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How it all began




I've been modelling for about 30 years. Started in OO gauge with a surprise layout straight out the Cyril Freezer trackplan book for Christmas 1976 - being an hour from the Peco factory I guess it wasn't too surprising.




Over the years the layout grew, taking over a spare room, until the usual teenage years when other, less wholesome interests take over your life. All packed up, put in a box in the back of a cupboard, and forgotten about for about 10 years.


One day, having a clearout of junk, I found the box. Curious to see if it still worked, I assembled a circle of setrack on the kitchen table, gave the track a quick scrape with some sandpaper to clear the rust off, and put my Lima '37' on it. Dusting off and reconnecting an H&M "Rocket" controller, I turned the knob and after a few stutters the '37' shot off round the loop as if it was 1976 all over again. Bite.


A trip to Hendford Halt in Yeovil and a long conversation with Pete bought me up to date on all the latest offerings in the world of model railways. Armed with a copy of Railway Modeller, it was the first of many visits there that saw a number of projects start, and be abandoned, over the next few years. But I enjoyed myself, even when part of the layout collapsed as I was underneath it trying to make a hole for a point motor.


Fast forward a couple of years, and living near the Waterloo/Exeter line, I was taken with the new Class 159 units that were running by, although I still had a soft spot for the older stuff such as the 50's, and as you may have guessed from my username, Class 33's.


I found out that Bachmann were planning to bring out a model of the 159, so I asked Pete when it was due out. Every time I went in, there was "no more news" until, eventually, two years later, I noticed that Farish had bought out an N gauge version.


I left the shop that day with two N gauge 159's, half a box of flexitrack, and some points. The OO layout was finally consigned to the scrapheap, track and stock put back into storage, and N gauge was going to be the way forward.


Unfortunately for me, the usual story of N gauge being the same layout in a smaller space translated to a larger layout in the same space, with many ideas coming to mind but all being abandoned as being far more than I would be able to cope with operating on my own.


About that time, the local model club had organised an exhibition, and I decided to go along, and having chatted with a few of the members on the day, decided to join up with them. I received a lot of encouragement over the next year or so, culminating in my first "exhibitable" layout, 8ft x 2ft, of a ficticious mainline station with 4 platforms, a goods yard and a small depot. This was shown at the club's next layout - just - as I was still painting the platforms 10 minutes before the show opened!


It was a great day and I did receive a lot of favourable comments, although in comparison with many of the other layouts on show it was very basic. After the show I decided that setrack points really only belonged in a fiddle yard, and I started work on "version 2" which would be a little larger.


Part way into that, a house move scuppered those plans, and although I wanted to start a new layout various circumstances just got in the way, and I was content simply pottering about with a few bits of track on the kitchen table.


After a few years (and a divorce) later, I found myself in a new property with a spare room. About this time, DCC sound fitted locos were just starting to become available. A trip to Abingdon got me hooked, so having come away with a sound fitted '47' and a Lenz Compact, the N gauge was boxed up and a new layout planned.


History began to repeat itself as all the plans I came up with either wouldn't work, were too big, or too complicated.


I have skills (several articles have appeared in ModelRail over the years), the interest, but for one reason or another, I just could not seem to 'get' what I wanted.


I'd tried N, I'd tried OO... and came to the conclusion that I really needed to work with other people to be able to build a layout that I'd be content operating, in a space that would suit it. My local club isn't terribly active as far as layout building goes so I couldn't do much there - although my sound fitted stock did have a good run operating a club layout at a show 2 years ago.


A few weeks ago, I was at an exhibition and saw a lovely O gauge modern image layout. The penny finally dropped.


You've tried everything else, why not give O a go?


So I have. A couple of points, a brass shunter kit, a resin wagon kit, and a few buildings, and I'm ready to start work on building my first O gauge project.


So why do I think I'm going to manage something this time?


First of all, it's a fresh start. I have no choice but to be selective about what I buy, as it's all new to me.


Secondly, it's much more expensive. That might sound odd but in fact it makes me focus - what do I want to achieve? It's very easy to pop into a model shop and walk out with another carriage for £20 - then get annoyed as I can't run a 10 carriage train on my 8ft x 4ft layout - whereas when you're paying £40 for a wagon kit, and £250 for a ready-to-run carriage, you have to think "do I really, really need this item".


Thirdly, space is just as limited as it always was, so I have to be more creative. I also can't end up with a mega-project that's too big for me to cope with operating alone.


Fourthly, DCC sound is much easier when you have more space to play with inside. You also have more options.


I think all of the above is going to make an interesting challenge which I hope, through the format of an RMWEB blog, some of you may find helpful, or in fact be able to help me.



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Go for it I have a Tower Pannier , ????? Ivatt 2 6 2 tank and a Bachmann Brass 03 that needs a cote of Rail Blue but today I have ordered a Heljan 47 in Blue, so I will be making a start in a Diesel re fueling depot. My next purchase will be Heljan's 33 and I may need more than one.   

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I'll be hopefully going for a Heljan 33 as well - need to pick up a DMU (or two) and a selection of wagons but I'd hope that would be all I need stockwise. This is planned as a minimum space, minimum (as far as you can with O) cost project, and not to end up with a fleet of 30 or 40 locos as my OO stock pile.


As much as I like 10 carriage expresses thundering round a layout, I have to be realistic and accept that in my current living environment that just ain't gonna happen, as much as I'd love it to. In the next few years, a house move may well end up with a shed, garage or loft space that will enable me to bring that dream into reality - and then I can keep the O gauge layout in the living room, suitably framed and curtained, as a 'feature' :)


I will most likely be thinning down some of my OO stock to fund the O gauge project, over the next few months.


I hope you enjoy following the other aspects of the layout design and construction, and the thinking behind some of it.

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Thanks for sharing, Cromptonnut! Many parallels here wuth your story as I started with OO about the same time and I also love the class 33! I remember building a (very temporary) layout on the dining room floor to replicate the Hounslow loop, complete with Waterloo (2 platforms!), Barnes junction (single track!), Richmond, Hounslow & Feltham (terminus-ized) with a functioning triangle junction. those were the days! 


Looking forward to hearing more. Cheers, Jon.

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Two years has passed since I posted that, KTM - I now have the Heljan 33, fitted with sound, and there's a video of it in my layout thread "Perry Street" which you can also find in my signature.  I need to get some electrical work done - nothing too onerous - and get the other two sidings connected on my part built project then I can carry on with the bits I enjoy - scenic stuff.


Glad to hear that my 'start' was similar to yours, I think many of us have similar stories somewhere along the way at some point or another and it's funny how we then divulge into different paths as our interests develop.

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