When I started this blog, a year ago, I wrote that my aim was to follow the conversion of my existing layout to an earlier time-frame. In practice, I seem to have spent most of my time designing and constructing new stock, while I have done relatively little to the basic framework of the layout itself. So, for this post, I decided to make a start on some 'backdating' of the layout scenery. Fortunately, static features of the landscape tend to change much more slowly than vehicles: I often notice how old railway photographs show 'antique' locomotives and carriages in front of buildings that are still in place, with little major change. Nevertheless, a lot of details have changed, partly arising from the use of electricity as a major source of power, heating, and lighting.
Some time ago, I bought a set of oil lamps from DCC Concepts, so I decided that the time had come to install these along my station platform. These are attractively finished and well-made lamps, which are supplied in sets of three, packaged together with a controller on a small circuit-board. The lamp heads contain filament bulbs, rather than LEDs, since the manufacturer claims that incandescent lamps provide a more authentic 'glow'. I feel that the price is rather high at around £40 for the three lamps, especially since, although the controller is said to be capable of powering up to 6 lamps, additional lamps are not sold separately. (It's worth shopping around, as they can be found for about £30 a set)
Each lamp is provided with two optional extension bases. For platform use, these extensions are not required but they would be needed for yard lamps, placed at ground level. The instructions call for a 2.75 mm drill, to make a single mounting hole for holding the cylindrical base of the lamp securely. The nearest size I had was 2.5 mm, so I used this, thinking that I could open out the hole a little, if necessary, for a firm fit. In fact, my lamps were just a little sloppy in the holes I drilled, so I am glad that I used nothing larger! The very fine wires from the bulbs protrude a few centimetres below my baseboard, so I soldered the ends to short length of stranded, insulated wires, connected to screw terminal connectors below the baseboard. There is sufficient slack in the fine wires to allow the lamp posts to be removed from their sockets and laid flat, during layout cleaning operations.
In response to a question from Mikkel, I have previously explained that my layout represents North Leigh station on the Witney Branch, which is shown on the following map:
1849 Map of the Witney area
reproduced from http://www.fairfordbranch.co.uk/ , with permission from Martin Loader
The map shows the line diverging from the Oxford, Worcester & Wolverhampton Railway near Stonesfield and then heading southwards, towards Witney. At that time, there were numerous proposals for branch lines to Witney and this particular route encountered hilly terrain in the North Leigh area.
North Leigh itself mainly handled local traffic to Oxford, including agricultural produce from the surrounding Cotswold farms, timber from local estates, and stone from the quarries along the ridge above Holly Court Farm. To assist with the transport of stone, it had been proposed to build a branch to the quarries but the hilly terrain proved too difficult for a standard gauge railway (even more so, broad gauge!). A group of local entrepreneurs then built a narrow gauge (2' 3" gauge) line to serve the quarries, with a loop to collect timber from a local saw-mill.
The route prospered such that, soon after the original line was built, it was realised that the trailing junction towards Oxford was inconvenient, when bringing wool supplies from the Cotswolds via the Worcester line. A triangle was therefore added, to meet the Cotswold main line near Wilcote, where Sir John and Lady Wilcote held the Manor.
My layout represents the junction just outside North Leigh station, where the line from Witney emerges from one of several short tunnels along this hilly route, with the route towards Worcester diverging through a narrow cutting, while the original Oxford line enters the station, where there is also a passing loop. Two sidings serve the local creamery and a cattle dock, and also provide an interchange to the narrow gauge system, serving the quarries and saw mill.
North Leigh station, looking towards Witney
I've not yet completed the connections to the platform lamps and realise that I have opened a whole new area for development, since the three platform lights will inevitably lead to yard lighting, building lighting, carriage lighting, etc., etc .....
Of course, Sir John's younger daughter, Blanche, is not at all impressed by oil lamps. Her mind is full of the gas lamps of London, turning night into day. She recalls looking from the windows of the train, after the family's last visit to London, and seeing the blaze of lights following the Great West Road, all the way to the military exercise ground at Hounslow Heath. "Oh, why must we be stuck out here in the country - will we ever see such a spectacle in Wilcote?"