Open Day: Here.

I’ve spent the morning cleaning loco wheels, checking point motors and running some trains. Everything seems to work, so I’m hoping (fingers-crossed) it will work well next weekend. I’ve really enjoyed ‘playing trains’ and I’m looking forward to a whole day operating the layout on Saturday.

These Open Days are always great fun and if you are in Beccles please say ‘Hello’, it would be nice to meet you…