Preparing ‘First’ for Narrow Gauge South

My layout ‘First’ will be appearing at Narrow Gauge South at Barton Peveril College on Saturday 7th April. If you are going to NG South please drop by and say ‘Hello’. It’s a small layout in a large exhibition, blink and you’ll miss it 🙂

To prepare the layout and check everything is working well I cleaned the track thoroughly and ran a loco for over an hour. I haven’t used the layout for over 8 months (Gasp!) and it was a real pleasure to run it again.

On the NG Railway Modelling Forum Michael Campbell recommended running a carpenter’s pencil over the rails to create a layer of graphite and improve the electrical connection. It sounded like a good idea. After I’d thoroughly cleaned the track I ran my brand new carpenter’s pencil over the rails. It’s definitely helped the slow running and I’m very intrigued to see how this improves operation over the long term.


When Your Fiddle’s a Faff….

My layout ‘First’ will be appearing at the Steam in Miniature event at the Bure Valley Railway on the 9th and 10th September. I’m really looking forward to the event.

However, the current fiddle yard arrangement with it’s reverse curves (see picture above) is a faff. It works, by I have to run trains in and out of the fiddle yeard at a really low speed. And, to be honest, I don’t fancy working operating the layout like that for two whole days.

This has spurred me on to finally bite the bullet, rip up track and organise better access to the fiddle yard.

After much gazing at the layout I came up with a plan. A purple plan.

I decided to move the fiddle yard to the other side of the layout and install a point on the left hand side so that the access to the fiddle yard is virtually straight. Then, rip up the existing curves and the existing point and relay the track on the curve. I will have to move some of the electrical connectors (partly covered by the paper point template) so that the track can run to the fiddle yard. It won’t be the perfect solution, because I’m retro fitting everything to an existing layout, but I think it will be better than the current arrangement.

Decisions made, I drank a strong coffee and removed the track.

I tested the position of the new point, removed a little more track and then fixed the new point and new curve in place.

Connecting the track to the fiddle yard was pretty straightforward – it is virtually a straight length of track. Here it is pinned in place, before I soldered the joins to the copper strips.

I repositioned the electrical connetions. (The two connectors on the left power the point motors and those on the right provide the power to the track). I checked the clearances to check the trains will run trains past the plugs. No problem.

Finally, I soldered the wires to supply the track power to the toe of the point and did some test runs. I’m very pleased to say everything worked. Best of all it is so much easier to use that the previous arrangement. I can ‘zoom’ trains in and out of the cassetes very quickly rather than having to run them at low speed round the reverse curves.

In many cases I follow the old rule of: ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. In this case a fix has been the right thing to do and I’m really looking forward to running ‘First’ for two whole days!

If you go to the Steam in Miniature event please drop by and say ‘Hello’.

‘First’ in 009 News

My layout ‘First’ was featured in the July issue of 009 News.  I am very chuffed.

Many thanks to the late Mark Howe, former editor of the News, who encouraged me to submit an article, and to Chris Ford, current editor of the News, for laying out the article and pictures so well.

I have tried to persuade my daughter that this makes me famous. She’s not convinced.


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…

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.


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