A New Year, A New Layout

Shelford (Cambridgeshire) around 1924.

Things have been rather quiet on this blog in January. Yet, behind the scenes there’s been a whole lot of thinking going on.

I have an idea for a new layout. Here’s the inspiration behind the idea.

A Little Bit of Railway History.

Shelford is a small village about 3 miles south of Cambridge and has had a station since 1845. On the 1st of June 1865 a branch line from Shelford to Haverhill was opened. This branched off the London to Cambridge main line just south of the Shelford station, near the small village of Stapleford. It ran through Pampisford, Linton, Bartlow and into Haverhill. Initially, the line ran close to the River Granta along what’s sometimes called the Granta Valley.

Sketch map of part of the Stour Valley Branch Line (Shelford to Bartlow).

On the 9th August 1865 the section of track from Haverhill to Sudbury was opened allowing travelers to go from Shelford to Sudbury and on to Marks Tey and Colchester. The line became known as the Stour Valley Railway.

Initially, many of the stations were well appointed with goods yards of varying sizes and the line did a useful service transporting goods such as coal, corn, beet and livestock.

Shelford Station, look at that lovely Great Eastern Railway goods shed.

The line between Shelford and Haverhill fell into decline and was eventually closed to passengers in March 1967 as part of the Beeching cuts (boo hiss to Beeching!).

In Stapleford some local people discussed running a preserved steam railway along the old line from Shelford to Linton, a distance of around 7 miles. Unfortunately, the track was lifted in 1970 and nothing came of the idea.

The Shelford to Haverhill Line Today

Today, the route of the old line through Stapleford, to Pampisford and Linton is quite easy to trace. Some bridges still exist and much of the track ran on raised earth works which are still clearly visible in many places.

Stapleford with the Cambridge to Liverpool Street line in the background. The Haverhill branch line ran alone the raised earthworks in the field.

The branch line continued across the field behind the line of trees in the distance.

At the end of the field this bridge carried the A1301 over the branch line. It still carries the road, even though the line has disappeared.

Between Sawston and Babraham the line crossed this country road. The bridge has gone but the embankments either side and the dip in the road are still visible.

In the dip of the road is the base of the old bridge.

Scramble up the slope and you are greeted with this view of the old trackbed heading towards Linton. It is amazing that the line is still so clearly visible.

In Linton, the station building still exists and is used as offices. What an elegant place to work.

At the southern end of the line, the route from Sudbury to Marks Tey is still open, and has been branded ‘The Gainsborough Line’ to commemorate the painter Thomas Gainsborough, who was born in Sudbury.

Here’s Where I Have to Declare an Interest

I moved to Stapleford last year. I live close to the London Liverpool Street to Cambridge line, and opposite the field where the Stour Valley Branch left the main line and started its journey to Pampisford and Haverhill. Along one edge of the field runs the Granta River which meanders from Haverhill, past Linton and on into Cambridge following a similar, but not indentical, route to the old branch line.

What If….

…an enterprising group of railway enthusiasts built a narrow gauge line along the old standard gauge track bed…

It’s has happened elsewhere (The Bure Valley Railway, The Wells and Walsingham Railway and the Steeple Grange Light Railway to name only a few examples). Perhaps the idea is not that far-fetched.

I am thinking of building a freelance fantasy… ‘The Granta Valley Railway’… a narrow gauge railway with a terminus in Stapleford, in the field opposite my house, and a line running along the old trackbed to Pampisford and beyond….


Building an Avalon Line 09 Closed Coach

Recently, I made an Avalon Line Semi Open Coach. When I build kits I often assemble them, then paint them. I’d found painting the completed semi-open coach rather fiddly. So for my closed coach kit I decided to paint the parts and then assemble them. First of all I sprayed all the parts with primer.

I want to fit some 7mm Narrow Gauge Association coach door handles.

I drilled holes for the handles and test fitted them. They look good. Perhaps a little big, but I like them.

Next, I masked off the places where I would have to apply glue to assemble the kit, and I painted the interior of the coach.

Then I assembled and painted the chassis, foot wells and seats. It’s a bit rough but it will be hidden inside the coach.

I masked the interior of the coach with masking tape…

…trimmed off the excess masking tape…

…and sprayed the parts with Macragge blue from Citadel. (Sorry for the blurry photo. I got excited by the blue).

I even managed to spray part of the garage floor too. Oops. I’m glad I like that blue 🙂

To paint the solebars and head stocks I masked off the edge of the blue paint and splashed on some Humbrol dirty black.

When I stripped off all the masking tape, things were beginning to look good.

Then it was a pretty simple job to glue the sides and ends to the chassis assembly. I lightly tacked one end and side in place with very small amounts of super glue. Then I repeated the process with the other end and side. It only took a minute or so for the glue to dry and, luckily, everything was looking good. Finally, I reinforced all of the joints with some expoy glue. I find this much more durable than superglue.

There are a few jobs still to do: applying decals, adding windows, painting some passengers, weathering and varnishing. I will get round to these at some point in the future. For now, I lodged the roof in place and took a photo. Looking good!

Merry Christmas !

A very Merry Christmas and an enjoyable, and model filled, New Year to everyone reading this blog.

The picture shows the Bernina Railway, a metre gauge line that runs over the Bernina Pass from the German speaking to the Italian speaking parts of Switzerland. It reaches a height of 2,253 metres (7,392 feet), runs over gradients of up to 7% and is one of the steepest adesion railways in the world. What I like most about this picture is that it is a mixed goods and passenger train, oh.. and all that snow 🙂

At times this year I have felt that my modelling has been making slow progress. Browsing through my blogs from 2017 made me realise I’m being rather hard on myself, I’ve done a lot, including many things that were totally new for me. I started modelling in 09, finished my first soldered brass kit, started scratchbuilding in plasticard (wagons and a bogie coach), made my first resin kits (a box van and a coach), refurbished two secondhand 09 locos and converted them to DCC. My 009 layout went to the Beccles exhibition, was featured in 009 News and had it’s fiddle yard approach re-laid. On top of all this I visited nine exhibitions, the Bure Valley Railway, the Leighton Buzzard Railway and the Yosemite Sugar Pine Mountain Railway and I even met Peppa Pig. It’s been quite a year!

Perhaps, the Bernina line trains feel they are making slow progress up those gradients and when they get to the top of the pass they see what they’ve achieved. A quiet moment of reflection at Christmas has made me realise I shouldn’t always look at the detail, but should step back and look at the bigger picture.

Have a great Christmas!

Many thanks to David Gubler for the original photograph used under a Creative Commons License

Spot-On Models and Games, Swindon

My work took me to Swindon this week. I arrived early so that I had time to visit Spot-On Models and Games. It’s very nice to visit a well stocked model shop, it would be great to have a shop like this near to me.

I brought some primer, paint, brushes and a couple of files. Plus, I couldn’t resist this very nice 1:43 scale Morris LD150 van. I love the colour. Now, this has to find it’s way onto a layout……

Avalon Line Semi Open Coach Plus Roof

The roof of the coach was one of the easiest things to do. A ready-cut, ready curved roof is supplied with the kit. All I did was spray it with Humbrol primer. I like the grey colour and I will leave it like this.

The roof isn’t glued in place yet. There are a few steps to do before I finish the coach. I want to add some decals, then passengers to the coach. Then I will varnish the coach and, finally, add some windows.

I haven’t used decals for over 30 years and I need some practice before I apply them to the coach. So, the model will go back into the drawer while I experiment with different ways to apply decals.

Avalon Line 09 Semi Open Coach – The Test Run

I finally plucked up the courage to get my Avalon Line O9 coach out of the drawer. I sanded down the rough paintwork and repainted the outside of the coach as carefully as I could. I’m pleased to say the outside is looking a lot better. This has encouraged me to carry on with the build.

The bogies are very simple. They use Peco wheels and the axles slot in very easily. The underside of the bogie is the perfect mounting height for Greenwich narrow gauge couplings. I ‘tacked’ these lightly in place with a small amount of superglue.

When I mounted the bogies on the chassis I discovered the bottom of the foot wells were very close to the top of the rails.

I found some small washers in ‘bit box’ and placed these between the chassis and the bogies. The washers are too large in diameter really and they are rather ‘sloppy’, but they are the smallest size I had.

The washers increased the gap between the base of the coach and the top of the rails.

I decided to test the coach. Click the image below for a video of the test run.

I was very pleased to see it runs well.

The next job is the roof….

Avalon Line 09 Semi Open Coach

A few months ago I brought two Avalon Line 09 coach kits and I’ve just started to build them. This is the Semi-Open coach. It’s a nice kit, there’s a little bit of flash, but that is very easy to remove with a sharp knife.

The first step was to add the foot wells to the chassis. They have to sit flush with the top of the chassis so I turned the chassis up side down, pushed the foot wells into place until they were touching my cutting mat and glued them from below.

It’s clearer to see when it’s the right way up.

The seats are four separate mouldings, and were very easy to position. I found I had to remove a small part of the seats at each end to enable me to to mount the bolts for the bogies through the chassis.

The next step was to add the body sides and coach ends. The parts aligned well and this was very straightforward. After that I added the truss rods to each side. This was a little more fiddly because the parts are very flexible and I needed lots of fingers to hold all the points of contact in place while the glue dried. I was pleased, after a small number of steps, it definitely looked like a coach!

Next step was the primer. I used Citadel Corax White, which is a very pale grey.

I started to paint the coach. Here it is partly painted. It was then that I realised I had a problem.  The paint looked very rough, rather like a low quality 3 D print. For some reason the primer had created a rough finish and when I applied the paint this magnified the effect and made it very visible.

I was disappointed and I put the coach into a drawer for several weeks while I figured out what to do. I hated to admit it, but there was only one alternative. I had to sand down the paintwork and repaint the coach…