I have a new job, and (for the moment) most of the time I will be working from home. When I'm in the office I find myself within walking distance of the mortal remains of the Ipswich dock lines, several of whose locos feature on the Boxfile. The shops are open again. The sun shines and we see blue sky. I've had my first dose of a vaccine.
In the meantime, over the last year of lockdown, there has been time for reflection and clarification. The awkward fact is that I've made much less of an inroad into the backlog of projects than I hoped. Nothing has been done about OO9 modelling and the putatative OO9 layout here for at least 9 months. The study has not been cleared; the possibility of moving from a 2 bedroom flat to a 2 bedroom house is back on the table. Nothing has been done about long-dormant Tramlink either. My energies have been focussed on coaches for Blacklade and wagons for the Boxfile. The list of questionable wagons on the Boxfile is now getting quite short, and one good push should finish off the remaining projects already started; I've hit some problems with the coaches, or more specifically a lack of suitable spray cans of paint. Everything seems to have coasted gently to a halt now I'm earning a living again. I still have plenty of projects to go at in the cupboard; there are no exhibitions, so there should be few temptations to buy more .
Into this situation drops an Industrial Railways supplement to the May Railway Modeller. Having looked through this, one layout scheme caught my eye: for a "Basic Exchange Siding" , occupying 9' x 1' as drawn. That could fit along one wall of a small bedroom /study in a 2 bedroom flat or house. The logical thing to do with that kind of space would be to have Blacklade set up permanently, rather than have the hassle of setting up/breaking down every time. But possibly Blacklade could be supported at a reasonable height on brackets - say at 4' (6" higher than on its legs) - as the upper level of a 2 deck arrangement . It's narrow enough - 12" outer ends, 5" in the middle - not to obstruct access to a lower level too severely.
The Railway Modeller plan depicts a set of sidings with a running line treated as a former double-track route singled . It's basically open country with almost the only structures a road bridge at each end , and a retaining wall and bank at the back. The scenic section is 6' long, and features a run-round loop on one side , with a pair of exchange sidings on the other: from this a connection to an industrial site runs offstage . There is a long fiddle yard of 2' at onme end, and a short fiddle yard of 1' at the other end. If this were sat on top of shelves and cupboards 30" high, this would allow 3" high boards and 12" separation from the bottom of Blacklade. That ought to be workable
The photographic quality is truly dire but this picture, taken at Louth in (I think) 1978, looking north from Keddington Crossing, shows very roughly what such a setting might look like . (The station and goods shed was behind me on the other side of the crossing). I certainly have no intention of modelling snow, but this kind of thing is very open and has little height to it . Access for operating would be easy enough, especially if the lower deck were moved say 3" forward of the upper deck. There would be almost no obstruction of the critical centre section of the layout by the upper level; and equally there would be nothing much to lean on and damage when operating Blacklade at the higher level. Construction should be straightforward and fairly quick. I would presumably use the new Pecio Bullhead, though the threeway might have to be from Marcway
Why am I even toying with this? Well, I have a moderate amount of modern image freight stock which has no use, left over from Ravenser Mk1. I also have a potentially growing number of Type 2s (not to mention a couple of Type 1s) and a supply of shunters which might be excessive. A simple modest sized layout that gives them something to do on freight operations, a feature missing from Blacklade, would get these models into regular use . The Railway Modeller plan provides all this, in a modest space with limited demands in terms of layout building . 4 points, one slip , a three-way, no buildings, one hut. And it looks like it might be possible to fit both this and Blacklade in the same space for permanent availablity, without causing any serious problems. Anything less minimalist would start to create problems with buildings obstructing access, or becoming vulnerable to damage
In terms of setting , I would be looking for a rather tatty residual railway operation in an industrial area in the Seventies or Eighties. This would probably need to be in an industrial area, not Lincolnshire (although the sugar beet factory at Bardney comes to mind) . South Yorkshire or West Yorkshire would be the obvious choices : a low retaining wall at the back made of soot-blackened massive rough cut stones would suit nicely. At those dates, the most numerous industrial locations would have been coal mines and coking works, courtesy of the NCB. Those, however, tended to be big complexes and something more minimalist is perhaps called for. A quarry would push us into the Peak District or Yorkshire - but I don't have any aggregates wagons. Scrap traffic looks a better option: I have a number of air-braked scrap wagons and kits , intended for the club project, which have never seen use. Mineral wagons were also used on scrap traffic , and I have a few of those kicking about. A small industrial shunter would be reasonable: trhe scrapyard north of Bradford had a Sentinel. I have two Judith Edge kits unbuilt in the cupboard.
There are chronological issues. The line should also have a basic passenger service. The left hand fiddle yard is only 12" as drawn . The only DMUs that short are 153s (not introduced until 1990) or Classes 121 or 122, which were strictly WR specialities. Unfitted mineral wagons (MCO / MDO) disappeared in 1983, and vacuum-braked minerals in 1988: you can't credibly run them with a 153. A Class 105 or Class 108 will require at least 20" length to accomodate it. Pacers will come out at about 15" or 16": but Class 142 did not enter traffic until 1985. Class 141 was in service in West Yorkshire from 1983: but they were narrower than the later Pacers, and not available RTR. (Class 140, a one-off prototype, would be a complete scratchbuild). An extension of the left fiddle yard to 16" seems essential .
A Class 31 is almost 10" long, a Class 37 slightly over 10". TTAs and equivalent scrap wagons are 5" long. That doesn't give you much of a train in a 24" fiddle yard. Extension to 30" seems essential. Yes a Rat or a Class 20 is shorter and gives you another couple of inches to play with, and 17'6" underframe wagons are a whisker over 3" long. Brush 2 + 4x SSA/POA , or 20 + 4x MCV/MDO + brake are your limits. Neither really allows much scope for the rest of the train (what rest??) to carry on down the line with some other traffic in vans or some other kind of wagon. And at best the other fiddle yard will take loco + brake van or one wagon
The layout could readily be backdated into the 1960s , at which point a railbus or a single car Derby Lightweight solves the passenger problem . But the other train-length issues remain (In practice I think I would want to try to run both 1970s/80s Blue Period , and mid 60s , as I have green diesels available. Freight stock for the earlier period would be the only issue). This plan may well have been intended for steam operation: a medium-sized 0-6-0 (say J15, J11, J25, 3F, 4F) or a moderate sized tank engine (think Jinty, N5 , J50, Pannier, LNWR 0-6-2T) would allow 1-2 extra wagons. An 0-4-4T plus one pregrouping brake would make a passenger train
A minimum length of 9'9" seems inescapable
While these issues are pondered, along with the possible availablity of a site I don't actually possess, here is a gratuitous picture of a CGO grain hopper at Louth (not at all usual for ABM malt traffic). I have somebody's etched kit unbuilt in the cupboard.
Edited by Ravenser