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Dagenham Factory



Hi all, I'm new here. I'm not sure if this in the correct section to post it, but I just wanted to post a quick write-up and some photos of the layout I built over the last few months. It is very nearly finished, but unfortunately I haven't written much about the actual building of it. Maybe I'll do that at some point in the future.


Anyway here goes. Please let me know your thoughts. Please also remember this is my first layout for a very long time. :)



Years ago as a teenager, Model Railways were my hobby. Reaching age 16 meant other interests and study got in the way, but I never really lost interest in the subject. One Saturday afternoon on a wet November day in 2014, my Dad and I visited a local model railway exhibition at Southend. There my interest was re-ignited after seeing an interesting micro layout and having a long chat with the owner. Space for a layout was always an issue at home, so I thought a micro layout was the way to go.


My first job was at Ford Motor Company where I completed my apprenticeship at Dagenham. Several members of my family also worked at Dagenham or at a Ford Plant somewhere. There, I regularly observed the private railway system that they had in place. My Dad spent his last working years before retirement at Ford's new Diesel Engine Plant in Dagenham, so I thought it would be a nice present for him if I could offer something Ford related whilst also allowing me to include a model railway within it.


I did some research using Google Earth, from my own memories and using limited information from the Internet. After much deliberating, and literally dozens of ideas, I decided to build a fictitious Motorail Terminal, in the spirit of Ford design and philosophy. Ford built cars at Dagenham for most of it's history, so it was fitting to have a car transporter scene.


I am notorious for never finishing anything, I decided to build a very small layout! There was little excuse not to finish and even I should be able to finish it! I do admit though, I was surprised just how many hours were required to finish even such a layout as tiny as this! The baseboard for Dagenham Factory was scavenged from a previous attempt at a larger layout which I never finished.


Overall Dimensions of this OO gauge layout are: 48"x8", so little factory building relief was possible. Also as an inexperienced modeller, i was not yet ready for full on scratch-building just yet.


With the baseboard already built, I set about with the track planning. My plans were drawn on a piece of paper, but in reality it's often different to what you actually achieve. Due to the layout length, the sidings were short and some thinking is required when trying to shunt wagons and position them according to the local yard regulations / timetable. This makes the layout more interesting than just driving in and out with wagons and passenger trains.


Anyway, I used Hornby set-track throughout, because i had enough track to complete the tiny layout using old stock I had without having to go shopping. In hindsight, I should have bought Peco. I think it has a slightly better construction, which I realised while trying to installing the point control. For my next project I shall use Peco. I also decided to keep the layout fairly simple and just used wire-in-tube points control. I have never used this method before and it works ok.


I wanted the layout simple and low cost, but such a small layout should have plenty of interest. To this end I decided to go for a DCC layout so that I could add interest by way of multiple loco running without lots of insulated track section, sound effects and also lighting.


The loading/station platform and the over-bridge were made using old pallet wood and I used various downloaded buildings from the excellent Scalescenes printed paper range. I could have bought plastic or propriety kits, but I liked the easy to use and unlimited scope of the excellent Scalescenes range. I also wanted to keep costs low.


After track-laying, I ballasted the layout in the usual way, using a mixture of 50/50 pva/water plus a drop of washing up liquid. I then left it to dry for a few days. The grass and bushes were by glued using a mixture of either neat pva or a 50/50 water/pva solution, using Woodland Scenics products.


The factory was made mostly of printed sheets of blue cladding, using the Scalescenes downloads I had bought. To make the factory building look more industrial and to add some form, I used bamboo canes to simulate the metal piping often found on walls of industrial buildings. I used a mitre saw to make perfect 45 degree cuts in the wood which after glueing, I then Painted an aluminium colour and added some dark rust effect. I think they look pretty realistic.


For those of you who worked at Ford Motor Company, you will appreciate the companys' love for painted floors, and yellow barriers! I hand-made some safety barriers for the car loading area from some of the leftover piano wire, glued using epoxy resin and then painted signal yellow.


All the signs and logos on the layout were just collected from the Internet, pasted into the PC Windows Paint program and then I simply wrote whatever text I needed to. An example being the "Gate 15" sign and all the "Ford Dagenham" signs.


Apart from the obvious Car transport, material deliveries and refuelling duties seen around the layout, I decided to add a dedicated employee shuttle service to the factory, using a Class 121 bubble car. The period of this scene is set during the late 80's / early 90's and I was lucky enough to get one of these Class 121 units in Network Southeast livery. The fictional service runs between Dagenham East ( a real-life station ), and the fictitious Dagenham Motorail Terminal. The fictional workers - ( mainly long-term employees and mostly close to retirement), are unwilling to walk the 3/4 mile from Dagenham East station to the Factory, so Ford bought an old single car dmu from BR. The unions are very strong at Ford!


Loco Stock on the layout is very mixed:


-The class 03 shunter was actually in use on the real Ford Railway.

-The Hornby class 121 of course is fictional.

-The new Heljan 33/0 is not native to the Essex rail network. Due to the yard dimensions (fictional ruling) the yard is Bo-Bo only operation.

-class 128 DPU in BR blue, again is not native to the area, but I loved the model from Heljan and use it for "just in time" deliveries.


The wagons I have are to provide car transport in the form of the old Lima car transporter, a Ford branded VEA? Box van for small parts transport. A brake van, and two Rivarossi Ford branded wagons. These are continental based models, but in this fictional railway, they are used to travel to and from Dover Docks for loading onto the Rail Ferry bound for Europe.


This project took me overall 6 months to complete from the first idea. In reality, it probably took about 1/2 months If I add up all the days I did actually work on it. It was good fun and I plan to build more layouts. I have an idea to extend the project to model my local area. Again on a small scale ie 48"x12" maybe?


Small layouts are great fun!

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I know the Ford factory at Dagenham quite well and you really have captured the feel of the place.



Great little layout, thanks for sharing.

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You could contact the Shoeburyness Club exhibition manager (Roy Ginn) and offer your layout for this year's show.

Looks like it would fit in well there, and be of (relatively) local interest too. Your story of 'idea one year, exhibiting the next' might be deemed a useful publicity feature for them.

There are contact links on their website.

I was there exhibiting myself at the 2014 show, on the MERG stand.

I can vouch for the adverse weather conditions, especially on the Sunday afternoon during pack-up.

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it looks great to me I used to love catching views of the plant when I rode by on my bike or the train. coincidently my Grandad used to work there too, he used to bore the piston holes in the engines plus he did a few cosworth engines too :)  

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Thanks for your replies guys. I really appreciate the feedback.


I will look into the possibility to show at Southend. Thanks for the info.



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Just added a photo of the 'The Dagenham-Halewood Flyer' - a fictional, Salaried Staff train, transporting Managers and Engineers between Production Plants On Friday nights/Monday mornings.

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