Royston Rail 2017

Last Saturday the Royston and District Model Railway Club held their annual exhibition. The Royston club exhibitions are always enjoyable. They have a good selection of layouts, strong trade stands and an excellent book dealer.

This year, to add the icing to my cake, the exhibition had several narrow gauge layouts. I spent an enjoyable few hours exploring, talking to people and taking some photos using my mobile phone. Here a selection of the snaps.

I saw Mers-Les-Bains for the first time a couple of weeks ago at ExpoNG. It was great to see it again so soon. Look at the lovely teak coaches at the top of this blog.

The atmosphere Peter Smith has created is superb.

This time I managed to get photos of Peter’s tasty tram locos.

009 was very well represented. This is Butley Quay by Peter Rednall an imaginary narrow gauge line set in East Suffolk.

I like the railcar Peter has built.

Coleford by John Wilkes is based on a real railway in the Forest of Dean. John has imagined that the original 3 foot 6 inch gauge line has be regauged to 2 feet and serves a more diverse range of industries including gold processing, fashion clothing and a chocolate factory. It is great to see a layout set in winter.

Unfortunately, the fly tippers have arrived in Coleford…

John has created some very interesting trackwork.

He made this by modifying two standard points and merging them together. Nice! (This is my snap of a photograph on John’s display board – I hope you don’t mind John).

Paul Sutherland was exhibiting his H0e model of the Mariazelbahn in Austria, called Gusswerk. This layout is set in the winter too. However, as this is Austria there is lots of snow which Paul has modelled very effectively.

The Chelmsford MRC were showing ‘That Dam Railway’. This is a very large and impressive layout. They were even running a ‘Thomas’ special! More photos of this layout here.

Moving from the very large to the rather small, here’s a layout in a suitcase.

Roland Bourne’s Strathbogle has lots of operating potential. He normally fits a three track fiddle yard on the side as well.

Orford Quay and Wickham Market is a layout that I haven’t seen before. It is a fictional line that imagines the Great Eastern Railway opened a narrow gauge line to compete with the Southwold Railway. Brian Bassington has captured the atmosphere of the east of England very well.

My favourite part of the layout is the middle sections that linked the Orford Quay and Wickham Market termini. (I wasn’t fast enough to freeze the train!)

I thought the river scene was particularly well modelled.

It was a pleasure to see Scrubs Lane and the Maltings by Ken Paul again. This is the Scrubs Lane section, depicting a small industrial yard in the 1930’s.

This is the quay section where the goods transported by the railway are transferred to the ships for export.

This layout has lots of lovely scenes throughout. This country lane really appeals to me.

Three standard gauge layouts caught my eye. I liked two of them because of their attractive backscenes.

This is Eastwood VT in OO scale by Andrew Knight. Many layouts have a single line of low relief buildings as a backscene. In some cases the buildings are very shallow and lack depth. Andrew had taken a different approach that I thought worked very well. He created three different layers to the backscene: low relief buildings, thin card board cut outs of buildings, then the backscene.

This approach created a real sense of depth to the scene behind the railway.

In Koln Westbahnhof, Brian Silbey used quite deep low relief buildings, a silhouetted city skyline and a very dramatic red sky. It’s a very unusual approach and I thought it had worked rather well.

Regular readers (both of you 😊) know I like small industrial layouts. Bob Vaughan’s 00 gauge Gas Lane uses a very simple track plan to create a compact industrial layout with lots of operating potential.

The aerial view doesn’t do the layout justice. When you drop down to eye level the magic kicks in. Who could resist a scene like this?

It has a real sense of depth. Nice modelling!

The Royston exhibition is my last railway outing for this year (unless I decide to go on a Santa special – which is unlikely!). Instead of going out, I had better get on with some modelling….



Expo Narrow Gauge 2017

On Saturday the Greenwich and District Narrow Gauge Railway Society held their annual narrow gauge show, Expo NG. It is a massive event with a huge number of layouts, an even bigger number of trade stands and lots and lots of visitors.

This year I decided to take it easy. I travelled by train (avoiding the M11, M25, and Dartford Crossing)  and arrived as large numbers of people were leaving (many of them clutching bags full of things they had brought). The journey was much more pleasant and it was easier to see the layouts 🙂

Here is a selection of photos. (I tried to photograph more layouts but the photos weren’t always successful. If your layout isn’t featured, that’s the reason).

First, Mers les Bains a 1:32 scale, 32mm gauge layout by Peter Smith. It represents a fictional French metre gauge line on the Picardy coast in the 1950’s. The layout has a lovely French feel.

I was impressed by the scratchbuilt stock…

…and the wonderful French scenes that populate the layout.

The wagon turntable leading to the goods shed is so very typical of rural French narrow gauge lines. This layout was recently featured in Voie Libre magazine. The article was impressive, but the layout is even better in real life. Very inspiring modelling.

Regular readers will know that I am drawn to industrial layouts and, true to form, I fell for South Downs Tar by Dave Ward.

I thought this 0-16.5 layout had bags of atmosphere and was very well modelled. I was admiring the brickwork on the buildings, when Dave told me is is Noch brick paper. I would never have thought brick paper could give such great textures.

Dave has created lots of interesting scenes and structures throughout the layout.

It got me thinking about modelling something industrial. I’m not sure I can achieve this high standard though….

Let’s take a look at four smaller layouts. This is Creech Grange, 4mm scale, 6.5mm gauge by James Hilton. James used Busch HOf feldbahn track and mechanisms and build his own British style stock onto the Busch chassis.

The above photo is deceptive. Here is the whole layout, sitting on top of it’s transport box.

It is amazing how much detail James has managed to get into such a small space and onto such small rolling stock. The slow running of the locos is superb. I think James has successfully demonstrated that this is a very viable scale / gauge combination for British outline modellers.

Castle Quay, by Chris O’Donoghue is an 009 layout built in an old wine bottle box that I had seen online but never in real life. It was inspired by the fisherman’s beach and net sheds in Hastings, England. I hadn’t realised it was so small (50cm long x 32cm wide or 19.5  x 12.5 inches).

The layout is an ‘Ingelnook’ design and offers lots of shunting potential. The buildings, quay side and backscene are all images printed onto paper. I was really impressed with the textures the papers have created and how much detail Chris has successfully worked in to such a small space. Proof that limited space isn’t a barrier to good modelling.

Also in 009, Sand Point by Richard Glover, is a small terminus on the south-western coast of England, set sometime in 1920 to 1935. This is another layout that I had seen online and it was so much better to see it in real life.

It is not often you see a boat jetty so well modelled.

Back by popular demand was Ted Polet’s Creag Dubh Summit. This little layout won the Dave Brewer Memorial Challenge at this exhibition in 2016. I didn’t get a good look at it last year and I  enjoyed getting a second chance to see it this year. It really looks like the rocky summit of a mountain railway and is a very nice bit of modelling indeed.

I did endulge in the retail experience that ExpoNG offers. I got some 7mm figures from S&D Models (the guys on the stand laughed when I produced a list of what I wanted), some slide bars and connecting rods from RT Models (including an excellent explanation of how to solder them together) and some secondhand sacks of potatoes from the 7mm NGA stand (a bargain).

Many thanks to the Greenwich club for organising this event. I’ve been to four or five Expo NGs and this was the most enjoyable by far.


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!