One of the problems we've had with the trackwork was the realisation just over twelve months ago that the junction should have a trailing crossing in front of it. After deliberating what to do the decision was made to knuckle down and produce it. The problem was that the junction is on the side of the layout, to the right of the bottom of the first picture and therefore the only location that the cross over could go was on the bend, which was already closing in on the minimum that you'd want large locos to negotiate at speed in P4. It was a difficult task taking most of the year to complete it.
When the opportunity arose to relay the trackwork the chance to redraw it all in Templot was grasped as it was hoped that this would enable a better flow of trackwork to be achieved - we didn't have access to Templot when the mainlines were drawn x number of years ago. To cut to the chase the radius across the crossing came out at 38" which is too tight to propel wagons across without buffer locking and yet the turnouts were aesthetically too long for the location. A number of options were drawn up, none of which were entirely satisfactory until Dick Petter came up with a suggestion completely off the wall - move the junction onto the front of the layout. The immediate thought was that there was no way we would get the tracks back round to the fiddle yard in the space available and at a reasonable radius, however, a rough drawing in Templot quickly proved that there was a chance that this might work. At a group meeting everybody agreed that this new layout was a considerable improvement on the old plan and that we should if at all possible implement this. So, no longer will the junction lurk in the wings of the layout but will instead take centre stage enabling more options for the operating sequence.
The original track layout can be seen in first photo repeated below.
The following shows the new trackplan
And a close of the main P&C work
The left hand crossing will in fact be a single slip to provide the trailing cross over in front of the junction as well as providing access to the goods yard for Manchester bound trains. The left hand route at the junction takes trains to Bury and the right hand to Rochdale. For those who know the area this is in reality Castleton South Junction but moved half a mile further south and modified with the addition of a goods yard and a Manchester bound loop (the outer track). There is no station platform on the layout. The station building will be built on the bridge at the Manchester (left) end and the platforms are presumed to be on the fiddle yard side of the back scene. The reasoning behind this was that stations take up a lot of space but do not provide much in the way of operation.
Progress to date has seen much of the plain track for the goods yard built as half track (one rail fixed to the sleepers prior to laying, the second rail is then gauged from the first) and laying of this was about to commence when Dick's suggestion was eagerly pounced on. It was decided that it would be prudent not to lay anything until the trackplan was finalised (the original idea was just a relaying of the track). A lot of effort has gone into the development of a Templot plan for the trackwork and this has been absolutely brilliant as Dick has been able to point out all of my mistakes before we have started to build - a lot cheaper and much less frustrating! Having somebody to hand who can advise as to what would and would not have occured trackwise has been a massive benefit to the group. The Society has thankfully allowed us to purchase a large quantity of P4 Track Co. (P4TC) parts so that we can relay the track to the highest standards.
The goods yard, head shunt and loop will be laid on traditional ply sleepers with functioning P4TC chairs and the mainlines will utilise P4TC full height sleepers as well. We hope that this will give a variation in track height since the mainlines will have received more maintenance than the other lines and thereby have been slightly more raised. We may also incorporate a degree of cant on the bends. The P&C work will all be built on ply timbers whether full height or traditional half height. Dick has offered to build the double junction and will be using traditional ply and rivet techniques whereas I prefer to build using the technique suggested in Iain Rice's book, a rivet every fifth sleeper or so and functional plastic chairs in between. Hopefully once all of the cosmetic chairs and other wonderful plastic bits and bobs from P4TC have been fitted all of this will look not only consistent but very much like the prototype.
I've nearly finished the first of the turnouts so I may be able to put some photos of that up over the next couple of days. Craig persuaded me to have a go at fitting rail anchors between the switch and the stock rail and right fiddly they were, but I think worthwhile - you'll have to wait for the photos to decide for yourselves. The turnout has taken longer than I'd hoped but I've been trying to get it as perfect as possible both cosmetically and functionally.