Underneath my Blagdon layout is another smaller baseboard with a representation of Westbrook station on the Golden Valley Railway. This prosaically named branch has always appealed to me and some years ago I laid the track and started the scenery for a model of Westbrook. Wanting a change from constructing locos and coaches I had a go at resurrecting this. I firstly stripped all the scenery off and cut the baseboard so that it follows the line of the track only. My intention was to mount this on a frame with the infill (the scenery) made from expanded polystyrene. My aim has been to reduce the weight without sacrificing the rigidty required for the track which still has a MDF base.
I was dismayed to discover that the track had buckled in places so had to repair this. The running line through Westbrook was chaired track but the siding still retained the original flat bottom track. This is something very characteristic of many stations. I also rewired the track and fitted the socket for the controllers that I now use.
The track was I think SMP EM gauge flexitrack with the point on the running line made from their components which use separate chairs. The siding was constructed from flat bottom track soldered to PCB sleepers. I repainted the track and generally improved its' appearance as best I could.
I made a far more substantial platform from ply rather than the Plastikard I used initially. Having done this it was time to look at the station building, an attractive stone structure. Fortunately the book on the branch written by W H Smith includes a plan of the building. This, incidentally, is a very interesting book as the principal driver on the line kept a diary and was quite a keen photographer. The day to day operations of branch lines are rarely recorded but the book quotes extensively from the diary giving a real sense of how this long forgotten outpost of the GWR was run.
The station building was constructed from Plastikard with the embossed stone facing. This seemed to match very closely the size and layout of stones used on the actual building. An additional complication was the quoins at the corner which, according to the plan, were of different sizes. The quoins on my model are also of different sizes but that was not the intention. The note on the plan was my get out clause! The walls of the building are several layers of Plastikard as the original building I made many years ago warped badly. The windows and doors were constructed as sub-assemblies fixed to the inside of the walls when completed.
The big problem I could see was the roof. I consulted the Stephen Williams book on GWR Branch Line modelling and for slate roofs he suggested using thin writing paper cut to the size of each slate (the book helpfully gives the sizes of the slates most commonly used). I couldn't get on with using paper so substituted very thin Plastikard which of course fixes better. Cutting the slates is far harder that it seems as whatever size of slate is used, every slate has to be the same size. As, with all tiling, the slate / tiles overlap the join of those underneath and if the width is even fractionally out that overlap will be lost. Knowing that I was going to have to cut several hundred tiles (this is supposed to be an enjoyable hobby?) and realising that my older eyes weren't up to the job I fashioned a simple jig using a redundant frame spacer and two pieces of scrap etch. The frame spacer is bent up, the upturned sction will be the surface against which the strip of Plastikard is pushed against. A piece of the scrap is soldered to the base of the frame spacer against the upturned edge and at right angles to it; the edge of the Plastikard strip bears against this. To this piece is soldered, at right angles, a further strip of scratch etch parallel to the upturned surface of the frame spacer. This last piece of metal is the edge against which the strip is cut. The Plasikard strip goes under this last piece of metal and bears against both the upturned edge of the frame spacer and the scrap etch at right angles to it. All I have to do is cut along the last piece of metal, flick the cut piece out of the way and push the strip along ready for the next cut. So far it's worked really well. The height of the slates (the width of the strip) is less important as any discrepancies are hidden under the overlapping slates. I've described this in some detail as I think others may find it useful. Moulded sheets do not capture the appearance of slates at all.
The photo of the station building also shows the jig I used for the slates. I haven't yet painted the walls and found that my tin of GWR Light Stone had gone off. The Dark Stone was a little better and as there isn't much woodwork to be painted I persevered with this; the Light Stone to be added once I get a nfresh tin of it. There is a lot of comment about the exact shade used but it's worth remembering that the colours were made by mixing burnt sienna pigment into white lead paint on the job. A colour card was provided (the HMRS guide includes a colour chart matched to Swindon records) but you can imagine how the foreman's sensitivity to colour, the lighting at the time and the dirt on the card can all affect the final shade. As the HMRS guide points out, there were doubtless times when the card was lost altogether.
I'll update readers of further progress with the layout. I have also been working on trackwork building four turnouts for a potentially better model of Blagdon. These use wooden sleepers with rivets and Code 75FB rail Whilst the sleepers look realistic I'm not convinced that it's a quantum leap in overall appearance over PCB. I've also ignored some of the accepted practices of turnout construction and encountered a few problems arising from the use of FB rather than bullhead track. What I can say is that initial running tests show rolling stock passes very smoothly over the completed turnouts. If there is interest I can describe how I constructed these turnouts.